EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Chihuahua leads Mexico in crimes considered “atrocities” and is third in multiple homicides with 15 so far this year, the Mexico City watchdog group Causa en Comun (Common Cause) reported this week.
The group defines atrocities as homicides or assaults in which the victim is savagely beaten, tortured, mutilated, burned or a cadaver is exhibited in a way to instill fear in a target population or the public. The castration and killing of a rape suspect who was hung from an arch in Casas Grandes early this month would be one such atrocity. Another is the May 19 killing of a woman at a Juarez rehab center who, according to Chihuahua state authorities, was beaten to death, dismembered, and had her soft tissues liquefied for easier disposal.
“This report highlights (personal) stories painting an overall picture of cruelty and pain behind police statistics,” the group said in its analysis of criminal activity from Jan. 1 to April 30 in Mexico. “It is violence by criminals, yes, but it is also gender-based violence, domestic violence and social violence.”
The group has documented 1,887 “atrocities” so far this year, with Chihuahua leading the way with 190 cases involving 222 victims. Guanajuato is second with 156 cases and 170 victims, and Baja California is third with 149 incidents and 176 victims.
What those states have in common is being drug cartel battlegrounds.
Drug routes, drug fields, illegal logging and fuel theft activities in Western Chihuahua are being contested by Juarez and Sinaloa cartel gangs. In Juarez, where most multiple homicides have occurred, not only are the two cartels at odds with each other, but there’s infighting among their own gangs, police and international security experts say. This was evidenced during the New Year’s Day Cereso No. 3 prison massacre involving two groups traditionally associated with the Sinaloa cartel.
In Guanajuato, a tourist and retirement destination for many Americans, the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) is fighting local gangs to control illegal activities in the state and highways leading to the Texas border. A map made public by the U.S. security firm Global Guardian shows the CJNG’s territorial gains.
Several drug gangs operate in Baja because it borders California – one of the country’s largest drug consumer markets, according to experts. Ten people were killed and nine others wounded in an armed attack at an off-road race event near Ensenada last Saturday.
Juarez drug gangs exercising extreme violence
Chihuahua Deputy Attorney General Carlos Manuel Salas told Border Report last week that most violence in Juarez is drug-related and carried out by gang members intent on terrorizing their rivals.
That accounts for the severed heads left in public parks and dismembered murder victims routinely “dumped” in plastic bags in residential neighborhoods.
Community activists like Yadira Cortez of Red Mesa de Mujeres said Juarez residents have lived with extreme violence for several years and called on authorities to work harder. For instance, the home that doubled as a rehab clinic reportedly was the site of another murder a few years ago.
“We need better supervision. Why did health authorities allow them to operate after that?” she said.
Last Friday, two suspects identified by police as Diana Paola E.L. and Claudia Rubi R.E. allegedly assaulted a 35-year-old woman at the house in the Lomas San Jose neighborhood. The suspects allegedly proceeded to dismember the body, cut off the flesh and place it in a blue bucket that they filled with water and muriatic acid.
The Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office identified the victim as Celia Yaneth C.R. and said the women were arrested as they tried to dispose of the remains in a neighborhood near Downtown Juarez.
Cortez said the whole episode is hard to believe, but not unique and “absolutely worrisome.” She said femicides, which tarnished Juarez’s reputation in the mid-1990s and the 2000s, are on the rise again. “The numbers don’t go down. Eight women have been murdered just this month,” she said.
The Common Cause analysis expressed concern about the increase in femicides. The group says an average of 19 women are being murdered daily in Mexico. Some officials in Mexico have told Border Report most women’s killings in border cities have to do with drugs. As in-house sales increase exponentially south of the border, gangs are recruiting young men and women to peddle their drugs, exposing them to violence by rivals, the officials said.
Common Cause says the findings bare the need for more government investment in public safety, victims’ care, mental health services and crime prevention campaigns. The group says solving crimes and holding culprits accountable is also paramount.
“Every citizen and every community has a duty to demand from its local and federal governments solid investigations that lead to the resolution of cases that harm their communities,” the report said.