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Subject: FNS News: Mexican Women’s Activists Threatened

May 22, 2008
Women's/Human Rights News

Death Threats against Women's Activists

Prominent women's rights activists in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua have reported receiving a new round of threats. Members of Ciudad Juarez's Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (May our Daughters Return Home), a group of relatives of murdered women, canceled their participation in a screening of the Hollywood movie Bordertown scheduled for their hometown because of death threats received by e-mail and on cell phones. 'Now the threat is more real,' said Marisela Ortiz, Nuestras Hijas spokeswoman.

Titled Verdades que Matan in Spanish, the film stars Jennifer Lopez as a US reporter who probes the Ciudad Juarez femicides. The movie also features Antonio Banderas, Martin Sheen, Kate de Castillo, and Maya Zapata. Directed by Gregory Nava, the film has not been released on the big screen in the US and is only available on DVD. After years of production and delays in its release, Bordertown finally achieved a limited showing in some Mexican theaters last week. In Ciudad Juarez, unidentified journalists have also reportedly received threats warning them against promoting the film.

In a Mexico City press conference on May 12, Nava said the movie was possibly not released in the US because of its critical portrayals of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the maquiladora industry. Nava also revealed that when Bordertown's producers were in Ciudad Juarez a crew member was kidnapped and tortured into telling his tormentors the hotel where film material was stored. Local policemen then lifted the material, according to Nava. Many scenes in the movie were filmed in Nogales, Sonora, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, among other locations.

Nava was recently interviewed by a reporter for Ciudad Juarez's El Diario newspaper. The journalist pressed Nava about exaggerating the murders, propagating presumed 'myths,' surrounding the killings and profiting from the suffering of victims and their families. Defending the film, Nava blamed Mexican authorities, free trade and US companies for creating an environment in Ciudad Juarez in which women's lives have no worth.

'Women in Juarez live in terror, their life has no value, and this is what we have to change,' Nava said. In an earlier interview with the Mexican press, Nava charged that governments on both sides of the border were doing nothing to address the femicides. 'It is horrible, but it is easier for the authorities from Juarez, from Chihuahua and from the United States to cover up the situation. It is a grand injustice'

The Diario interview mentioned incidents of harassment against Bordertown staff, but it did not report the alleged kidnapping of the crew member.

Prior to Ortiz's denunciation of death threats against members of Nuestras Hijas, Chihuahua City lawyer Lucha Castro, director of the Women's Human Rights Center, reported receiving a similar threat. Castro has long represented the mothers and family members of young women from Chihuahua City slain in a manner very similar to the more-publicized Ciudad Juarez rape-murders. According to Castro, an unidentified male caller threatened her on May 14. Castro then filed a criminal complaint with the Chihuahua State Office of the Attorney General, and two officers were assigned to protect the human rights attorney. Activists also demand that the Chihuahua state government protect Marisela Oritz and the other members of Nuestras Hijas.

The death threats against women's rights activists come amid an unprecedented wave of narco-violence in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua state. More than 400 slayings attributed to organized crime have been reported this year alone, and fear of further carnage is gripping society. In recent days, e-mails and messages to cell phones in Ciudad Juarez have warned people to stay home during the coming weekend or at least exercise extreme caution because of an alleged plan to carry out spectacular executions on public thoroughfares.

The threats against women's movement leaders likewise occur in a broader context of violent attacks and legal pressure against social activists of all stripes. Since March, Chihuahua farm movement leader Armando Villareal has been murdered, and labor and women's rights activist Cipriana Jurado, has been arrested on federal charges stemming from a demonstration nearly three years ago. Arrest warrants are reportedly pending against dozens of other farmers involved in a payment strike against the Federal Electricity Commission.

Mexican and foreign activists contend that a deteriorating human rights environment characterizes the country. Juan Ignacio Garcia, Spanish member of the International Civil Commission for the Observation of Human Rights, cited Ciudad Juarez as among human rights cases crying for redress from the authorities. The international community is seriously concerned about the femicides, murders of journalists and other human rights violations, Garcia said.

'We know that public opinion is aware of all this, and it would be good for the Mexican government to show a measure of stronger will and attend to these cases,' Garcia added.

Sources: Frontenet, May 22, 2008. El Paso Times, May 22, 2008. Article by Marisela Ortega Lozano. Cimacnoticias, May 19 and 22, 2008. Articles by Lourdes Godinez Leal. Apro/Cimacnoticias, May 21, 2008. El Diario de Juarez, May 16, 2008. Article by Gabriela Minjares. Pagina 24/Agencia Reforma, April 21, 2008. Article by Dalila Carreno.

Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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