The current wave of murders in Juárez includes four women whose bodies were dumped on public roads in garbage bags. Two of the women may have lived in El Paso.
Their dismembered bodies were discovered on the Juárez-Porvenir Highway on the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez Sunday according to the Chihuahua State Attorney General’s office.
News reports and social media posts initially said that two of the slain women were El Pasoans Nohemi Medina Martinez and Yuliza Ramirez, a same-sex married couple with three children, though government officials say they lived on the Mexican side of the border.
A spokesman for the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office said the investigators were “following the protocol” to identify the women, but confirmed that they were a couple who lived in Juárez but also had relatives in El Paso and likely went back and forth.
A spokesperson with the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez said the consulate is in touch with Mexican authorities “and at this point, we have no evidence that they were U.S. citizens.”
A statement issued by the Attorney General’s Office identified the women using initials for their last names as Nohemi M.M. and Tania M.H., both 28 years old with addresses in Ciudad Juárez.
Chihuahua Attorney General Javier Fierro Duarte on Wednesday said the women were not targeted because of their gender.
“Justice is equal for all,” Fierro Duarte said in Spanish. “We’re very advanced in our investigation, there are diverse lines of investigation but this is not a hate crime.”
He said a multidisciplinary group investigating the case includes the unit “specialized in the homicide of women based on gender.”
Organizations with a long history of defending women and LGBTQ groups are not convinced and protested outside the Chihuahua Attorney General’s office in Juárez Thursday to demand justice.
“I thought it was important as a queer person and someone that lives in the borderlands to show my support and denounce these femicides,” said Camilo Arevalo, an El Paso resident who participated in the protest and uses they/them pronouns.
“Even though they are an epidemic and so common. It’s important that they don’t become a normalcy,” they said.
Mexico’s federal government is also urging state and local authorities to carry out a full investigation using the national protocol for cases where victims were targeted because of gender or sexual orientation.
Mexico’s National Commission to eradicate Violence against Women and Mexico’s National Council to Prevent Discrimination issued a statement this week calling on authorities in Chihuahua and Juárez to hold accountable those responsible for the “reprehensible murders of two lesbian women in Ciudad Juárez.”
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, tweeted on Friday that she had raised the killings and gender-based violence in a call with U.S. State Department officials and U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar.
The women are among a growing number of victims brutally murdered as Ciudad Juárez copes with a wave of violence. At least 67 people have been murdered this month, including 11 women.
Tuesday, two other women in Juárez were shot and left for dead in garbage bags on a road on the southeastern edge of the city. In total, four women were found in garbage bags strewed along public roads within 48 hours.
The murders have sparked outrage and a demand for justice in a city notorious for “femicides” dating back decades that attracted international attention.
The murders are also a test of an alert system created in August in Juárez to signal that a victim’s gender is likely a factor in a crime. Mexico has a federal law granting women the right to a “life free of violence.”
Veronica Martinez of La Verdad contributed to this story.
This story was updated on Friday, Jan. 21, with comment from U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar.
Cover photo: National Guardsmen surround the scene where the dismembered bodies of two women reported to be from El Paso were found in Juárez on Sunday. (Luis Torres/Special for El Paso Matters)