Juarez Relatives Fear Worst 

Juarez Relatives Fear Worst 
Posted by FoM on December 02, 1999 at 06:12:14 PT
By Rene Romo, Journal Southern Bureau
Source: ABQjournal
The excavation of what might be a mass, drug-war burial site on this city's south side has left relatives of missing people -- those called desaparecidos or the "disappeared" -- in excruciating limbo. 
These frustrated Juarenses hold out hope that the cases of their "disappeared" relatives will be resolved soon by clues in the once-hidden graves. But they are anxious, at the same time, about what Mexican and American investigators will find on a wall-enclosed ranch on a two-lane road leading toward Nuevo Casas Grandes. Six buried and still unidentified bodies had been removed from Rancho de La Campana by Wednesday evening. "If you have a body, you have the ritual of taking flowers to the grave, praying, you know where they are at," said Lorenza Benavides de Magaña, co-director of the Association of Relatives and Friends of Missing Persons. "We don't even have that." Mexican officials have declined to estimate how many bodies they expect to find in four mass graves south of Juarez, but they believe the sites are related to the disappearances of more than 100 people, both Mexican and American, over the past four years. Officials have said they suspect some of the missing were killed by the Juarez Cartel, a powerful and violent drug-trafficking ring operating out of northern Mexico. Law officials believe the victims included informants for both drug traffickers and law enforcement, as well as innocent bystanders. Some of those missing were reportedly grabbed from the streets by masked men. Spread on a coffee table in Benavides' home in eastern Juarez on Wednesday were photos of 20 "disappeared" Juarez men -- a small portion of the 196 people who have vanished from the city since 1994, according to Benavides' organization. "This is my son," said Berta Lopez Castaño as she lifted a photo of her son, Ivan Oracio Castaño Lopez, who disappeared June 6, 1996. "Now he's 37. He was 33 when he disappeared." "This is my husband," said Leticia Lucero de Medina, holding up a photo of then-40-year-old Jose Alfredo Medina. Lopez's son, a bachelor, disappeared one day after he went to an auto shop to pick up a car. Lucero said her husband, a lawyer, was one of four men who disappeared during a business trip from Juarez to Torreon two years ago. Both women, along with Benavides, criticized the lack of progress by Juarez police in solving the cases. While authorities have said they think many of the "disappeared" are victims of drug-war violence, the women said they believe authorities are sometimes too quick to make the connection. The women believe the police often link missing persons cases to drug trafficking to diminish public pressure to solve the cases. "When we go to the police, they say they cannot do anything because they (the victims) were involved in drug trafficking," Lopez said. She recounted her own three visits to the office of the Mexican attorney general in Mexico City, as well as to the office of the Chihuahua state governor to call for action in her son's case. "Involved (in drugs) or not, I don't care. I want to find out what happened," she said. The group uniting relatives of the "disappeared" was formed in late 1997 to try to create pressure on authorities to solve the mysteries of many vanished residents in this sprawling border city. But the group is also a source of solace. "The only people who can understand are those who have gone through this," she said. The third day of excavation and evidence-gathering at the south Juarez ranch on Wednesday continued to attract relatives of the missing. Until hard evidence is presented from the findings at the burial sites, Benavides said the relatives of the "disappeared" will do as they have done -- wait. Published: December 2, 1999Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999 Albuquerque JournalRelated Articles:Teens Are Easy Targets For Smuggling Drugs - 12/01/99'Truly Horrid' Search At Border - 12/01/99 Discovery Intensifies Drug War Debate - 12/01/99
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