The number of women murdered in this notorious city on the US border has surged this year, despite a government effort to crack down on crime, prosecutors said yesterday.
More than 340 women have been strangled, beaten and stabbed to death in Ciudad Juarez, south of El Paso, Texas, in a 12-year killing spree that has provoked outrage in Mexico and abroad and led to calls for decisive government action to end the crimes.
Chihuahua state prosecutors said 30 women and young girls were murdered in the city from 1 January to 30 November, compared with 19 murders in all of 2004, when the Mexican President, Vicente Fox, created a special prosecutor's office to investigate the crimes. Some killings have been particularly gruesome. A two-month-old girl was sexually assaulted and murdered last month.
Rights groups have criticised the authorities' handling of the investigations, saying they were marred by inefficiency and corruption. But prosecutors said they had charged suspects in 80 per cent of the murders committed this year, and could not be blamed for the increase. Claudia Cony Velarde, assistant attorney general in Juarez, said: "Our job is not crime prevention. While the murder rate has regrettably risen [in recent months], this year has been the most effective to date for prosecutors."
Various motives have been put forward over the years to account for the murders, about a third of which involved rape or sexual assault, but none has been widely accepted.
Some theories blame serial killers and rogue drug cartels, but Ms Velarde said about 80 per cent of the recent murders fit a pattern of "domestic or intrafamily violence". "There isn't a serial killer loose on the streets," she said.
Many victims were poor working mothers employed in factories in the industrial city of 1.3 million people.