World

Mexico Arrests 12 In Connection To Ciudad Juárez Femicides

JUAREZ, MEXICO - MARCH 26:  Two woman embrace at a crime scene involving the killing of a 13 year old boy in a car, one of numerous murders over a 24 hour period, March 26, 2010 in Juarez, Mexico. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano all visited Mexico on March 23 for discussions centered on Mexico's endemic drug-related violence. The border city of Juarez, Mexico has been racked by violent drug related crime recently and has quickly become one of the most dangerous cities in the world to live. As drug cartels have been fighting over ever lucrative drug corridors along the United States border, the murder rate in Juarez has risen to 173 slayings for every 100,000 residents. President Felipe Calderon's strategy of sending 7000 troops to Juarez has not mitigated the situation. With a population of 1.3 million, 2,600 people died in drug-related violence last year and 500 so far this year, including two Americans recently who worked for the U.S. Consulate and were killed as they returned from a children's party.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

JUAREZ, MEXICO - MARCH 26: Two woman embrace at a crime scene involving the killing of a 13 year old boy in a car, one of numerous murders over a 24 hour period, March 26, 2010 in Juarez, Mexico. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano all visited Mexico on March 23 for discussions centered on Mexico's endemic drug-related violence. The border city of Juarez, Mexico has been racked by violent drug related crime recently and has quickly become one of the most dangerous cities in the world to live. As drug cartels have been fighting over ever lucrative drug corridors along the United States border, the murder rate in Juarez has risen to 173 slayings for every 100,000 residents. President Felipe Calderon's strategy of sending 7000 troops to Juarez has not mitigated the situation. With a population of 1.3 million, 2,600 people died in drug-related violence last year and 500 so far this year, including two Americans recently who worked for the U.S. Consulate and were killed as they returned from a children's party. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)  (2010 Getty Images)

Mexican prosecutors announced the arrest of 12 people in connection to the killings of 11 women whose skeletal remains were found near the northern border city of Ciudad Juárez early last year.

The suspects include alleged drug dealers, pimps and small store owners. They allegedly belonged to a gang that forced young women into prostitution and drug dealing and then killed them when they were "no longer of use," the prosecutors' office for the northern state of Chihuahua said in a statement late Tuesday. The 10 men and two women face charges of human trafficking and homicide.

The killings had raised fears that serial-style killings had returned to Ciudad Juárez, where over 100 women were killed in such crimes in the 1990s and early 2000s. The latest round of deaths appeared to be different, apparently involving forced labor and prostitution, but no less chilling.

Three of the suspects ran a modeling agency, a clothing store and a small grocery.

"These businesses were used by the gang as a 'hook' to offer young women jobs. Once they obtained the information they needed from the women's' job applications, they used different techniques and other people to kidnap them or pressure them into forced prostitution, and the consumption and or sale of drugs," the state attorney generals' office said.

"Once the women were no longer useful for their illegal activities, they decided to kill them and abandon their bodies ... in the Juárez Valley," just east of Ciudad Juárez.

In past cases in Ciudad Juárez, prosecutorial and police misconduct was so prevalent that the mothers of dead or missing girls doubted authorities' identification of their daughters' remains and the arrest of suspects in those cases.

But in this case, mothers and activists said Wednesday they are sure that the suspects arrested this week participated in abducting their daughters.

Maria García Reynosa, the mother of Jessica Leticia Pena García, who was 15 when she disappeared in 2010, said she obtained video showing her daughter entering one of the suspects' businesses, a boot shop, looking for work.

García Reynosa said she had to do much of the investigative work herself, but that prosecutors finally listened to her and followed up the leads she provided on a hotel where she believed her daughter had been held. Unfortunately, it was too late by then; Jessica Leticia had already been killed.

"I gave them everything on a silver platter, and these dogs didn't do anything," she said of the original investigators.

Finally this year, the state agreed to create a small team of investigators devoted to focusing on the murders.

"This was done with the creation of the investigative agency, our presence and the efforts of the mothers, who were the ones who provided leads from the beginning," said Norma Ledesma, leader of the advocacy group Justice for Our Daughters. "They (the mothers) carried out their own investigation."

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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