A poet and activist whose work focused on highlighting and ending what have become ritual murders of young women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, was found strangled, mutilated and dumped on the street last week.
Susana Chavez, 36, was a prominent member of the group May Our Daughters Return Home, comprised of the family and friends of more than one hundred Juarez women who were sexually assaulted, killed, and dumped in the desert over the last decade.
Three teenagers are in custody, charged with her murder. Chihuahua state Attorney General Carlos Manuel Salas said Wednesday Chavez’s death was an “unfortunate encounter,” unconnected to her activism.
According the police reports, Chavez met three 17-year-old men in a convenience store who invited her home to drink with them. After several hours of drinking, an argument broke out after the teens told Chavez they were part of the local drug gang Azteca and she said she was going to go to the police. The young men took Chavez to the shower, covered her mouth with adhesive tape, and kept her head under the water until she suffocated. They cut off her hand to make it look like an execution and dumped her body in the street, according to the statement.
“What’s strange is that we’re fighting to eliminate feminicide in Juarez and, look, she died that way, in the hands of criminals,” said her friend and fellow activist, Linda Meza.
Chavez, a respected poet who’d helped popularize the rallying cry, “Not One More Death,” in regard to the women of Juarez murders, published a book about the violence called, “Song to a City in the Dessert.” One poem, called “Blood,” was written from the perspective of one of the victims.
Chavez is the second anti-violence activist murdered in Juarez in less than a month. Marisela Escobedo Ortiz was gunned down as she protested in front of a governor’s office in December. She was seeking justice for her slain daughter, whose ex-boyfriend is the prime suspect in both murders.
In 2010, there were more than 3,000 murders in Ciudad Juarez, which is known as a hotbed of drug and gang activity. Although two men have been convicted in several of the murders of the young women of Juarez, most cases remain unsolved.
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