CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – A group of gunmen shot and wounded a women’s rights activist in this northern Mexican border city, civil society groups said.
Norma Andrade, one of the leaders of the May Our Daughters Return Home non-governmental organization was shot several times Friday by a group of armed men while leaving work in Ciudad Juarez, the All Rights for All national network of human rights organizations said in a statement.
The network added that Andrade, listed in serious but stable condition at a hospital, “is the mother of Lilia Alejandra Garcia Andrade, who was murdered in February 2001.”
She also is the mother of the director of the May Our Daughters Return Home group, Malu Garcia, who was forced to flee to Mexico City due to threats from suspected drug traffickers.
The Attorney General’s Office in Chihuahua state, where Juarez is located, confirmed in a preliminary report that the social activist was shot at least five times while she was getting into her car, attributing the attack to attempted auto theft.
But sources close to the activist said that Andrade was the victim of an attempted homicide carried out by members of a Juarez-based drug cartel.
For its part, Chihuahua’s State Human Rights Commission, or CEDH, denounced the attack on Andrade and urged the state AG’s office to ramp up security at the hospital where she is being treated.
The commission – whose president, Jose Luis Armendariz, said Andrade was in stable condition – also demanded that authorities conduct a thorough investigation into the attack and bolster protection for the activist and her family.
Over the past two years, five activists have been killed by suspected members of organized crime gangs in Chihuahua state and 12 others have fled the country, the commission said.
The most recent case was that of Susana Chavez, a poet and women’s rights activist who led efforts to seek justice for the – mainly unsolved – slayings of more than 500 women in Ciudad Juarez since 1993.
Most of the victims were young women from poor families who worked in the assembly plants, known as “maquiladoras,” that sprung up around the city to take advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Many were sexually assaulted before they died.
Chavez was raped, mutilated and killed on Jan. 11 of this year by three people, including a minor.
A month earlier, Marisela Escobedo was slain while staging a demonstration outside the Chihuahua governor’s office to demand justice for the murder of her daughter, whose confessed killer had been released by a three-judge panel due to lack of evidence.
Another killing that rocked Juarez, located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, was that of Josefina Reyes, a former municipal official in a Juarez suburb and longtime social activist who was gunned down on a road outside the city.
In November 2010, activist Flor Alicia Gomez, a member of the Justice for Our Daughters and the Women’s Human Rights Center groups, was raped and murdered.
Finally, in September 2009, Paz Rodriguez Ortiz, founder of a human rights association, was shot and killed in front of his wife.
The northern state of Chihuahua has accounted for about 30 percent of the nearly 50,000 murders committed in Mexico since late 2006, when President Felipe Calderon militarized the struggle against Mexico’s drug cartels.
Juarez, a coveted drug-smuggling corridor that is being fought over by the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels with backing from hit men from local street gangs, is considered Mexico’s murder capital.