Mystery surrounds dead men found in women’s clothing in Juarez

Border Crime

Activist worries about possible hate crimes; police say it's drug dealers mocking victims

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A transgender activist is looking for answers following the latest discovery of a murdered man wearing women’s clothes in Juarez.

The body of a man, at first thought to be a woman, was found bound and wrapped in a blanket Monday in a dry arroyo bed along the working-class Libertad neighborhood in Juarez. The body was only clad in a blue nightshirt and panties. He wore makeup, had shoulder-length tinted hair and was strangled, Juarez police said.

Two weeks earlier, the body of a man with his throat slit and wearing only black women’s panties was found in a different part of the city.

Grecia Herrera, an activist who runs a shelter for transgender women, including migrants, said Monday’s was at least the sixth possible case of a transgender woman murdered in Juarez this year — something that worries her.

“We are concerned that it could be something that is done out of hate or a phobia against transgender women. We don’t know if it’s being done by one person or by gangs, but we encourage trans girls, especially those that are on the street to be careful so they don’t suffer violence,” Herrera said.

Juarez authorities said they haven’t established that Monday’s murder victim was a transgender woman. However, they confirmed that several male murder victims have been found in the city since last year dressed in women’s clothes.

Juarez District Attorney Jorge Nava offered an alternative explanation to the phenomenon.

“We have been seeing this since last year. It is a message that organized criminal gangs are sending to rivals” or turncoats, Nava said. In other words, drug traffickers are murdering each other and, either as a warning to those who defect to other groups or as a final insult to the victim, they dress them up in women’s clothes before disposing of the bodies, the district attorney said.

Mexican news reports from 2018 show that at least nine men in women’s clothes were found murdered in the city last year. In most cases, the victims were shot. On two occasions, handwritten signs were left next to the bodies accusing them of being traitors. Almost all of last year’s victims had been beaten or tortured. Five members of the Aztecas drug gang were arrested for the killings.

No arrests have been made in the latest cases, and activist Herrera said the possibility of hate crimes still worries her.

“They were strangled or killed with a sharp object; they weren’t shot like drug traffickers usually are,” she said. “We tried to look into the cases, to get in contact with the families, but the police told us not to do it, that it could be dangerous for us. … It is difficult to say what happened if they don’t identify (the victims), especially if they’re not from Juarez. In that case, they’ll just bury the body and that’s it.”

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