Prosecutors vow life in prison for cartel members who burn bodies of victims

Border Crime

Warning comes as Juarez goes through spate of homicides followed by incineration — a scare tactic toward rival gang members

JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — The top prosecutor in Juarez is vowing to seek life in prison for criminals who burn or dismember their victims.

The warning comes as police in this Mexican border city have found nine charred sets of human remains in the month of August alone. The latest find took place Monday before midnight on a dirt road off the highway leading from the border crossing at Santa Teresa, New Mexico to the town of Nuevo Casas Grandes.

Three bodies inside an abandoned Dodge Durango SUV were so badly burned that police have been unable to determine gender, age or cause of death. Last Friday, the bodies of two men were located inside a cemetery in the southern part of the city, set on fire after apparently being doused with fuel.

“These are, no doubt, intended as a message of intimidation from one criminal group to another,” Chihuahua Deputy Attorney General Jorge Nava said on Tuesday. “We are seeing homicides being committed with extreme cruelty and brutality … mutilations, decapitations and now the use of fire.”

Nava attributes the growing number of homicides in Juarez — nearly 1,500 in 2019 and more than 1,000 so far this year — to a battle to control street drug sales in the city. With a surplus of drugs like inexpensive-to-manufacture crystal meth, drug cartels are selling in Mexico whatever product they’re unable to cross into the United States, drug experts have told Border Report.

The fight for domestic drug sales is taking place in working-class neighborhoods in Juarez, where most of the killings have occurred and where gangs are paying young addicts as little as $150 to go kill off rival drug dealers, Nava said.

“We are seeing a breakdown of our social (conscience). There is a need to make young people aware that what they do will have consequences,” the deputy attorney general said.

That’s why he has instructed his prosecutors to seek life in prison for those accused of killing people and burning the bodies to conceal evidence or sow terror among rival gangs. “We will be pursuing life in prison for those crimes,” he said.

The deputy attorney general said a drug motive is also suspected in last Saturday’s murder of a Cuban asylum seeker in a neighborhood south of Downtown.

The migrant so far only identified as Felix, a man in his early 50s, came to Juarez a year ago alleging persecution in Cuba and seeking protection in the United States, KTSM reported.

Thousands of migrants from Cuba and Central America who have come to the U.S.-Mexico border since 2019 have been placed by the United States in a program called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which forces them to wait in Mexico for a resolution of their asylum case in the U.S. Advocates in the United States say many of these asylum seekers are victimized by criminals in Mexico during years-long waits.

The Cuban migrant was gunned down by unknown assailants in front of a market and day laborer gathering point known as “Los Herrajeros,” Juarez police said.

Another Cuban migrant, Osmany Balderrama Pavon, 40, was stabbed to death in a run-down apartment complex near the same market in July 2019. A fellow migrant, Osvel Napoles Robaina, was arrested in connection to that murder and allegedly admitted to authorities he stabbed Balderrama after an altercation.

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