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Serial Killer?

Laura E. Asturias

ccording to media reports, the number of women who have been murdered this year in Guatemala is already 39, several of them showing signs of having been raped and executed with the so-called "grace shot" in the head. A notation published on October 14 in Siglo Veintiuno points out that "in these cases, the National Civilian Police connects the crimes to personal vendettas" and adds that, since eight women have been found murdered in an area of Zone 4 in Mixco (a suburb of Guatemala's capital city), "the authorities have begun to suspect that there is a serial killer operating around that sector."

The years pass and nothing changes. I'm not talking only about men's violence, which so cruelly keeps affecting women and goes on uncontrolled because women's claims and demands fall on the deaf ears of the authorities and those of common mortals. I'm talking about the lie they still try so hard to make us swallow: that the infamous "grace shot" and many other fatalities in which women are the victims might be evidence of "crimes of passion", of "personal vendettas."

f the authorities actually believe there's a serial killer out there, they're wrong in their speculation about his motives to kill. A "personal vendetta" would point to a previous relationship between the victim and her killer. But a serial killer does not usually maintain a personal relationship with his victims; rather, he selects them carefully based on certain characteristics. One of these factors is not that the victim is known to him, even less so that a relationship existed between them. This official speculation only lays the ground for the authorities to later claim that it was a "crime of passion" and thus minimize its importance and discard the case.

About victim number 39, whose body is believed to have been dumped around the Villa Canales cemetery between 10 and 15 days previously, the article indicates that "some neighbors of this area stated that, approximately 15 days ago, some screams were heard at this place coming from an automobile, but nobody dared investigate what it was all about."

If anybody still has any doubts about the ineffectiveness of the justice system, the paragraph above is a good example of it. It's true: very few people are now willing to personally go out there and find out what's going on, but the fact that nobody would even run to find a phone to call the police after hearing a woman (or any other person) screaming is a good sign of the distrust this institution inspires.

n the case of the most recent victim (number 40), Nora Lily Castillo Orellana, who was threatened, pursued and then murdered on Friday, October 13 by two allegedly paid killers, it has been said that the Public Ministry is investigating why this businesswoman did not denounce the persecution she was being subjected to. Another example of the wrong starting point by the authorities. Once a crime has been committed, ¿just how important is it, really, to establish the reason why the victim did not go to the police in the first place?

Ciudad Juárez, in the Mexican Chihuahua state, has been the setting of a series of murders in which women were the victims. These killings began to be registered in 1993. In September 1999, the count was 193 and some 25 more women have been murdered this year. Right from the beginning, the authorities (men with very obvious mysogynist attitudes) attributed these killings to the victims' conduct, speculating about their decency - an official attitude which has only served to stall the investigations. Oh, well, it's just women. All of them poor women. All of them somebody else's daughter, sister, wife, girlfriend, mother... If they had been THEIR women, the story would be different.

he same is now happening in Guatemala. The authorities follow the wrong leads and forget that a murder is a murder and, as such, the perpetrators must be found and brought before justice. And in these cases, the fundamental must be remembered: that this is a systematic elimination of women. With tacit consent from the State and from those who think of themselves as "good," who wouldn't kill a fly, but who will not break this abetting silence which perpetuates violence against women.

The original Spanish version of this article was published on October 21, 2000 in Diario Siglo Veintiuno (Guatemala) under the title "¿Un asesino en serie?", and may be viewed.

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