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Mexican border city gripped by tale of black-clad avenger

Crime, Law and JusticePoliticsHomicideMexico

MEXICO CITY — Like a character from a graphic novel, she dresses in black, has unusually blond hair — and kills bus drivers who sexually assault women.

In a place like Ciudad Juarez, known for its years of brutal killings of women, the story has inexorable appeal. But how much of it is true?

Authorities are taking the reports seriously enough to investigate and have posted undercover cops on buses. Women’s advocates say they wouldn’t be surprised if someone finally had taken long-denied justice into her own hands.

Two bus drivers were slain in the last week, and over the weekend an electronic message claiming responsibility was sent to several news outlets.

“You think because we are women we are weak, and maybe we are,” the message says. “But only to a certain point.... We can no longer remain quiet over these acts that fill us with rage.

“And so, I am an instrument who will take vengeance.”

Signed: Diana, Huntress of Bus Drivers.

The message says women who work the night shifts in Juarez’s enormous maquiladora industry repeatedly fall prey to the bus drivers on whom they must rely to get home in the dark.

For now, at least, there is no way to verify the veracity of the message, whether it was written by the actual killer or killers of the bus drivers, whether Diana the Huntress really exists, or even whether she is a she.

What is clear is that for the last two decades, hundreds of women, many of them maquiladora workers, have been killed or have gone missing in Ciudad Juarez. Some disappeared after boarding buses, their raped and tortured bodies later found dumped in the desert. Few of the cases are ever resolved, and families have endlessly protested the lack of justice for their daughters, sisters and mothers.

“We cannot be sure that the email corresponds exactly to those who committed the killings” of the bus drivers, said Juarez human rights activist Gustavo de la Rosa, “but in the city’s imagination, that is definitely what’s happening.”

The bus drivers were slain on consecutive days last week, Wednesday and Thursday, at almost the same hour and on the same route. Witnesses told Ciudad Juarez’s El Diario newspaper that, in both cases, a woman dressed in black with blond hair, dyed or possibly a wig, stopped the bus and started to board, pulled out a pistol and shot the driver dead.

Two bullets to the head, in both cases.

Arturo Sandoval, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in the state of Chihuahua, where Juarez is located, said investigators were focusing on revenge as a likely motive.

“We have undercover police, dressed in civilian clothes, riding the buses in hopes of preventing another such murder and also to try to find this woman,” Sandoval said in a telephone interview from Ciudad Juarez.

He described last week’s two shootings as identical and said “cyber police” are attempting to trace the origin of the email.

Still, bus drivers interviewed by El Diario said they were scared. “You go around terrified, but you have to work,” one unidentified driver told the paper.

As far-fetched as the idea of a black-clad female Mexican avenger might seem, human rights activists in Ciudad Juarez said they wished authorities would work as hard investigating rapes on buses as they were trying to find Diana the Huntress.

“I have no way of knowing if this is true,” Imelda Marrufo, coordinator of a network of women’s organizations, said in a telephone interview from Ciudad Juarez.

“But if it is confirmed, remember, we are talking about a victim, someone who was raped and has probably lived with such a lack of justice that she has no hope that whoever did that to her will ever pay for the crime.

“Like so many women in Ciudad Juarez.”

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wilkinson@latimes.com

Sanchez is a news assistant in The Times' Mexico City bureau.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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