Since 1993, Mexico's northern border town of Ciudad Juarez has been haunted by hundreds of murders of its young women -- many of them workers who took the bus to the city’s border assembly plants (or maquiladoras).
Now a female vigilante who reportedly wears a blond wig and calls herself "Diana the Hunter of Bus Drivers" is setting out to avenge the violence committed against women in Juarez -- both the murder victims and the growing number of women claiming to have been sexually assaulted by local bus drivers. (Police are currently investigating 12 such assault claims.)
"Diana" has claimed responsibility for the shooting deaths of two male bus drivers last week; both buses ran on routes that transport many women to work in the assembly plants. On Wednesday, the vigilante reportedly boarded one of the buses, "approached the driver, took out a pistol, shot him in the head and left the bus." She did the same thing to another bus driver the next day.
As quoted in Diario de Juarez, a witness claims to have heard the criminal ask her second victim, "You guys think you're real bad, don't you?" before shooting him. People on the scene described the killer as being in her fifties, and around 5'4".
Half of the drivers who work that bus route didn't show up for work on Tuesday for fear of encountering the shooter.
In a recent, sinister turn that feels straight out of one of the pulpy crime shows I love so much, "Diana" outlined her motives in a creepy anonymous letter to authorities; she also promised more violence to come. Her note reportedly read, in part, “We were victims of sexual violence by drivers who worked during the night shift at the [plants] in Juarez. While many people know about our suffering, nobody defends us or does anything to protect us. They think that we are weak because we are women. I am an instrument of vengeance.”
Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, has grown infamous for its rash of hundreds of scarily similar murders, generally of slim young women with dark skin and hair. The numbers are a bit spotty, but Amnesty International estimates that more than 407 women have been killed there since '93. Their bodies were often found weeks or months later, strangled, raped, sometimes tortured and mutilated, then abandoned in the desert or vacant lots.
Though the murders have attracted plenty of international attention (even from Hollywood -- see FX's crime show "The Bridge" and the J. Lo movie "Bordertown"), the Mexican government's inability to nab the serial killer(s) and bring them to justice has infuriated activists and locals.
Dozens of men have been arrested as possible suspects, but the killings didn't stop. According to the Guardian, "several bus drivers were once arrested in connection with those killings –- one had his conviction overturned and his co-defendant, another bus driver, died in prison before sentencing." In 2001, police created a task force dedicated to investigating the murders, offering a $21,500 reward for capture of the killer(s). It didn't work, although overall violence in Juarez did decline significantly in 2012 from its peak in 2010.
Still, the rage felt by "Diana the Hunter" and other women -- both local residents and activists everywhere -- is understandable. I've been aware of the case for years, and I feel that shock and rage, myself. So many murders, so little progress.
And though I love a good story about kickass female heroines fighting back to put evil, rapey men in their place, this "Diana the Hunter" case is obviously WAY darker and more complex, because it's not a story -- it's, you know, REAL. "Diana" is a killer. Though she seems to be hoping her actions will force officials to act on the violence that local women have experienced for years, it's doubtful that taking matters into her own hands in such a terrible way will do anything to make it better.
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