Armed Men Burn Down Homes of Family that Blew the Whistle on Mexico's “War on Drugs”

Family Member Says It's “Because We Don't Shut Up” About Military Human Rights Abuses

Mexico's Reyes Salazar family—who blew the whistle on military and police human rights abuses in Ciudad Juárez—have again suffered arson of their family's homes, this time while in exile. According to the Mexican daily La Jornada, two of their family's houses were attacked by armed men with molotov cocktails during early morning hours Saturday.

Since 2008, the family has spoken out against the military's role in policing the drug war, saying that corrupt Mexican Army soldiers are to blame for extortions, kidnappings, and murders in their hometown of Guadalupe, just outside of Juárez in the state of Chihuahua.

According the family and witness, around 3 a.m. the armed men set fire to the house of slain human rights defender Josefina Reyes Salazar, burning it completely to the ground. They also targeted the house of her sister, Olga Lidia Reyes Salazar.

This is not the first time the family has suffered severe harassment. In February, the house of Sara Salazar Hernández, Josefina's mother, was set ablaze, hours after the family held a public event to demand the release of the three family members who were kidnapped and later found dead.

“The strange thing with what happened to my mother’s house was that less than one hundred meters away there was a makeshift military barracks that was converted from a municipal gym, and there are more than forty troops around the area. It’s not possible that they didn’t see somebody coming to burn the house if it’s that close,” Marisela Reyes Salazar, another sister to Josefina, told Narco News during an interview in Februrary.

(Marisela Reyes Salazar (left) and Sara Salazar Hernández (center) meet with a physician at an encampment in Mexico City. DR 2011 Erin Rosa.)

In the last three years, six family members have been killed under suspicious circumstances, and the crimes remain unsolved. Josefina was murdered on Jan. 3, 2010, in the town of El Sauzal outside of Juárez.

“A witness inside of the restaurant where my sister went to buy food—where they approached her to kill her—told us that there was a specific car and a pick-up truck that were property of the Army,” Marisela said in Februrary. “In them were people dressed both as military and civilians trying to take her. She began to struggle and when they saw that she was backing away they took out a pistol and put four bullets in her head.”

Marisela’s sister, Malena, her brother, Elías, and his wife, Luisa Ornelas Soto, were kidnapped on Feb. 7. On Feb. 24 their bodies were found at the side of a highway outside of Juárez. Family members, fearing for their own lives, went into hiding, saying that they would eventually leave Mexico for another county, although it's not known where they'll be traveling to.

“We've already left Chihuahua and nearly the country and there's no end to it,” Olga told La Jornada. "The government still sees it as dangerous, because we don't shut up.”

Despite the deaths and harassment, family members still remain committed to criticizing the military's role in the drug war. The most recent news is just another example of what they have endured in northern Mexico, living next to Juárez, the country's most violent city.

As for a solution to ending the violence, Marisela told Narco News that, “I think it will be possible when they take all of the military and federal police out of Ciudad Juárez and out of Chihuahua.”

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About Erin Rosa


Erin Rosa is a writer from Denver, Colorado based in the Western Hemisphere.