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The candidates in Mexico's July 2 presidential elections should publicly pledge to prevent and punish the mutilation and murder of women in Mexico, Human Rights Watch, V-Day and 65 other civil society groups said in an open letter published today.

“Women are still being abducted, tortured and killed in Mexico despite some government efforts to investigate these brutal murders,” said José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch. “Before going to the polls, the Mexican people should know which, if any, of the presidential candidates will commit to do something to stop these horrendous crimes.”

Over the past 13 years, more than 400 women have been murdered or “disappeared” in Ciudad Juárez. In a number of these cases, the women had been mutilated or severely beaten before they were killed. Some had even had their nipples cut off, or their torsos were dismembered. In a majority of the cases, authorities have not determined who was responsible for the crimes and at least 34 of the victims remain unaccounted for today.

“It is scandalous that Mexican women are forced to live in fear of killers stalking them in the streets,” said Salma Hayek, the actress whose foundation supports efforts to prevent violence against women worldwide. “Mexicans deserve a president who will do all they can to stop the murders.”

In an open letter to Mexico's presidential candidates published today, 67 civil society organizations from Mexico and the United States urged all presidential candidates to improve the security situation for women across Mexico immediately by taking seven concrete measures while in office. The measures include installing lighting in unsafe areas and implementing early warning mechanisms to prevent violence against women. The groups are asking for public pledges before the presidential election on July 2, 2006.

“The mothers of the missing and murdered women of Juárez work tirelessly for justice – we support their efforts and encourage the voters to hold their leaders accountable and consider the missing women when they go to the polls on the second,” stated Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls.

Today's letter and the measures resulted directly from a meeting with playwright/V-Day Founder Eve Ensler, V-Day Executive Director Jerri Lynn Fields, Jane Fonda, Salma Hayek, and presidential candidate Patricia Mercado during V-Day’s May 9 Mexico City benefit that raised funds for women in Juárez, and featured performances by Fonda and Hayek.
“We are asking all candidates to meet our challenge before June 30,” said Vivanco from Human Rights Watch. “These measures are really the bare minimum needed to signal real government concern about the rampant brutality against women in Mexico.”

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