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A lesbian couple were brutally slain in Mexico. Authorities have ruled out hate crime.

Family and friends of Isabel Cabanillas, a women’s rights activist who was killed in Ciudad Juárez in 2020, participate in a vigil. This week, a couple was brutally slain in the same city. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)
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A lesbian couple’s remains were found this week inside plastic bags in a Mexican border city, prompting outrage and raising questions about whether the killings had a homophobic motive.

The attorney general’s office for the state of Chihuahua said Wednesday that the killings of Nohemí Medina Martínez and Tania Montes Hernández, 28-year-olds who were tortured and dismembered, was not a hate crime.

“In this case, the investigation lines are linked to the economic activity that both victims carried out and with the people they related to in that environment,” Roberto Javier Fierro Duarte, the attorney general of Chihuahua, said in a news release.

Two bags containing the remains were found Sunday morning by municipal police in the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez.

The couple had three children together and were married in July, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office said Thursday. Oscar Martínez, the spokesman, said they lived in Ciudad Juárez, a short drive across the border from El Paso, but traveled constantly to the United States, where they have relatives.

Martínez added that the couple did not live in Texas, as reported by several media outlets.

Authorities said Montes Hernández used to identify herself as Yulizsa Ramirez on social media.

Asked whether the economic activity that the couple carried out could be related to organized crime, Martínez said in an interview that he was not authorized to give any further details because the investigation was ongoing.

The Chihuahua Committee for Sexual Diversity, a nonprofit that promotes LGBTQ rights, said in a statement posted on Facebook that the brutality of the killings clearly indicated they were hate crimes. It urged authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable and noted that the state of Chihuahua has recorded the second-highest number of hate crimes in the country.

Several advocacy groups and federal government agencies have called on state authorities to ensure the case does not go unsolved.

In a joint statement, two autonomous federal agencies responsible for preventing and combating discrimination and violence against women urged Chihuahua authorities to double efforts and reinforce public policies “to combat lesbophobia” and to avoid the “normalization of hate speech and lesbophobia.”

“People of diverse sexuality have the right to a life free of violence,” the statement said, and to live “without the fear of rejection and of aggressions that can unfortunately escalate to hate crimes.”

The Chihuahua Committee for Sexual Diversity did not respond immediately to a request for a comment. Its director, Karen Arvizo, told the Daily Mail that she feared the couple’s killings could go unsolved, like other past hate crimes in Mexico.

“The concern is that authorities will absolutely do nothing,” Arvizo said. “We feel like we are treated like second-class citizens and that we really don’t matter.”

Arvizo’s concerns are not unfounded. Roughly 92 percent of violent crimes, including homicides, go unsolved in Mexico, according to academic studies.

But authorities said Thursday that this will not be the case this time around. The state attorney general’s office said that the investigation is “very far ahead” and that it is following “special protocols,” given the sensitivity of the case and to avoid “criminalization” of the victims.

“But it is not a hate crime,” Fierro, the state attorney general, said.

Martínez, the spokesman, said: “We understand the voices and concerns of activists and LGBT groups, and we are receptive to their demands, but in this case, the initial investigation is leading to something else.”

The events appear to be part of a recent wave of homicides in Ciudad Juárez, a city long besieged by drug violence, which peaked in 2010 when gangs engaged in bloody turf wars over smuggling routes to the United States. More than 3,000 people were killed that year, making Ciudad Juárez one of the deadliest cities in the world.

It is also known for the gruesome killings of women.

In the early hours of Tuesday, dozens of people marched through downtown Juárez carrying torches to remember and protest the unsolved killing of women’s rights activist Isabel Cabanillas, who was shot in January 2020, El Paso Times reported.

The morning after the march, two women were found shot and tortured. One was dead; the other was alive but died at a hospital, El Heraldo de Chihuahua reported.

Martínez said Tuesday’s deaths and those of the couple were not related.

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