Mexico: US holds murdered activist’s son and granddaughter

Friends of the Women of Juárez, an organization based in Las Cruces, New Mexico, has written US Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano to call for the release of three-year-old Mexican national Heidi Barraza Frayre and her uncle, Juan Manuel Frayre, to the care of relatives in El Paso, Texas. The granddaughter of slain Mexican activist Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, Heidi Frayre is in US custody while the government investigates whether her El Paso relatives will be able to care for her. She has been staying in a Houston shelter for immigrant children run by a Catholic charity. Juan Manuel Frayre, one of Escobedo’s sons, is in immigration detention in Chaparral, New México.

Heidi Frayre’s father, Rafael Barraza Bocanegra, confessed to murdering her mother, Rubí Marisol Frayre Escobedo, in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, in 2008, but a Chihuahua court ordered him released. Marisela Escobedo then devoted herself to caring for her granddaughter and to seeking justice for her daughter. She was gunned down last Dec. 16 while protesting in front of the main government office in the city of Chihuahua. After her husband’s lumber store was set on fire and her brother-in-law was kidnapped on the day of her funeral, Dec. 18, Escobedo’s brother and her two sons fled with Heidi Frayre to Texas, where they applied for asylum for themselves and their niece.

US immigration authorities released Escobedo’s brother and one of her sons pending a decision on their asylum claims but decided to hold Heidi and Juan Manuel Frayre. Luis Benjamin Lara Escobedo, director of protection for the Mexican Consulate in Houston, spoke with the child in late January. “She wanted to know when she could go back and play with her toys,” Lara, who is not related to the family, told the Houston Chronicle. (Houston Chronicle, Feb. 2; El Paso Times, Feb. 10, Spanish edition)

Three relatives of another slain activist, Josefina Reyes, were kidnapped by armed men in Guadalupe Distrito Bravos, east of Ciudad Juárez, on Feb. 7. Reyes’ sister Malena, her brother Elías and Elías’ wife, Luisa Ornelas, were traveling in a truck with Reyes’ mother, Sara Salazar, and Reyes’ small daughter. The armed men seized Ornelas and Malena and Elías Reyes and then drove off, leaving Salazar and the child by the side of the road.

Josefina Reyes was shot dead on Jan. 3, 2010; her brother Rubén was killed on Aug. 18. Amnesty International (AI) says Josefina Reyes was “active in protests against violence in the area being carried out by organized criminals and human rights violations committed by the military.” She participated in an August 2009 Forum on Militarization and Repression in Ciudad Juárez. AI called for Mexican authorities to “take urgent steps to find [the three kidnapping victims] while providing protection for [the] rest of the family.” (AI, Feb. 10)

Four Reyes Salazar family members began a hunger strike in front of the state prosecutor’s Ciudad Juárez office on Feb. 9 to demand that state and federal authorities work actively to rescue their kidnapped relatives. They warned that if the three were abandoned in a deserted area they might die from the cold wave hitting the region. The hunger strikers, who were being guarded by two state police patrol cars, said they planned to emigrate from Ciudad Juárez once their missing relatives were returned. (El Universal, Mexico, Feb. 10)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 13.

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