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[00:00:00]

And I heart radio, we bring you the best podcasts from the Ron Burgundy show to the Breakfast Club to stuff you should know really all of today's biggest names. But each of these shows started with an idea and now we want yours. We're looking to you for the next great podcast. Simply go to next great podcast, Dotcom, to get the details and submit your pitch will select up to 10 semifinalists and give them a thousand dollars to produce a pilot.

[00:00:29]

Then listeners from across the world will vote on their favorite to decide the next great podcast. Enter today at next. Great podcast, Dotcom. That's next. Great podcast, Dotcom. Why shouldn't the next great podcast come from you? Forgotten is a production of IHOP, media and unusual productions before we start, this podcast contains accounts which some listeners will find disturbing, but without them, the story can't be fully understood. Please take care while listening. Previously on Forgotten, our speculation was that when you don't want a crime to be solved, it's because the resolution of it is going to be extremely either embarrassing to somebody in power or it's going to come back to you.

[00:01:23]

The thing is, the people who did this, they have power to remain free to not being investigated. So there's money and power behind these murders.

[00:01:35]

I believe they said that the emblematic case of Zahradil has been solved with Ikorodu, that the murderer was in jail already.

[00:01:43]

And all people have always said the opposite, that the authors of the crime are still free. Gelman's Yonnet. For almost 30 years, young women have been murdered with brutality and impunity in Juarez. During that time, FBI agents, forensics experts and journalists have corroborated multiple lines of investigation. But in the absence of a functioning justice system, there can be no definitive answers for a podcast listener and certainly a podcast maker. This lack of resolution is frustrating, but for the relatives of the victims, it is a never ending trauma.

[00:02:28]

It was in this context that Paola Flores and several other families created a protest group.

[00:02:33]

It was called Voices Without Echo was a cynical, cynical, grabbed our attention because when girls disappear, when they ask for help, that no one hears them. Now, there's no one who knows anything. No one hears anything.

[00:02:47]

Sotero says they began posting flyers with strong messages. We want our daughters, assassins and things like that. You know that if girls disappeared, we also helped to put up missing posters. We began to fight as a group with more cynical.

[00:03:01]

After Signoria went missing, Paola took matters into her own hands. She led the initial search, and when Sagrera wasn't found, she appealed to the state attorney general for a real investigation. Finally, she interviewed the prime suspect herself. But Paola was never able to unmask the people. She called the authors of the crime, and the flyers and posters began to feel like a temporary response to an entrenched problem.

[00:03:30]

So the group, including Paola's daughter, Gia, decided to call out the femicide with a more durable symbol, one, you know, told us while doing all that.

[00:03:39]

On one occasion, Garcia thought, why not have a protest but a permanent one if she thought of the Black Cross with a pink background as a symbol for the girls in the background representing the women and the Black Cross for the mourning of their loss in March.

[00:03:56]

March 1999.

[00:03:57]

We painted the first cross.

[00:04:01]

Those crosses are now unmissable, painted on lampposts all over Juarez. They are themselves an echo of the missing women that reverberates around the city and told us there was one place in particular. She felt that it was important to paint one on the city jail, which, as far as she's concerned, has never housed the people responsible for Zakaria's murder. Econo Paint.

[00:04:25]

And I painted that cross. I had to fight with a police officer who wouldn't let me because he said no, that I couldn't paint it there. Are you crazy? I said, yes, maybe I am. It's clear that you haven't had a daughter of yours murdered. That gives me the right to paint this cross here because you haven't done anything. The crosses in Juarez are a constant reminder that the authorities have failed to stop and solve the femicide or hold the killers to account.

[00:04:54]

They hint at the corruption and complicity, the mark this story, even if they don't say it out loud. And as a result, the crosses is unpopular with the city's officials. When Pope Francis visited Juarez in 2016, the government painted over several of the crosses along his planned route. But the mothers do not permit the symbols to be erased or that daughters to be forgotten. Each year, Paolo goes out to repaint faded crosses in memory of Cigarillo.

[00:05:27]

You know, personally, personally, what I would do was on April 16th, the date of her disappearance, I'd go and retouch them and I'd invite people to support us.

[00:05:36]

But to me, it's almost a year for me to keep denouncing my daughter's case, the injustice she suffered.

[00:05:43]

And I think that in some way it keeps her memory alive.

[00:05:50]

When I hear Paola speaking, I can't help thinking about the word Matilde in Juarez. It's often used to explain how the drug cartel gets people complicit in small ways and then never lets them go. But it was increasingly clear that these murders make unexpected people. Machida, the journalists who can't put the story down, and especially the families who never get closure, and the line between healthy remembrance and more problematic compulsion to repeat can vanish in the San. So how did the glorious death affect the rest of the Flores family and who ultimately is responsible for her murder?

[00:06:38]

I must Voloshin. And I'm Monica Ortiz Uribe. This is forgotten the women of Juarez. The part politics is far from over. There are some races so braving, you know, nasty. We've heard so many theories, Monica, about who's killing the women in Juarez from one or more serial killers to La Linea, the corrupt cops, the cartel, even powerful industrialists. And yet none of these people were ever prosecuted. And the crimes have been going on for 30 years.

[00:07:42]

How does this all fit together for you? As we've been going along in this series, we've presented these possibilities individually, we have experts and investigators attesting to the involvement of serial killers, drug cartels, impresarios. But it's important to note that the Juarez femicide also include victims of domestic violence. Their killers were likely intimate partners who covered up their own crime by making it look like another serial sexual murder. Other women were themselves involved in the drug trade or had a connection to someone who was.

[00:08:23]

That said, you've also told me that the situation hasn't been stable or constant for 30 years, and even if the murders have the same fundamental drivers that most likely committed by different people over time, how do you explain how the femicide in Juarez have changed since the 90s?

[00:08:44]

The trajectory of femicide in Juarez is that it's come in waves over the last 30 years, beginning in the early 1990s, was one strong wave.

[00:08:57]

In the early 2000s came a second strong wave, the apex of which was the cotton field murders. And then in the later 2000s, beginning in 2008, you see a third wave of femicide. Come on. And so by then, Diana had stopped going to Juarez and Alfredo Corchado was mostly in Mexico City. And I was just beginning to test my wings as a radio reporter as this drug war was raging. And these waves, the first one in the early 90s that culminated with those mass graves being discovered in 1995 and 1996, the second being in the early 2000s, which is when Lelliott, 100, disappeared, and which culminated in the discovery of the mass grave in the cotton field.

[00:09:51]

Tell me about this third wave and your reporting on it.

[00:09:54]

I'll never forget the moment when I got the first tip that something was happening to women in Juarez yet again.

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It was December 2008, I was at a protest of doctors in Juarez near the university, and as I was turning to leave, some college students walked up to me and handed me a missing persons flyer. OK, and on that flyer was the black and white photo of a young woman. She had dark curly hair and a soft smile chin. I asked when she went missing. It had been just 12 days. You I just remember this sinking feeling in my gut thinking.

[00:10:46]

Oh, no, not again. And from that moment on, more women continued to go missing in just a short amount of time. Many were last seen in downtown Juarez. In other words, the same pattern we've seen before. So that's when I stepped in and started reporting. And once again, these disappearances culminated in a mass grave being discovered, what happened there? Fast forward to late 2011, a rancher is on his horse going to check on his land out in the rugged mountainous desert on the outskirts of Juarez, and they're riding along and all of a sudden the horse stops and kind of seems spooked and the rancher looks down and sees some bone fragments.

[00:11:44]

He gets off his horse, takes a closer look and realizes he's found a clandestine graveyard. He gets back to his ranch, calls the police, and it turns out that this was a graveyard of women's bones, 11 in all, many of these women were women whose missing flyers were posted all over downtown, some whose mothers I interviewed, including the mother of a 17 year old girl named Lupita Perez.

[00:12:16]

Months I had gone to interview her mom, Susana Moonface, just 16 days after Lupita went missing.

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I wasn't me. Susana showed me her daughter's room. All her things were there.

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Her backpack, her clothes, makeup is Lupita was last seen downtown.

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And Susana had been going there almost daily, asking around, posting missing flyers.

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And people downtown told her something very disturbing to someone telling me what I want to, Susana said.

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They told me she's probably being sold, that there's an organized group downtown that's taking them. It's not just my daughter Susana told me, it's me. It's more more girls are missing.

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A friend who worked at a fabric store downtown reported seeing Lupita cradling a pair of new tennis shoes in her arms. He said he last saw Lupita rushing down the street, etoposide lamina.

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Like so many other young women before Lupita was last seen on Meena Street, that's the central bus interchange in Juarez, which has all kinds of brothels and nightclubs nearby.

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After our own trip to downtown, Jose Rodriguez, the Juarez journalist at Alterio, warned us never to go back. That's where a lot of the girls were seen for the last time we were right there. Now there's a very, very, very dangerous place to see.

[00:13:58]

Yeah. Oh, that's that's certainly a song where they have lookouts. Absolutely.

[00:14:04]

Who's they? Let's just take us the gangs, that's how they control the area through intimidation. Sandra also reported on the third wave of femicide, and she explained that the attackers is a cross-border criminal enterprise that began life as an El Paso prison gang. They now work with the cartel to traffic drugs and control various other illegal businesses in downtown Juarez. What do you think the attackers lookouts are thinking when they're looking at us?

[00:14:39]

But you might be investigating them. I think that's their concern. Certainly, I think that they were protecting their women exploitation business because you couldn't go through the country without being taison or follow business.

[00:14:58]

This was the key word in a new line of investigation. And according to Sandra's reporting, many of the victims in the third wave of femicide were trafficked for profit. When we were last in downtown Juarez, we saw missing posters with the faces of young women who disappeared within the last few weeks. And that raised the haunting question. Was it possible those women were still alive? And perhaps even in the area we were walking around downtown Juarez, you know, where they went missing.

[00:15:31]

There's so many people. And you think they're here somewhere. Why can't why can't we find them? I sometimes wished I was a man and I could go into the brothels and just look for the women.

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I have try you. I have tell me. I tried to get into with a friend. They were two guys in the front door. And you cannot get into why you cannot just like that. They were two guys.

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I didn't see if they were armed, but I thought, what kind of things do you have inside that you have two guys protecting your dog?

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So they have the girls. Sandra couldn't get into that brothel, but there was another location where women were allegedly being held after being abducted. It was called hotel verité and it was essentially a safe house for us, a place where they stored weapons, sold drugs and trafficked women. It was located near the downtown and not far from the border with El Paso. Sandra interviewed a young woman whose mother sold food to the clients at the hotel, the girl that I was interviewing told me my mother found out that they were just teenagers being exploited.

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And I said, why didn't your mother do something? And called the police to whom there was a lot of militaries. The troops, federal police, municipal police, they were all consuming the girls there. There is no place to go. And they announced this, you know. It it's heartbreaking for me to know that these girls, when they were alive, were seen by a lot of people in downtown Juarez while the mothers were trying to look to find them in a very connected to.

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I mean, where are you going to go to denounce this? They are there.

[00:17:28]

They know if the people who are supposed to be protecting you are actually involved in the exploitation of the women, according to this mother who was bringing food in. Yes. Yeah, where do you turn for help? I think that was the most shocking part. According to Sandra, despite the fate of women like Lupita being an open secret, the authorities failed to solve the crimes. There was a trial in 2015 and there were convictions. But at best, the jailed men were seen as low level operatives of South Texas and at worst, as yet more scapegoats.

[00:18:08]

Once again, the authorities were accused of not just being incompetent, but of being complicit. And in an environment where getting away with murder is so easy, femicide has become normalised. Sandra told us that these days another missing woman in Juarez doesn't even make the front page of the city's newspaper. They became like more part of my normal life or everybody's life. But yeah, the killings, keepon and the disappearances keep on happening. Can they promise just cause this is not the country where I grew up and now we are just to the violence, to the impunity.

[00:18:48]

And I'm very scared of thinking how fast you can go backwards in society. While on a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, Sandra wrote a book called La Fabrica Agreement, The Crime Factory. In it, she traces a line from the permanent poverty of the maquiladora workers to the murders of women to the metastasis of organized crime in the city.

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I was trying to to explain how to express how killing was turning into a business, you know, and I think that metaphor, the crime factory relates to the industrial character of the city, but also the criminal industry in trying to express that crime is obviously not just a social issue, but also fueled by economic forces. I think it's a city with a lot of suffering that people is completely exploited.

[00:19:58]

The proposal doesn't make enough to leave even when they work the whole day. And I think it's this phase of globalization that you can see here immediately. A whole country depends on America. But in this city, you can see it like in a matter of minutes, how we are connected. Connected economically, but separated by a border. Sandra remembers driving at night through the Franklin Mountains in Texas and looking down into the valley, Juarez and El Paso. She could see exactly where the line between the two countries was because the Mexican side was so much more densely populated and thus brightly illuminated.

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The lights appeared to Sandra like wave breaking against the wall. I was looking at the water from very high. You can see the line, the border, and then a lot of flights.

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In my view, it was like the whole pressure of the whole rest of the continent trying to reach America and then getting stopped right at the border, which is Juarez, and I thought this city cannot contain this much poverty or violence. I mean, in all Latin Americans coming for some reason that broke my heart.

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Like, this city cannot hold this and it's going to explode. No state in the world can hold the whole pressure. This pressure turning to violence, this pressure turning to legal business, this pressure turns into very bad conditions of living for the people. I just felt that I start to cry and cry. Looking around Juarez, seeing the crosses and the missing posters, the signs can appear as a self-contained tragedy. But from a vantage point up on high, it becomes clear how the city's position in relation to the US creates the conditions for its violence.

[00:22:19]

When we come back, we look at how U.S. financial institutions have been washing the hands of Juarez criminals by laundering cartel money through the global financial system. And I heart radio, we bring you the best podcasts from the biggest names, Ron Burgundy, Jack Chelsea Handler, yupp Quest. Love him, too. And the one thing these shows have in common, they all started with an idea and now we want yours. We're looking to you for the next great podcast.

[00:22:54]

Do you have an idea for a podcast? Let's hear it. Any genre, any topic. We want your voice. Pitch us your show for a chance to share it with fellow podcast fans across the globe and become a part of the I Heart radio podcast family. Simply go to next great podcast Dotcom to get the details and submit your pitch in partnership with the creative platform toggle I heart radio will select up to 10 semifinalists and give them a thousand dollars to produce a pilot episode that listeners will vote on.

[00:23:24]

Their favorite to decide the next great podcast. The winning show will be made by our best in class production team and shared with listeners all around the world. Enter today at next. Great podcast, Dotcom. That's next. Great podcast, Dotcom. Why shouldn't the next great podcast come from you? So there was this third wave of femicide, Monica, that involved human trafficking, I thought verité and other locations, and that's something that you and Sandra both reported on.

[00:24:12]

How does that relate to Alfredo Corchado and what he reported about La Linea and the cartel parties, the evolution of femicide? I guess you could say that it began as a way to strengthen the bonds between organized crime. Then it evolved to a kind of sick form of of celebration and sport. And then it became a means of profit. It became a business just like everything else, the drugs and the manufacturing. This third wave of femicide involved women being.

[00:24:52]

Sexually brutalized over the course of weeks or months, multiple times, you know, they found if we can keep them, we can you can make some money here I.

[00:25:05]

So ultimately, it sounds like although serial killers and even perhaps wealthy industrialists took advantage of this atmosphere of impunity in Juarez, where violence against women up to and including murder was permissible, the heart of this is really organized crime.

[00:25:27]

Organized crime and drug trafficking is at the root of all of Mexico's problems. And until that gets resolved, nothing is going to get better. I don't care how many good hearted American judges and attorneys come down and do training sessions, the ability to corrupt police and the judicial system is still there. And until you can get rid of that, you know, nothing is going to get better.

[00:25:58]

That problem is largely out of Mexico's hands when the demand persists on the American side. And the U.S. has been more than willing to pour billions of dollars into the law enforcement side, trying to stop the drugs from coming over. I know it's clear to me. I mean I mean, that is an unwinnable fight. You have to address demand. Demand for illegal drugs in the US creates the revenue on which La Linea does attack us, the Sinaloa cartel and the rest of Mexico's organized criminal enterprises depend.

[00:26:39]

To understand more about the financial underpinnings of all this violence, we called Ed Vulliamy. He's a British journalist who made his name covering the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, as well as the first and second Gulf wars. And he's also reported extensively from Juarez. He wrote a book called A Mexico War along the Border Line. And while working on it, he spent time with the likes of Diana Washington Valdez, Sandra Rodriguez and Paola Flores.

[00:27:09]

I realized actually that I first interview Paola Flores 20 years ago, says two decades of reporting this atrocity, you know, impunity is a hallmark of those 20 years in the course of his reporting and came to view young women like Cigarillo as the casualties of a type of conflict that he never encountered elsewhere.

[00:27:34]

I think what interested me and what is appalled me and confused me is that whereas Iraq and Bosnia were wars, I mean, come on, you know, shells landing, cowering in cellars, columns of refugees through the dust of the stone. These are wars.

[00:27:53]

And yet if we take that experience into Mexico, what have we got? We've got a death toll since 2006 in Mexico, which is three times that of Bosnia, 100000 in Bosnia, 300000 in Mexico. We've got perhaps most appallingly of all in its different way. A number of disappeared, vanished, people leaving families who have no body to bury and the limbo of disappearance. And yet we've got this situation in a country that is irresistibly wonderful, where the football league functions very well and is great to watch, where the markets are open and vibrant.

[00:28:35]

It's a new kind of war in what is supposed to be peace time. Things look normal, but they're not. It's a completely brutalized society.

[00:28:45]

It has the darkest shadows in many ways of one's whole career as a war correspondent, according to at the root cause of this new kind of war is drug trafficking and the cartels who've profited from it.

[00:29:01]

I mean, there is no ring around narco violence now. I mean, narco violence becomes domestic violence becomes extortion, becomes trafficking, becomes sex trafficking, becomes migrant smuggling.

[00:29:11]

You know, they'll come a time, I think, when actually drugs is probably a minority interest of these cartels because of the expansion of their business is so big within Mexico.

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Business, there's that word again, Sandra used it to describe the exploitation of women in the third wave of famous sites, but it's also the key to understanding why the war in Mexico is so amorphous. The conflict is not about political identity or national boundaries. It's about profit. And to understand the cartels, you have to think of them as commercial enterprises for whom violence is a tool of domination. Cartels are corporations, they're not opponents of our financial and economic capitalist system, they're not even pastiches of it are actually innovators of it.

[00:30:07]

Pablo Escobar, he was doing Panamerican duty free trade long before NAFTA or Bill Clinton had the idea cocaine. You can flood the market without a drop in price because of the good stuff to bankers, politicians, lawyers and journalists and the shit in the ghetto to be cooked as crack. I mean, it's a perfect commodity.

[00:30:26]

The one problem with cocaine, the sums generated are too big to be laundered through small businesses or stored in stash houses, and that requires innovation.

[00:30:36]

The profits are so vast, hundreds of billions of dollars. Now, you can't go to Mexico spending that out of a back of a truck. You have to bank it. You have to find a banker and a bank and a lawyer who's prepared to get that money into the system. To get their profits into the legitimate economy, the cartel needed help from establishment partners and became obsessed by uncovering who they were. And in 2011, he broke a story under the headline How a Big U.S. Bank Laundered Billions from Mexico's Murderous Drug Gangs.

[00:31:16]

The bank was Wachovia. And once again, the story began with somebody who wanted justice. I got a whistleblower from inside the bank, a man, brave man, called Martin Woods to tell me the whole story over seven long sessions and published it. Up until 2008, Wachovia was one of the biggest banks in the U.S., but in the aftermath of the financial crisis, it was sold to Wells Fargo, which is now the world's fourth largest bank.

[00:31:48]

Martin Woods worked at a career and his job was to spot money laundering, so when Woods noticed a series of dubious transactions at currency exchanges in Mexico, he started issuing suspicious activity reports to try and stop them. But then a manager quietly advised him to, quote, develop a better understanding of Mexico. Undeterred, Woods continued to flag more suspicious transactions coming out of Mexico. But instead of heeding his warnings, the bank decided to discipline him. WorkCover claim that Woods would expose them to, quote, potential regulatory jeopardy and, quote, large fines.

[00:32:30]

Wachovia had been moving an inevitable amount of money that actually belonged directly and was provably flowing from the Sinaloa cartel. The mind boggling sum of three hundred and seventy two billion dollars, I mean, that's the GDP of a nation in some parts of the world.

[00:32:49]

Criminal proceedings in the US were eventually brought against Wachovia for failing to, quote, maintain an effective anti money laundering program. The federal prosecutor argued that, quote, Wachovia is blatant disregard for our banking laws, gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations. In other words, Wachovia was more interested in its own profits than preventing organized crime from entering the banking system. They ultimately settled out of court for one hundred and sixty million dollars, a tiny fraction of the laundered sums.

[00:33:25]

The amount was paid by the new parent bank, Wells Fargo, who've recently been bailed out by US taxpayers. Now, the reason we can talk about this without fear of the Wells Fargo legal department is because Wachovia got caught, admitted it and settled out of court.

[00:33:44]

Too big to fail, too big to jail for sure.

[00:33:47]

Ed reports that as Válková was being investigated, another bank, HSBC, stepped in and filled the void to launder money for the Sinaloa cartel with HSBC is even more extraordinary because the knockers were actually going to branches of HSBC in Mexico with boxes specially made to fit through the tellers.

[00:34:07]

Windows filled with hundreds of dollars in cash be given a receipt for the amount without the teller actually opening the box to look what was inside. And yet we didn't know anything about the Financial Times covered the settlement out of court with the following line. Mexico was becoming a compliance nightmare for HSBC. Full stop. Yeah, all these little dark people abusing a good bank. Once again, no one goes to jail. No one's even prosecuted or charged. A few apologies.

[00:34:38]

Rap on the knuckles again.

[00:34:40]

Not all of the media was as forgiving. The New York Times described HSBC as, quote, too big to indict and reported that the Justice Department decided against prosecution because they were worried about, quote, destabilizing the global financial system.

[00:34:56]

I've tried to make it my business to report to the best of my ability on the impunity in our system, whereby the blood money of the fat cat basically face absolutely no sanction whatsoever for taking these vast profits and swilling them around the so-called legal economy.

[00:35:18]

Whoever paid Sakari, as long as this killer to do what they did to her is missing in action so far as the justice system is concerned, as is HSBC.

[00:35:30]

But there is a line, there is a direct line from that atrocity right up to the boardrooms of Wall Street in the game of join the dots, there's only two dots to join. The drug cartels exist to make money, and they spend that money corrupting officials and creating a reign of terror in Mexico, largely in order to make more money, including from trafficking young women. And according to add, one of the ways to prevent this from happening would be to aggressively prosecute international money laundering.

[00:36:05]

I'm pretty sure that peace is better than war, and I'm pretty sure that you could actually do something to abate this appalling new kind of war if you simply throttled the money, if you actually just made it not lucrative or impossible to bank this money. And as my whistleblower, Martin, would said for my career, if you don't get that, you're missing the story. The United States Justice Department effectively chose to ignore that part of the story because they were worried it could trigger another financial crisis.

[00:36:38]

Meanwhile, Martin Woods, the whistleblower, says that it was impossible for him to get a job at another bank after exposing the money laundering activity at Wachovia. And it is these figures who speak out in pursuit of justice, who motivate as work for journalism is quite a weird profession. Some people report conflict because deep down they quite like it because it gives them a bit of a bit of a buzz. I'm the opposite to that. I get terrified.

[00:37:08]

I have PTSD. I hate it. I have a sort of shortcoming whereby when I'm reporting something, I try to think myself into it. I can't just write down an account of what was done to Paula Flores's daughter without trying to imagine what it must have been like to to be in that room with those people, you know, who have eyes, who had faces, who she could see, presumably the blades they were about to apply and then applied her body.

[00:37:36]

I mean, it's not a very psychologically beneficial thing to do, but I think it's professionally necessary. But what you get is the addiction to the people who are against it, because it's a humbling thing being with the soldiers in Bosnia. The guerrillas who were trying to oppose the genocide was itself uplifting and humbling. Being with the mothers of the women to whom this was done leaves you oddly enriched in a way. I mean, it's the last line of Samuel Coleridge, Ancient Mariner, a father and a wiser man.

[00:38:12]

He woke up tomorrow morning. That is what one should aim to be a as a combat journalist, sadder and wiser. And your job is to make other people.

[00:38:21]

Saddam was.

[00:38:26]

The whistleblowers, the truth seekers, the mothers painting a cross or defending a scapegoat, a bus driver or even calling out non-compliance with money laundering regulation, any of these actions can cost you anything from your livelihood to your life.

[00:38:45]

And none of them is sufficient to produce the kind of systemic change required to stop femicide.

[00:38:51]

But that doesn't diminish the importance of bearing witness as making the invisible visible from the pocket of your jeans to the bank card in that pocket. As the FBI agent, Frank Evans, put it, best, you can kill me, but you can't eat me. When we come back, Monica returns to Juarez for a final conversation with Paola Flores about the glorious legacy and the price of activism. I don't know if I want my brother dead.

[00:39:37]

He was an unimaginable crime. There's blood all over the house. It was the second biggest mass murder in 2016 behind the Pulse nightclub shooting.

[00:39:46]

Eight people dead, all from the same family. It would become the largest criminal investigation in Ohio's history.

[00:39:54]

Pike County sheriffs requested state help immediately after they got word in the early morning of April 22nd, 2016.

[00:40:02]

Eight members of the Rowden family were brutally murdered, shot to death execution style in their homes.

[00:40:10]

Eight victims, 32 gunshot wounds, three children left alive at the scenes. This is the PYKEN massacre. Listen to the pectin massacre on the I Heart radio app, on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Before we concluded this series, I knew I had to have one last conversation with Paula. I wanted her to tell me about what happened to her husband, Hesus.

[00:40:53]

Femicide is largely viewed as the realm of women. It's something that happens to women, that hurts women. And those fighting against femicide are primarily women. We focus on the pain of the mothers, but rarely do we talk about others.

[00:41:11]

So despite escalating drug violence, a record heat wave and a raging pandemic, I traveled to Juarez again.

[00:41:21]

But before we begin, I asked Paula if she was ready to have the conversation in Thornes, if I knew it wouldn't be an easy one.

[00:41:30]

This poster, I think it is the competition policy.

[00:41:34]

OK, I started by asking Paula to tell me how she met her husband. Well, I was 18.

[00:41:41]

I met him in a farming village near the little town where I lived. My sister took me. She asked me to go with her to a dance.

[00:41:49]

We went walking. It was two hours on foot.

[00:41:52]

So that's when I met him from Insulter to his village. We walked together talking and he told me that he wanted me to dance with him at the dance. In fact, that night I only danced with him. If so, from there he started to fall in love and we only saw each other for a short time. I knew him for less than a month when I married him.

[00:42:19]

Paula was just 18 and his house was 25. He visited her at home twice and on the third visit he proposed, Paula accepted, packed a few things and left with him. That same day. It was sudden, but Paula was living with an abusive stepfather and saw it as a potential escape.

[00:42:45]

I think these things are predestined, you know.

[00:42:48]

Well, for my stepfather, he was very harsh with us. They wouldn't let me go out. He would hit me a lot. His house also came from an abusive household. And together he and Paula formed the kind of loving family they yearned for.

[00:43:03]

Chewey, their only son, was their first born. Then they had six daughters, Gégé, Juana, Zahradil, Loopier, Gloria and Alicia.

[00:43:15]

Cynthia. From the moment I met her, I felt protected. He would take care of me.

[00:43:20]

He was always worrying about me, even in the street. He wouldn't let me walk on the traffic side of the sidewalk.

[00:43:27]

Well, no, he was a really irresponsible man, an exemplary father for my children. He never hit them to this day. Now that they're all grown, they still have fond memories of him.

[00:43:39]

One little thing in their home state of Durango, his who's worked as a lumberjack, disappearing for days at a time to the nearby mountains. Follow it, send him off with a batch of homemade tortillas.

[00:43:52]

The family was poor.

[00:43:54]

Garcia, the oldest sister, recalls erasing her notebooks at the end of a school year so she could reuse them the following year. In Juarez, his son saw an opportunity to make a better life for his family. He went to work at the factory alongside his children. And then two years after their arrival, sigurdardottir disappeared.

[00:44:16]

When I was well, when our daughter went missing, he went looking for her, along with the rest of the family from the very first night. I think as the head of the family, as the father of our daughters, he showed that he was going to find her. He would say, I promise you that we're going to find our daughter, Rami.

[00:44:36]

But shoes could not keep his promise instead, 14 days later, he walked into the Juarez morgue to claim what authorities said was his daughter's lifeless body. As soon as the families search for Sugrue ended, their search for justice began this time with Paula in the lead. His who stuck with her following along side when she broke into the attorney general's meeting, he marched with her in protests, combed the desert looking for remains and painted crosses on lampposts.

[00:45:13]

I would say to him, let's go, dear. And he would never say no. He would always say, let's go. Is there even though I was the one who always talked. He would never speak up, even Diego.

[00:45:23]

And one day he told me, he said, I don't talk. I don't say anything because it's enough to hear you speak. He said this interview with them law also makes you feel very shaky. I feel bad.

[00:45:34]

I can't talk. Although mostly silent, his house was one of the few fathers at the front lines.

[00:45:41]

Most have to continue working to support their families during the fight for justice for SAG radio hosts who started getting harassed in his own neighborhood. He was even beaten by a couple strangers on his way back home from a hamburger stand in a gondola.

[00:45:59]

So when he came back to the truck, there were three men waiting for him. They were dressed normally in jeans and T-shirts, he told me. They started asking me for money. He told them I don't have anything. So they beat him up pretty badly. It turns out they didn't rob him of anything. Not his watch, not the little money. He had nothing.

[00:46:20]

The only thing he lost was an address book, a small one. He fit in his pocket on the train there. He had our home telephone number. He had telephone numbers of other activists, the in Memphis.

[00:46:34]

After that, I started getting calls at night to our home phone. They met and then he started making those calls to say they needed sex services.

[00:46:46]

The activism, the harassment, the grief, it all took its toll on the entire family, his shoes began drinking more than usual, and neighbors warned Paula that he was having an affair. His had told Paula that a woman, a neighbor, had been provoking him.

[00:47:07]

And he'd always complained to me he would curse. I've fucking had it with her. Wherever I go, she finds me. I'm just bigger.

[00:47:17]

Paula says this went on for years as Hughes swore on his children that he remained loyal to Paula Ultrathin.

[00:47:25]

One day I asked him to take me shopping downtown and he said, Sure, let me just go visit with the tailor first. And then it was. So he got in the shower. And in the meanwhile, I ironed his clothes. And when he got out of the shower, he came to me and held me. And he told me he loved me very much and he told me he wanted to take my breasts with him.

[00:47:48]

You don't want my mouth hurt. He kissed me so much and he kept telling me, I want to take your breath with me. I didn't understand what he meant.

[00:47:57]

A lot of it. After that, he said goodbye. He stood at the door and turned toward me and I told him with my eyes that watch you leave.

[00:48:08]

When will they see you return? When it comes to Iran, I don't know why I said that. Yes. And then he left. Paula got into the shower herself and got ready to go out, then at two o'clock, the phone rang. It was Hesus. Ismy Cerrado usually happens, and I thought it was strange because he was supposed to be on his way back home, right. So I answered the phone and asked, what's up? And he said, no, honey, I just want to ask you to ask God that you forgive me.

[00:48:42]

Forgive me. He said, I love you so much, so much. And then he said, it's better this way. And I said, Where are you? And he said, if I don't, it's better this way. And that's it. He said, I love you. And then hung up all the time.

[00:49:00]

Oh. And he told me the truck is parked in front of the tailor shop. How are you? No, it was drizzling to us when it rains, it was very sad because it was raining when that disappeared. So we went to the truck and I told my son to look, see what he's left us. I was gone. And yes, he left us a letter in the glove compartment.

[00:49:26]

When I said that we will not believe these words, I ask your forgiveness and did you farewell. So I carry you all in my heart, Paula.

[00:49:35]

I take your breath with me, which I have faith that you will persevere so that I no longer look will do it for our family.

[00:49:44]

That's my final wish. Don't deny me of it. If God doesn't forgive my bad actions, I hope you will see. I can't continue writing. I'm shaking all over. And then I thought I left you money in the piggy bank. Use it for God's sake to finish your home. Me, because that's what it's for you. Goodbye, my love. Your sons. The newspaper reported a man and a woman had been discovered shot to death in a cardboard shack in Lomas, the polio.

[00:50:19]

They were both lying on a twin mattress, a pistol resting between them. The man was Hesus, the woman was the neighbor with whom he was supposedly having an affair. Police ruled the incident a murder suicide. Yeah, you'll only look at it again. The only thing I wanted was not to live anymore what I would think of my daughters, that they were grown, but they didn't need me anymore, that I had done my part.

[00:50:51]

And besides, he and I made a pact that whoever died first would come for the other one and I would admonish him. You didn't keep your promise because I'm still here.

[00:51:01]

And you see where your your mother. If I wanted to kill myself. Well, see, I would grab the car and sometimes I would drive in a zigzag. I would get on the busiest streets of Juarez. Juarez is where five lane streets. And I would say to him, you are my pilot. I was your pilot many times. I was always at your side, Will. Now you're my pilot. You will determine how all this will end.

[00:51:26]

It is time to think. The sudden loss of her husband, her constant companion, broke Paola. As with her daughter, Sario, she was never fully satisfied with the police investigation into his sister's death.

[00:51:44]

Still, Paula told me she felt muzzled by the possibility that Hesus had committed a femicide.

[00:51:52]

How could she continue to show her face in meetings and marches to protest that very crime?

[00:51:59]

It felt like the ultimate hypocrisy.

[00:52:03]

Later, Paula remembered something Hesus had told her not long before his death is a if you would tell me that I was a bad ass woman.

[00:52:13]

That's how he would say it. He would always tell me, you're a bad ass woman.

[00:52:16]

You can handle it the day I'm no longer here, you can do it. And in the letter, he told me the same thing, that I could do it and I could keep going.

[00:52:27]

You'll see. I'm blessed. You always take on the greatest. I've always continued to give interviews, offering my testimonials because I want to keep denouncing what happened to my daughter. You've been so good. I'll say to that when we're no longer here, she'll live on in, say, a documentary, a book. And that's where the memory of Sakurada will remain. Then look, I want to keep denouncing that her case is not yet resolved and the girls continue to disappear.

[00:52:56]

I want to keep going, but it's true that it takes its toll.

[00:53:05]

There's something so heartbreaking about this story, Monica, the way he stands by Paula and supports her and our acts of bearing witness. I can't take it himself. And in the end, seems to be involved in the murder of yet another woman in Juarez. I know you hesitate to even bring this story up with Paula, but why did you feel it was important to say a story is an extreme version of what happens to the fathers of femicide victims? Many succumb to quick and sudden deaths, whether it be from illness or cancer or a heart attack in the case of his hesus by his own hand.

[00:53:49]

The newspaper report says he had a gunshot wound through his chest, but I read a gunshot wound through his heart almost as if he was shooting himself in the heart because he couldn't take the pain that he carried there. So he wanted to feel like the strong one, you know, of the man of the family with whom we felt safe. So he kept all his feelings trapped inside. We never talked about it because for all of us, the main focus was to keep demanding justice for seraglio and the rest was pushed aside.

[00:54:25]

We didn't even sit down to eat as a family anymore. It's mutual distrust. Yes, life is passing me by and we're all getting sick. Our children, too. And where is the justice? These guys from the U.S., that's when they say to me, well, what have you gained from all this? Mom, you have nothing. You've lost a great deal. We've lost our dad is dead.

[00:54:48]

And yet I never quit.

[00:54:51]

I wish someday to get out of here for all of us to leave and never hear about any of it again.

[00:54:57]

Yukihira and I wish there would be a day just for me to see a day without firesides. It's heartbreaking to see how powerless strength drives on and on and at the same time, how the act of protest itself can create more trauma for the family. But her strength is remarkable. And I'm wondering how you make sense of it all.

[00:55:26]

I guess it's your typical David and Goliath story. Only in this this case, David has not slayed the giant. The giant lumbers on and Paul is simply trying to get by day by day and she's got her daughters. I mean, the one thing that I do take heart from is after Paul and I did the interview, I sat and I visited with her for just a little bit longer. She opened the door to her bedroom. And the minute she does that, people start flowing in, including her two daughters and a grandson.

[00:55:58]

And they all ended up on her king sized bed in her bedroom like the grandson is on his phone. And like Kananga, they're lying there and chatting and laughing and Paula comes in. What do you all want for lunch? What are we going to do? What are we going to make for lunch?

[00:56:14]

And there's a softness there.

[00:56:18]

Not everyone has a family that they get along with that they feel so at home and cozy with that they can just walk into their mother's bedroom and sprawl on her bed almost as if they were little children.

[00:56:31]

I'm certain they all draw strength from each other, but I hope it's the last interview I do with Paula about the tragedies in her life.

[00:56:43]

I don't hope it's the last time I see her or the last time I talked to her.

[00:56:47]

But I do hope it's the last time I ask her to recount the tragedies and trauma in her life. She's done that enough. And I think I think she needs a rest. And what about you, Monica? Well, when you first start out as a journalist and you're young and fresh and optimistic that if you just tell the story, something will change and then you get to the point where where I am, where you report the same thing over and over, not only does it keep happening, it gets worse and there is not much change.

[00:57:25]

And then you wonder, well, what is it for? I'm just going to leave it all behind. I'm just going to walk away, like I said at the beginning of this podcast. But then you realize, no, no, you just always have to fight.

[00:57:37]

It doesn't mean that you're going to win. But if you don't fight, then all is lost. When you make a little progress, there's going to be pushback and you just have to keep going. And maybe you do need to step away for a spell to collect yourself and heal and gather strength again.

[00:57:57]

And once you do, then you get back out there.

[00:58:07]

I was thinking about that word again, material, once the story touches you, it never lets you go. Last night I dreamt that I was stuck in Juarez being watched, hunted. But of course, I woke up in the safety of my bed. Paula and generations of her family will never wake up from the nightmare of sicarios murder, but they'll keep going. The story of the Flores family is just one of hundreds like them in Juarez. And today, Juarez itself is just one city among many where institutions have collapsed in the face of money and power and violence against the most vulnerable prevails.

[00:58:50]

But there is sadness and wisdom to be gleaned from all of this. Wisdom, at the very least, to recognize one another's humanity. I must Voloshin and I'm Monica Ortiz Uribe. Thanks for listening.

[00:59:20]

You know, see. Doesn't make up for lost intimacy, but a second. Forgotten, the women of Juarez is cohosted by me, Monica Ortiz Uribe and me, as Woloshin Forgotten, is executive produced by me and Mangoush particular. Our producers are Julian Mualla and Katrina Noval Sound Editing by Julian Weller, Yakupov Penso Aaron Kaufman and Michelle Lance. Lucas Riley is our story editor. Caitlin Thompson is our consulting producer. Production support from Emily Marinus and Aaron Kaufman, recruiting assistants, this episode from Phil Bodger.

[01:00:38]

Music by Leonardo Headlam and Akobo Lieberman, additional music by Aaron Kaufman Carla Tassajara is the voice actor for Paola Flores special thanks to Ryan Marte's and to Cynthia Verano and Maria Socrata Blinco for their support to this series.

[01:00:57]

Thanks also to the producers of the documentary Langata. This podcast is dedicated to all the women lost to senseless violence in Juarez and all around the world. Is the city as a toll as mukaddes cancer free of Bahaullah Violencia Nuna mass?

[01:01:28]

I want to know if I was wrong about that, it was an unimaginable crime, we couldn't believe something like that would happen here.

[01:01:42]

People get all from the same family. This is the Paikin massacre. Listen to the pectin massacre on the I Heart radio app, on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.