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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, I do recall some suggesting that I might temper my words because big business is involved.

[00:01:15]

Well, the maquiladoras are American companies and you might wind up making enemies on this side of the border, Quandialla come in when they changed her shift.

[00:01:25]

She signed an insurance policy joking around and she told me if something happens to me, my mother going to give you a ton of money. I don't know if my innocent girl had a feeling that something was going to happen to her.

[00:01:36]

I don't know. And so when I saw where this graveyard was located, I said, I can't believe it. It's in the middle of a city. And across the street is the Association of Maquiladoras. Why choose this site to dump eight bodies of women?

[00:01:57]

From the beginning, Dinah Washington Valdez told us that the femicide in Juarez were not random, that the women were selected, and Diana also mentioned all kinds of strange connections between the victims and the maquiladoras. The mass grave containing eight women's bodies at the cotton field was discovered right across the street from the maquiladora association shortly before Alejandro Andreotti was abducted in February 2001. Photographs were featured in a promotional brochure for her maquiladora. And Diana also mentioned that men claiming to be model scouts would take photographs of young women outside the factories.

[00:02:41]

And then there was a great deal. González Flores. After the factory changed her shift, Sicario was forced to commute alone. Her mother, Paola, remembers the day that Cigarillo failed to come home from work. Bosavi, I'm he thought about how we knew that she had worked and that she had left at the time, everyone left, but no one saw anything but another, another illegal.

[00:03:05]

And I tell you, that very night we began searching at the Red Cross and the hospital was on the street searching for her.

[00:03:12]

And that night, I grabbed all the photos I had of my daughter. I would pass them out at gas stations saying, I'm looking for my daughter. Can you please help me find her? And I was Mike Huckabee helping control me. Like I said, it was there were nights I would step outside and I would shout her name. I would run around the house and shout her name with all my strength in the silence of the night, I felt she could hear me.

[00:03:35]

So I would call to my daughter.

[00:03:37]

You, me. After a few agonizing days and nights of searching for Signoria, hope that she might be found alive began to fade. Paula joined a protest group outside the police station with other mothers displaying photographs of their own missing daughters. One morning after Signoria had been missing for two weeks, Paula arrived at the protest to learn that a young woman's body had been found. The previous night was Anthony.

[00:04:11]

We arrived at the sit in that day as usual, and as soon as we arrived, a reporter approached me, said, Ma'am, did you know they found the body of a murdered woman? I remember as soon as he told me that I ran to the photos, we already had their opinion. When I said to the reporter, which one did they find? One day, I think. And he said, no, I don't know. I don't know which one they found.

[00:04:31]

I just know she had a white maquiladora coat. And it was then that I sense that it was my daughter. Estradiol had her name on the White Makela coat. I had embroidered her name with colorful yarn, just her name, Zahradil, as a cigarette.

[00:04:49]

A sense of foreboding was proven correct. Next to the young woman's body dumped in the desert outside of Juarez was the factory coat that Paola had stitched by hand with her daughter's name. And this pattern of young women in Juarez disappearing between home and work was by no means unique to Sagrera. Lily Alejandro had also disappeared on her way home from work, and Claudia Gonzalez, one of the victims discovered in the cotton field, went missing after she was turned away from her factory job for arriving two minutes late.

[00:05:24]

These connections between the murders and the maquilas began to attract international attention, including the ABC News piece where Hardrock Crawford appeared and where Robert Toraya, a former president of the maquiladora association, appeared to blame the victims for their own deaths.

[00:05:44]

Where were these young ladies, where they were seen last? Were they drinking right? Were they partying?

[00:05:52]

Were they in a dark street or defensiveness? Raised all kinds of questions. Did he and the maquiladoras he represented have something to hide? Could there be some truth to Hardrock Crawford's assertion that his advocacy for the women disturb big business interests on both sides of the border and contributed to his downfall? And could there be another group of men operating with or in parallel to the cartel who were also preying on vulnerable young women in Juarez? I must Voloshin. And I'm Monica Ortiz Uribe.

[00:06:28]

This is forgotten. The women of Juarez don't come to party politics existing. But I'm over right there. She's so brave even now she's got some, you know, nasty. That comment from Laura Monico, where he's saying, you know, where were the women last seen, where they partying with a drinking that really stuck with both of us?

[00:07:18]

First of all, I have to point out how infuriating it is to listen to that interview, that sort of victim blaming has been done by police and politicians. And now it was being done on national television by a former president of the maquiladora association. How dare he shirk the responsibility his industry bears for not recognizing and responding to the risks their employees clearly faced?

[00:07:49]

This kind of attitude alone puts women in danger and in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It wasn't just ABC News who were drawing a line between the maquilas and the murders, Diana was also pointing out the connections as well as Amnesty International, correct? Yes.

[00:08:10]

In the beginning, the what is femicides were known as the maquiladora murders because so many of the murdered women worked in the factories. Women were actively recruited because of these sexist stereotypes like their are more docile and nimble fingered. Pressure from the victim's families, combined with international media scrutiny, did push the maquiladoras into making some efforts to improve, especially providing transport to stop young female employees disappearing on their way home from work. But the fundamental situation in Juarez hasn't changed.

[00:08:50]

Some people get rich that because other St.Paul, there are two groups in particular who benefit the largely American corporations who manufactured goods in Juarez and the city's own industrialists. Here's how Diana describes them in her book.

[00:09:09]

Mexico's business elites are called impresarios, a word that sounds like impera, which is how they are viewed. The business emperors in the border state of Chihuahua benefit directly or indirectly from the labor of young women. Diana goes on to write, They own the industrial parks that leased buildings to maquiladoras.

[00:09:29]

They produce materials for housing and they produce and sell consumer products that all families in Juarez purchase. But I still want to know just how powerful these impresarios really were with a powerful enough to pressure the State Department to silence a senior FBI official like Heidrick Crawford. To find out, we spoke to one of the few journalists who's gotten access to Juarez's secret business elite. My name is Lauren EDAR, I am an investigative reporter at Bloomberg News. In 2017, Lauren wrote a cover story for Bloomberg BusinessWeek about how crucial Juarez's manufacturing industry is to the global economy.

[00:10:11]

I think there is this invisibility about Juarez in general, but I don't think you could walk through an average day without touching something that was made in a maquila, whether it's the pockets of your jeans or the heart stent inside your body, any product that you pick up today will have made its way through the border region for one reason or another.

[00:10:35]

There are over 300 maquiladoras in Juarez, employing roughly 300000 people, more than half of whom are assembling products for U.S. companies. But the goods manufactured in Juarez are what Lauren calls the, quote, guts of the consumer economy, the windshield wiper on a car, a blood pressure cuff, a medical glove. So to make the storyland, the journalist needed a character.

[00:11:03]

Somebody brought up Don himI, the godfather of the maquila industry. Jaime Bermudez had a very storied career where he interacted with extremely prominent businessmen. You know, he went to England and was the guest of the queen for a polo match. And I was just fascinated to learn that there was a somebody behind this massive manufacturing economy along the border. So Lauren traveled to Juarez to interview the then 94 year old business magnate, Bermudez has since passed away, but in life he was one of the city's leading impresarios.

[00:11:40]

I had talked to people ahead of time and people said you should have a bodyguard, but it turned out that Don Haim had more bodyguards than me.

[00:11:47]

So it was funny traveling around this very gritty city and essentially what was a motorcade almost like floating through Juarez in a chariot of some sort.

[00:12:02]

The destination of the motorcade was the Bermudas industrial parks, where many maquiladoras operate. When you get into the manufacturing sector inside these little fiefdoms, as I describe them, it's just a different world, really.

[00:12:19]

There is a sense of security and a sense of insulation. Now, of course, most of the workers live in places that do not have that sense of security.

[00:12:30]

To understand how Juarez became a city of such stark contrasts, you need to understand the history of the Bermudez family and how their relationship with the US transformed their cotton fields into fiefdoms. It all started in the 1920s when the family partnered with an industrious Kentucky distiller called Mary Dowling after Prohibition.

[00:12:54]

She was like, hell, no, am I going to shut down this business?

[00:12:59]

So she literally hired people to dismantle her distillery, loaded onto rail cars, and she had it shipped to Juarez.

[00:13:10]

And so when she arrives in Juarez, she meets with Jaime Bermudez, his uncle, and they end up going into business together.

[00:13:21]

Prohibition didn't stop America's demand for liquor. It just pushed it onto the black market. And this is the story of Juarez, a place that constantly responds to what America wants, but what America doesn't want to take responsibility for bootleg liquor, sex tourism, drugs, and from the 1960s onward, outsource labor.

[00:13:45]

This last chapter in Juarez began when the US ended the so-called Bracero program, which had allowed Mexican workers to fill labor shortages in the US created by the Second World War.

[00:13:58]

After the war ended, it became really a sensitive topic. There are a lot of people that were very concerned that the Mexican laborers were taking jobs that were otherwise suited for Americans.

[00:14:10]

So the birthright program was ended in what has been called the largest mass deportation in history. Hundreds of thousands of workers were sent across the border into Mexico. Many of them ended up in Juarez. And both the Mexican and U.S. governments were nervous about the potential for unrest if these men remained unemployed. So the two countries collaborated on the Border Industrialization Program, which created a duty free zone with no tariffs on imports and exports. And this would effectively allow American companies to rehire the braceros.

[00:14:48]

But in Mexico, the Bermudez family, who made a fortune distilling whiskey with Mary Dowling, were tasked with turning the vision into a reality. And none other than Dornheim travel to the US to pitch companies on the idea of outsourcing to Mexico. His trip paid off in spectacular fashion. By 1968, himI was standing in the family's old cotton fields, laying the foundation for one hundred fifteen thousand square foot plant to assemble television parts for the Radio Corporation of America.

[00:15:24]

RCA no longer exists, but companies from Dell to General Electric followed the path to Juarez that they forged.

[00:15:34]

This was really the beginning of the globalized economy and the beachhead of that was in Juarez.

[00:15:42]

That was where we saw American companies going and testing out this new model, which was a cross border trans national global manufacturing economy.

[00:15:54]

That's originally why RCA started manufacturing its televisions in Juarez. They didn't want to have to pay the higher wages. They didn't want to have to pay the increasing benefits that the unions were demanding. And no matter how you look at the maquila industry and the fact of the matter is it's still completely dependent on low wage workers. I mean, that's the reason why the industry exists. That's why companies continue to go there today.

[00:16:24]

That Bermudas family remain among Juarez's most important local partners to the maquiladoras. And there's no suggestion that they were involved in the murders. But Capcom, the McKeyla where Signoria worked and Lere, the McKeyla where Cloudera that worked, are both located on Bermudez Industrial Parks and both Claudia Evet and Sicario disappeared after leaving work. Although the maquilas do now provide transportation, the vulnerability of the workers remains constant. I mean, you can't ignore the fact that at the end of the day, they're getting paid seven dollars a day, you can't ignore the fact that, yeah, they're bussed in every day to work, but when they're bussed home, their homes might be a cardboard shack and they might not have running water or electricity.

[00:17:18]

And ultimately, American consumers benefit and, you know, cheaper televisions and cheaper washing machines.

[00:17:27]

The Bermudez family drive around an SUV. They play polo, Dornheim even hung out with the queen of England and although they're among the richest of the Juarez impresarios, they're by no means the only Juarez industrialists who have profited from generations of doing business with U.S. companies. Meanwhile, those US companies who have key manufacturing operations in Juarez have hundreds of billions of dollars of market capitalization and the political clout that comes with it.

[00:17:59]

But was there some kind of direct conspiracy to keep profit margins high by deflecting attention from the vulnerable women who worked in the factories and paid the ultimate price, could Hardrock Crawford have been silenced because of drawing attention to the connection between the maquilas and the murders? When we come back, we ask the US ambassador who revoked her country clearance.

[00:18:30]

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. 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.

[00:19:02]

Simply go to next great podcast Dotcom to get the details and submit your pitch. In partnership with the creative platform Tongo I Heart Radio will select up to 10 semifinalists and give them a thousand dollars to produce a pilot episode. Then listeners will vote on 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 and next. Great podcast, Dotcom.

[00:19:31]

That's next. Great podcast, Dotcom. Why shouldn't the next great podcast come from you? So before the break, Monica, Lauren mentioned something that you've been telling me since day one, which is that Juarez, as it exists today, exists because of low wage workers, first it with the Prospero's. And then once the killers were there, they attracted internal migrants like the Flores family for the jobs. Now, the Flores family arrived 30 years ago, but what's the condition of the workers like who arrived today?

[00:20:20]

I'll never forget visiting one of these factory workers in Ciudad Juarez in 2016. Her name was Brenda Estrada and she worked for CommScope, a multibillion dollar communications company headquartered in North Carolina. This is the company that outfitted the Dallas Cowboys new football stadium with wi fi. Brenda assembled cables for CommScope in Juarez for seven dollars a day, not per hour per day. And when you go to her house, you can see just what kind of a life you can live on that salary.

[00:20:58]

But in the lived in a government subsidized three room cinder block home, she had no central heating or cooling in the winter. She stayed warm by tossing plywood in a metal trash bin. And that plywood is worth half her daily salary.

[00:21:16]

And meanwhile, in its annual letter to its shareholders, CommScope brags about saving them money by putting its factories in, quote, low cost geographies like Juarez.

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And you told me that for the large international companies who do business in Juarez, these conditions aren't just an open secret, but almost part of Juarez appeal. Yes. Here's another example. In El Paso, there's a regional business alliance that's dedicated to helping big companies set up in Juarez. And one of the selling points they advertised on their website about Juarez was a, quote, cooperative, predominantly non-union workforce. In other words, come to Juarez. The workers here are submissive and they won't try to defend themselves.

[00:22:07]

When Howard Campbell first told us about how the cartel bribes US law enforcement officials to facilitate the flow of drugs across the border. I began to see the wall that separates El Paso and Juarez in a new light, and now my understanding was shifting again. The wall also disguises the deep connections between the legitimate economies of Mexico and the US. It obscures the reality that many Juarez femicide victims died creating value for the U.S. economy. This was the situation that FBI special agent in charge of El Paso, Hawtrey Crawford, was beginning to shed light on when he received a warning that he was making enemies on the U.S. side of the border.

[00:22:52]

He even alluded to a possible conspiracy to silence him involving big business interests and the US State Department. So we had to ask the ambassador from that time, Antonio Garza, if that was possible. Do you remember Hardrock Crawford, I remember in general terms, I don't remember having any personal interaction with him. Yeah, you effectively withdrew his country clearance. Why would you have done that?

[00:23:17]

I likely would have done it on the recommendation of people working within the embassy that felt that having them in country would not would not be beneficial to the U.S. interest. I did interview Hardrock Crawford for this podcast, and this is what he said to me, which I love your response to. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would say that the State Department and the US corporation said, look at this guy who is harming the McKeyla dairy industry in Mexico, are upset they're going to have to make a sacrifice out of him.

[00:23:46]

I'm curious as to what you think about this idea that the maquiladora industry were in some sense putting pressure on the State Department to avoid too much scrutiny of the fate of their workers. Yeah, no, I think that's absurd and and it's. No, I just find I find that absurd, but here's the thing many of America's most important and valuable companies outsource to Juarez.

[00:24:13]

So it was at least plausible that bringing bad press to the manufacturing industry there would not be smiled upon by the US government. How did the maquiladora industry interact with the State Department and how much of a priority was maintaining good relations with them?

[00:24:29]

You know, in a very, very broadly, you know, I'll go back to the day I took my oath and it was to represent and protect and defend the United States interest abroad. And largely my focus in terms of priority was our citizens and our U.S. interest and investments. The ambassador went on to deny that he gave any undue consideration to the maquila industry. Nonetheless, he did say that protecting US investments in Mexico was a top priority. And in fact, trade between the US and Mexico is now worth more than half a trillion dollars each year.

[00:25:06]

That figure has risen almost 800 percent since the start of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. Just this year, the current American ambassador publicly put pressure on Mexico to keep the maquiladoras open in the face of worker protests about death from covid because the factories were manufacturing key medical and defense supplies for the US. In a further demonstration of just how intertwined business interests are between the countries, Ambassador Garza himself married one of Mexico's richest industrialists in 2005, opening him up to accusations of conflicts of interest, which he also denied.

[00:25:50]

But in the end, as much as the US economy does benefit from low wage workers in Juarez, it seemed unlikely that there was a direct conspiracy to keep them vulnerable by silencing Henry Crawford. But maybe somebody else with big business interests in Juarez did feel Hardrock was getting too close to the truth. Remember those impresarios, those emperors of industry? Well, here's Diana again.

[00:26:19]

There was a suspicion on the part of authorities in Mexico City that the advance the customs was not collecting the assessments people have to pay at the border to take items into Mexico. In fact, the authorities in Mexico City suspected that they were off by 250000 dollars a month. The federal government in Mexico was worried that several business people in Juarez weren't paying their fair share of import duties, so they started listening in on their conversations.

[00:26:51]

The investigation involved the use of surveillance equipment. It was during these interventions of telephone calls that the investigators became aware of people involved in the disappearances, the murders of quantize. They notified their superiors in Mexico City, hey, you know this all the stuff we're hearing and bodies and being transported and blah, blah, blah.

[00:27:18]

And so they said their superiors told them, keep it quiet for now. Just continue with the investigation. We'll do that later.

[00:27:28]

The customs investigators were assigned to solve a tax issue, but they stumbled across evidence that connected certain industrialists to a much larger crime, the femicide. Here's what they told Diana and her colleague, Sergio Gonzalez. Rodriguez, a group of powerful men killed women with impunity, sort of became a sport. And by the way, the victims of this group, not all of them have been found because the sources indicated they were buried in properties that the public doesn't have access to.

[00:28:04]

Although these revelations about powerful men abducting and murdering women for pleasure weren't the crimes the investigators had been asked to solve. They pass along their findings to their superiors in Mexico City, anticipating an intervention. A lot of recordings were made. And so the principal investigators were very proud of themselves that we solved the femicide. And so, you know, they wrapped up their fieldwork and waited and they waited and they waited and they waited. Nothing happened. And so.

[00:28:44]

That's when they started contacting Sasha and myself. It became clear that the federal government wasn't going to do anything with that discovery, the investigators gave Diana and Sérgio a huge tip, not just the general profile of the killers, but the specific names of the men involved. And when Diana heard them, she didn't even need to do a background check. She already knew who these people were. And we're talking about people involved in major industries.

[00:29:19]

According to Diana, the men were major players in industries ranging from transportation to energy to communications and real estate, and Diana also told us she'd received an off the record tip about these men being implicated in the murders once before from a source in US intelligence.

[00:29:39]

And what was amazing to me is that the same names, the same names that came out.

[00:29:45]

And so you're investigating this story. You get a call about these phone conversations where these names come up after the authorities have also been handed this information. Don't do anything. I mean, you must want to publish something.

[00:30:01]

Well, actually, my first reaction was to want to crawl under a desk and hide. It was scary. When you sit down and think about who may be involved in the names, oh, my God. It's like, oh, my God, you know. These are people that are well known not just at the border, but in Mexico nationally, and they have global business interests. I mean, they're powerful economically, very influential and, you know.

[00:30:30]

I'm just a little reporter, you know. And also saw an explanation for the impunity of these crimes. All right, I could understand the cartels and the gangs, serial killers to an extent, but this this was bigger than all of that together. What Diana was being told about powerful men murdering women for pleasure was almost exactly what Alfredo had been told about the cocktail parties by his daughter in the Juarez jail. But these new revelations didn't rule out the previous ones about Virginia or make it impossible that one or more serial killers were preying on a vulnerable population.

[00:31:15]

The murderers were not mutually exclusive, and I was starting to understand better how Diana had chosen the title The Killing Fields for her book. When we come back, Diana attempts to make contact with the industrialist's alleged to be involved in the murders. I want to know if my brother was dead.

[00:31:49]

It 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.

[00:31:59]

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

[00:32:06]

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

[00:32:15]

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

[00:32:22]

Eight victims, 32 gunshot wounds, three children left alive at the scene. This is the Pickton massacre.

[00:32:35]

Listen to the pectin massacre on the I Heart radio app, on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Diana told us that when she heard the names of the businessmen allegedly involved in the femicide, her first reaction was to want to crawl under her desk. But it didn't take long for her reporter's instincts to kick in.

[00:33:08]

I made an effort to contact a lot of these people on the phone messages as well as emails, faxes. I went through personal secretaries. I never got an answer from any of them. Not a single solitary answer, you know. Despite the lack of response, Diana and her editors at the El Paso Times felt confident enough in the story that they ran it in the paper. But crucially, they decided not to identify the industrialist by name, both for legal and for safety reasons.

[00:33:40]

There were no names named, but they were characterized. The editor chose the word cabal to describe this network of powerful businessmen involved, allegedly in these murders.

[00:33:53]

I wonder how far you were able to go or were you just saying these are too big and I better not. I think I won't as far as I could, journalistically speaking. But I also knew that even if their names appeared, nothing would happen and in fact, the messenger with them would become the target. Meaning you, meaning me, of course, now, given the time that his past your series was published, would you be willing to.

[00:34:26]

Name those names now, Monica, I mean, you can get away with. The very. This is the same Diana who walked into the neighborhood where Lillia Alejandre had last been seen, despite a Juarez lawyer literally tearing up a map drawn for her and telling her to stay away. The same Diana, who continue to report on the murders after receiving a death threat traced back to a Mexican military intelligence. But it was these business people who Diana seemed to fear more than anyone else.

[00:35:02]

We wanted to know if it would be possible to speak to the customs investigators ourselves, but sadly, Diana said that wouldn't be possible. Nobody knows where they are anymore. The two guys, one of them told Sergio Gonzalez that he was asked to provide proof of his loyalty by Mexican officials. It may be that there were already suspecting that there were leaks and they were probably trying to narrow down who could have been leaking during the cartel wars. There's a suspicion that they might be that the problem that the drug cartels wars created for everyone is that then became like a way to pay off people who might be inconvenient and just make it look like, you know, the cartels did it.

[00:35:49]

A drug hit. Yeah, yeah. Many so many submenu.

[00:35:53]

It seems remarkable to me that these Mexican investigators would come and reach out to two journalists.

[00:36:00]

They want to justice. Two more people who wanted justice for the women in Juarez, two more people who disappeared, presumed dead. So let's rewind for just a second. Remember when Alfredo Corchado first learned that Juarez police officers were involved in the kidnap and murder of young women? He wasn't sure what to believe, so he turned to Phil Jordan of the DEA, who was able to corroborate that reporting and the existence of La Linea. Phil was the director of the El Paso Intelligence Center, a multiagency initiative to gather as much information as possible about the movement of drugs south of the border.

[00:36:46]

We wanted to know in the course of all of this intelligence gathering whether Phil had ever heard anything along the lines of what the Mexican customs investigators had told Diana. So we called him. Diana has a line of investigation that suggests that some of the powerful industrialists in Ciudad Juarez were involved in having the women abducted. Did your informants ever tell you anything which suggested that may be true? I would be lying if I tell you I didn't hear about that.

[00:37:20]

Yes, I believe those rumors to be accurate. Diana, Washington was accurate in that the powerful and the elite could pick up women, party with them and then do away with them. But since it did not involve directly drug trafficking, we obviously didn't get involved.

[00:37:39]

Now, I don't know if the FBI got involved or not, but yes, La Linea existed primarily to traffic drugs. And so the DEA actively tracked their activities, including the kidnap and murder of women to celebrate successful drug shipments. But the city's business elites were outside of the agency's direct purview. So despite believing the rumors to be true, Phil never followed up on them. But he did mention the FBI. So we reached out to Frank Evans, the former assistant special agent in charge of El Paso, to find out what he knew.

[00:38:16]

We were getting uncorroborated information of involvement by prominent officials in Juarez in what we're purported to be, you know, no holds barred sex parties.

[00:38:29]

If that's in fact the case. The victims cannot be left alive because they you know, they've seen certain people. If you had a victim that turned up says, hey, I was dragged into this house and this guy was there and that guy was there and this guy was there and that guy was there, now you've got a real problem. But if the victims killed. And it's an unsolved homicide. Did anyone try to cooperate for us, the ability to 100 percent corroborate did not exist, unlike the drug information you call Diana Washington Valdez a witness to the truth?

[00:39:06]

Mm hmm. I think, you know, if you read her book, there are some very concrete facts. And there, like any investigative reporter, some of what she reports cannot be 100 percent corroborated. But the simple fact of the matter is she's a witness to the truth.

[00:39:24]

The only way that you stop this is somebody has to say, I'm not running, whether it's a Diana Washington or someone else, we used to make a joke. It was, you can kill me, but you can't eat me. And people would say, well, what the hell does that mean? It's an attitude of, you know what, I'm here and I'm not leaving. That's one of the things I respect about Diana Washington and the news media and warez.

[00:39:54]

They're getting blown up and killed. But you have people that still go to work every day and they still do their jobs. And that's when I called Diana a witness to the truth, because once you're a witness to the truth, you can kill me, but you can't eat me.

[00:40:09]

Although I can put you in a vat of acid and dissolve your bones. You can kill me, but you can't eat me. So in the end, Alfredo Corchado was able to corroborate his story, Monica, about police being involved in the kidnapping of women in Juarez. He got the documents from the DEA. He got confirmation from the drug czar in Mexico City and never got the same degree of corroboration about the rich man. So what do you make of it?

[00:40:50]

To me, the investigation into powerful men being involved in the murders of women is not farfetched in the least. I mean, time and time again, there are examples of powerful men abusing women, whether it's Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, R. Kelly, Roger Ailes. I could go on and on. I mean, our own president was caught on tape describing how he feels he has license to sexually abuse women to. Men are now sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court despite strong allegations of sexual abuse.

[00:41:30]

The difference is, you know, their victims were still around to make allegations and tell their stories. In Juarez, the victims can no longer speak up against their attackers. But are there examples of powerful men being involved in this kind of twisted and sick and deadly behavior? Absolutely. In Mexico, the elite and powerful, whether it's in business or politics, act with just as much impunity as the drug cartels do.

[00:42:05]

One thing I'm still not completely clear on Sustainers reporting suggests that there were two sets of parties where women were trafficked and used for sport. Or were the industrialists and the narcos attending the same parties? Both the drug cartels and the powerful men were said to consume these women under similar circumstances in these horrific parties, whether or not these were the same parties. I don't think we know. But what we do know, as Candace scrapping the forensic psychologist told us, it's a way to cement bonds, ensure silence and foment a brotherhood.

[00:42:51]

We know that even college frat boys engage in this kind of behavior. These men feel empowered to possess and attack women because they're used to getting away with it. Rarely are they ever held accountable for their actions.

[00:43:08]

That's one of the most frustrating parts about this particular story, when you have the police and the judiciary not doing their jobs and when you have journalists being threatened or killed for asking questions and you have powerful vested financial interests in keeping a population vulnerable, you just don't get any answers. On the other hand, Diana, it seems, was so close to revealing the identities of these industrialists who were allegedly involved in the murders. And we know she was willing to risk her life so many other times.

[00:43:45]

Why do you think she drew a line under trying to publish their names?

[00:43:48]

Some of my initial reactions were, what do you mean you're not going to publish these names? What do you mean you're not going to try to get more information? I mean, for God's sakes, for the sake of justice, for the sake of accountability. But the reality is, even if you were able to get some kind of solid confirmation, the retaliation you could expect could be deadly.

[00:44:12]

And I mean, you just have to think you just have to think how hard is it to hold powerful men accountable in this country, in the U.S., to even begin to fathom how much more of a challenge it would be to hold them accountable in a place like Juarez, where you have cops in alliance with criminals. When you talk about power and protection in Juarez, the elite business class seems to be more powerful and more protected, more untouchable than even the top drug cartels.

[00:44:53]

The odds that young women in Juarez are up against are overwhelming the poverty, the corruption, the invisibility, it was in response to all of this that, Paula, about a year and several other families came up with the symbol of resistance that they went on to paint all over Juarez, a symbol that made it impossible to forget the fate of Cigarillo and so many others like her.

[00:45:20]

And I 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 pink background, representing the women and the Black Cross for the mourning of their loss?

[00:45:36]

Yes, but its main purpose was one of prevention prevention that whenever a girl stood by one of those lampposts and saw the cross well, she would know that she was in danger and believed.

[00:45:48]

Next time, unforgotten Paola's continuing demands for justice and the consequences for her and her family. I must Voloshin. And I'm Monica Ortiz Uribe. See you next time. You know, nasty. Forgotten, the women of Juarez is cohosted by me, Monica Ortiz Uribe and me, as Woloshin Forgotten, is executive produced by me and Mangoush had tequila. Our producers are Julia Moala and Katrina Norvelle, sound editing by Julian Weller and Yakupov penso Lucas Riley is our story editor.

[00:47:07]

Caitlin Thompson is our consulting producer. Production support from Emily Marinus and Aaron Kaufman, recording assistants. This episode from Miguel Perez and Ethan being music by Leonardo Headlam and Akobo Lieberman. Additional Music by Aaron Kaufman. Baby, love my baby. Oh, hi, I'm Heidi Murkoff, host of What to Expect, a new podcast from My Heart Radio. When I first wrote What to Expect When You're Expecting I was pregnant with my daughter Emma, and my mission was simple to help parents know what to expect every step of the way.

[00:47:57]

That mission has grown a lot, but it hasn't changed. Fast forward now, Amasa Mom. Hey, guys. We're teaming up to answer your biggest pregnancy and parenting questions. From breastfeeding to sleep to tackling tantrum. Motherhood is the ultimate sisterhood, but it can be overwhelming if you don't know what to expect. Listen to what to expect on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast. Šamaš are you ready, Mom?

[00:48:30]

I was born ready.