Tuesday 3 January 2012

Who killed Ximena Osegueda Magaña?

Ximena Osegueda Magaña and her friend Alejandro Santamaría disappeared from the tourist community of Santa María Huatulco, in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, on December 14th. Two bodies have since been found nearby at Punta Arena, and identified as the missing couple. They had been stabbed to death, with the bodies set a light and buried in a lagoon.

Playa Punta Arena is at right

Oaxaca’s State Attorney’s office, the Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado, or “PGJE”, was notified that two bodies had been found matching the description of the disappeared couple on Thursday, December 29, at 10.15 a.m. Forensic confirmation soon followed. (In Mexico the State Attorney’s role extends well beyond legal prosecution and includes early-stage criminal investigations).

After the initial disappearance of Ximena and Alejandro, family and friends launched a desperate search to determine their whereabouts. The couple’s car, a red two-door Chevrolet compact, was found near the airport in the city of Oaxaca three days later, without license plates.

For those unfamiliar with the area, the city of Oaxaca is the capital of the state of Oaxaca, and is situated inland at an elevation of 1550 metres (5,000 feet). It is a winding, day-long journey to get there from the coast. Please note that news reports of Oaxaca being "south of Acapulco", while technically true, are wildly innacurate - Oaxaca is in fact quite far from Acapulco.

There are many aspects of this case that indicate a degree of premeditation, and that could aid authorities in finding the responsible individual(s). Please note that the information in this blog is gleaned from many sources, including social media, and that it is true and accurate to the best of our knowledge.

The first point of interest is that after Alejandro’s family accompanied him to the airport in Mexico City, he flew to Oaxaca. There is no confirmation of safe arrival in Oaxaca, but the two were seen in Bahías de Huatulco. Apparently, they left their place of residence in Huatulco on December 14th in their red Chevy compact, and met with foul play between then and the discovery of their bodies on December 29.

Ximena’s mother, María del Carmen Magaña y Pérez, initially raised the alarm. She grew suspicious after thieves entered her home in Bahias de Huatulco, apparently with key access, and stole televisions, a scanner, and a stereo. After the theft, she tried to communicate with her daughter, as she was the owner of the van, but to no avail, which raised the mother's concern.
Given that the red Chevy compact was found on December 17th in Oaxaca, and that it is a six to eight hour drive from the coast, it is reasonable to theorize that Ximena and Alejandro were killed within two days of their capture.

All indications are that Ximena and Alejandro were complete innocents. Ms. Osegueda Magaña was a Phd candidate at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada, and was apparently in Huatulco to research the Cross of Santa Cruz Huatulco. She was also known as an accomplished dancer. Mr. Santamaría was the son of a cardiologist with a keen interest in auto racing. According to all the available information, these individuals were in no way involved in any illegal activity, nor had they ever been.

Since Mexico’s president Felipe Calderón launched his “war on drugs” six years ago, over 50,000 Mexicans have died in an unprecedented explosion in criminal activity. The government has frequently, and disturbingly, claimed that the death rate is of no concern to the general population, as most of the violence is between criminal gangs.

But according to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), only one out of every ten crimes is reported in Mexico, and only one out of 100 reported crimes goes to sentencing. Result? Only one out of every 1000 crimes is punished.

Consequently, criminal impunity is rampant in Mexico, and violence is extending well beyond drug trafficking to include a wide range of illegal activity, most notably kidnapping and extortion. In this context, any person, even of modest means, can be seen as a target.

There have been other recent murders of Canadians and Americans in Mexico. A retired mechanic from Saltspring Island was killed in Mexico on Monday, January 2nd, during a break-in. The murder occurred in the village of Villa Obregon, near Melaque north of Manzanillo on the pacific coast, in the State of Jalisco. And in late November an American was shot and killed during a botched robbery at Ajijic on Lake Chapala, near Guadalajara, also in the State of Jalisco. For a detailed look at crime in this area, specifically as it pertains to expats, go to Lake Chapala Crime Watch.

Major tourist areas such as Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and Huatulco have been spared much of the violence, but this may be as much due to luck as design. It is true that criminal networks have been less interested in tourists, for the simple reason that attacking them results in a greater police response (which itself is a sad indicator: a country that values foreigners with money more than its own impoverished citizens). However, all these areas are potential transit zones for drugs, and all have weak law enforcement.

As it stands, the people of Huatulco are concerned, in part because Ximena and Alejandro are not the only people to have been murdered recently. The day before their disappearance authorities found the remains of Jesús Alberto Altamirano Hernández, aged 23, who worked as a tour guide. His body, wrapped in a nylon bag, was also found in the Punta Arenas area of Huatulco. Mr. Alberto Altamirano had gone missing on December 4th.

There is no news as to whether the two crimes are related. Mr. Alberto Altamirano was found with his hands and feet bound, as were Ximena and Alejandro. To date, authorities have not released forensic data that might link the two crimes.

The location and successful prosecution of the murderers of these three individuals will be a test of sorts for the PGJE. The evidence trail for Ximena Osegueda Magaña and her friend Alejandro Santamaría is long, and should reveal many clues.

Circumstance surrounding the discovery of the bodies

The CBC has reported that it was Ximena Osegueda Magana's ex-husband, Jacy Wright, as well as her brother, who located the bodies.

The couple had been married for 12 years, but remained on good terms. Mr. Wright flew down from Canada to aid in the search.

The two searchers were drawn the beach as this was where Ximena was known to have gone. Once there, a dog Wright had purchased for his ex-wife to keep her safe began to circle a spot near a lagoon. They found one body, which was not Ximena or Alejandro. Persisting, they returned when the tide was low and the dog found where Ximena or Alejandro were buried, in a part of the lagoon that is underwater at high tide.

Cause of death was stab wounds to the neck. The bodies were identified by relatives through tattoos and moles.

Wright  found three bodies during six hours of searching. There were likely many more: locals told him the area where the couple were found was a known body dumping ground for drug gangs.

Let’s hope the killers are found and prosecuted. Feel free to send an e-mail or add comments to improve accuracy and aid in the effort. To visit the Facebook memorial go here.

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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