Sexual violence has always been one of the leading causes of death for women in America. And El Salvador has become the focal point of this problem when authorities discovered a macabre and horrifying truth here on Friday, May 20.
NY Post reported that a mass grave containing dozens of bodies of women – believed to be victims of sexual violence and murder – has been found in the backyard of former officer Hugo Ernesto Osorio Chavez’s home in the eastern town of Chalchuapa.
Chavez’s shocking secret was only revealed during the police investigation in El Salvador into the murder he committed against a 57-year-old woman and her 26-year-old daughter.
Chavez, 51, had a rap sheet that included sex crime allegations. He was fired from the force in 2005 after admitting to being a sexual predator.
He used a hoax, luring women he knew through social media with the promise of the “American Dream.”
Prosecutors said the search turned up eight pits containing 14 bodies, some of which could have been buried as long as two years ago. Police exhumed at least two dozen bodies and believed there are at least 40 more. It could take a month to unearth all of them.
Justice Minister Gustavo Villatoro said the depth and complexity of the secret burial meant that Chaves could not have committed the crime alone but that the sexual predator also had accomplices.
“This psychopath has been detained and I believe that 99 percent of the people who assisted him have been detained,” Mauricio Arriaza Chicas, director of El Salvador’s national civil police, told reporters.
On Wednesday, he identified the suspects as ex-policemen, ex-soldiers, and smugglers.
Graciela Sagastume, the prosecutor in charge of the probe, said that “the central axis of the investigation is sexual violence.”
Following the trail, the prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 10 other suspects. So far, however, no suspects have been arrested that can unravel the secret of Chavez’s great crime.
Villatoro said the skeletal remains would be re-assembled and subjected to DNA testing to determine their identities. People with missing relatives gathered at Chavez’s house on Friday, holding pictures of their loved ones in the hopes of identifying one of the bodies.
According to aide groups, violence against women in Latin America, including femicides, intensified during the coronavirus pandemic.
In El Salvador, one of the world’s most dangerous places for women, the strict lockdown measures imposed in March 2020 have sharply restricted women’s ability to seek assistance.
Women are legally permitted to leave their homes to report violence. Meanwhile, the security forces, who are implementing the quarantine harshly, tend to be completely unaware of this special clause, putting victims at risk of arrest.
Women may be unaware of their rights under the lockdown, just as the security personnel is. The government has not coordinated any public awareness campaigns, and the topic of femicide has been overshadowed by the pandemic and the country’s endemic gang violence.
Police data showed that in 2020, El Salvador saw 70 murders of women and 111 murders of women in 2019.