Four women have disappeared in the province of Chiriquí in the last 10 years, three of them between August and November 2021 and another in September 2012.

The situation has caused alarm among the population, however, the Homicide and Femicide Prosecutor’s Office is carrying out an investigation that shows that a single man would be involved in the disappearance of the four women.

The profile of three of them have characteristics in common: indigenous and young features, between 17 and 28 years old.

For the director of the National Institute for Women (Inamu), Nellys Herrera, this is worrying because Anabel Valdivia, 28, disappeared in August 2021; Astry Tugry, 21, who disappeared in October 2021, and Viviana Gallardo, 17, who was last seen in November of last year, bear a great resemblance to each other, something unusual and that had never been seen before. Panama.

Added to the three cases mentioned is that of Verónica Arcia Cerceño, 33, who disappeared on September 30, 2012.

The director of Inamu said that “for the Public Ministry to issue provisional detention measures for six months, there must be strong enough conclusive elements. Even more so when two other hearings were requested for the imputation of charges.

Herrera answered some questions to Crítica

How many women are currently missing?

There are no clear statistics on the subject of disappearances. Since my arrival at Inamu we have been reviewing these issues, but there are none, because people do not report them. For some reason there is no clarity in the investigations of the Public Ministry, it is not known if they appeared.

What happens in Chiriqui?

The Chiriquí case is complex. There is a person detained for the deprivation of liberty of a minor. That man would be involved with all three cases.

Serial killer?

I am not a criminologist, I could not say that about a serial killer, what I could say is that there is indeed data in common, there is a constant: young, indigenous women, all Ngäbe-Buglé, in a border area and they all went looking for of employment.

What directly links them is an economic need for employment, someone took advantage of their needs, deceived them and deprived them of their freedom. We would like them not to have been murdered, because there is no body of the victims.

What is the biggest problem?

In those cases, if there is no formal complaint, it is probably not included in the statistics, so the first thing to do is report the case and then the investigations show, as it was in 2021, that there are three cases with the same conditions each of these women, from the region, young, called for a job interview and from there he establishes a pattern.

You met with prosecutors from Chiriquí and asked for speed, why?

I must admit that speed was requested with the superior homicide prosecutor so that they are resolved and not happen as in previous investigations. We had that meeting in the morning and in the afternoon the person investigated for the murder had been arrested.

This is a phenomenon that does not occur in Panama, because the bodies have not been found and I emphasize again that it is very worrying, because we could be talking about human trafficking, labor exploitation, among other cases.

Do you think cases take a long time?

Cases take a long time. I think that the SPA creates guarantees for the aggressors and not for the victims, the victims have to prove that there is a crime, however, the system is designed to protect the person reported, the aggressor, but there is indeed a time for investigation.

Our concern is that given the increase in complaints, they could take out a case and file a file.

The case of Western Panama, what is its peculiarity?

The only thing I could say is that one lives a few streets from my house. Those of us who live in the West leave at dawn and arrive at night. For the entire community it is a delicate case, the investigation is open. There is a situation of violence due to the trace of blood that was found, but the Public Ministry will have to give us details of the case.

How is the contact with the family of the disappeared?

In the specific case of the disappeared, from Inamu we provide support to all victims of femicide, survivors, say, children, relatives.

We have been with all the cases and attention has been given to all the relatives and they have been supported psychologically and legally.

We feel that it is an obligation of the Inamu, perhaps before it was not done like this, but now there are approaches because there is a will. What the Inamu is causing is to sensitize many institutions so that as soon as they see an act that is not in accordance with the common, they report it and that we understand that we all have a leading role.

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