Mexico's presidential candidates have been urged to punish the killers of hundreds of women on the U.S. border and end 13 years of murders
The killings of more than 400 women since 1993 in and around Ciudad Juarez, across the Texas border from El Paso, has barely registered on the campaign agenda.
But organizations led by Human Rights Watch said in an open letter that the killings continue while the government's efforts to investigate and halt them are failing.
"It is scandalous that Mexican women are forced to live in fear of killers stalking them in the streets," said actress Salma Hayek, whose foundation supports efforts to fight violence against women worldwide. "Mexicans deserve a president who will do all they can to stop the murders."
The 67 groups from Mexico and the United States asked the candidates to make a public pledge before next Sunday's vote that if elected they would immediately take concrete measures to combat violence against women.
Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is running neck and neck with conservative ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon.
They, and third-placed candidate Roberto Madrazo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, pledge to tackle rampant crime, but the wave of women's killings has rarely come up on the campaign trail.
Steps set forth by the groups to combat the violence range from improving lighting in isolated areas to creating an independent committee to investigate the murders.
Human Rights Watch said in a report last month that the murders in Ciudad Juarez were emblematic of deep flaws in Mexico's justice system that President Vicente Fox has failed to correct.
The botched investigations and failure to stop the violence show how police and courts can undermine the rule of law in the name of fighting crime, for example by obtaining forced confessions through torture, the New York-based group said.
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