More than 40 young women who fled economic turmoil in Venezuela hoping to improve their lives elsewhere in Latin America have wound up dead over the past 18 months. El Nuevo Herald documented more than a dozen cases.
These are some of the victims who found death far from their homes and families:
Génesis Uliannys Gibson Jaimes, 24
She left Catia La Mar, 21 miles northwest of Caracas, in 2014. She was then 21 and left behind a 5-year-old daughter, her parents and the dream of completing her studies in foreign trade and becoming a successful model.
She moved to the northern Mexico city of Querétaro and became one of the most coveted escorts in the ZonaDivas.com site, which has since been taken down. She was found dead on Nov. 17, 2017, in the Platino Hotel in Mexico City. She had been stabbed and asphyxiated.
A man identified by Mexican authorities only as “Daniel N,” 22, was arrested for the murder in March, convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to the victim’s father, Ulises Gibson. Her body was buried in Mexico.
Andreína Elizabeth Escalona, 27
Born in Barinas, in southwestern Venezuela, she became known as a model in Valencia, 80 miles west of Caracas.
She emigrated in 2015, in search of better jobs in Mexico City and Monterrey so she could send money to her mother and daughter. She soon became another favored escort on ZonaDivas.com.
Before dawn on Dec. 24, 2017, as she and boyfriend Rodrigo Salas left a bar in the town of San Pedro, near Monterrey, their Mercedes-Benz was riddled with gunfire by unidentified attackers. She died in a nearby hospital, but her boyfriend survived.
One of her brothers traveled from Caracas to Mexico to bring home the remains. She was buried in January. No details on the status of the investigation have been made public and no suspects have been arrested.
Wendy Vaneska de Lima, 26
Her death in Mexico was the first documented case over the past year involving a string of slayings of Venezuelan women who fled their homeland and wound up dead elsewhere in Latin America. She, too, worked as an escort, according to records reviewed by el Nuevo Herald. But little else is known.
No one stepped forward to claim the body and no images of her were made public. She was shot to death in a Mexico City hotel. Her body was found with a bullet wound in the head on Feb. 4, 2017.
Security cameras at the Principe Hotel recorded a man who identified himself as Daniel Rodríguez to the reception desk. De Lima arrived a few minutes later, and the man left alone 30 minutes later, Mexican authorities said when Rodríguez was arrested this March.
Based on DNA evidence, surveillance videos and other evidence, prosecutors named Rodríguez as the suspect in the death of de Lima. He also was accused of killing Génesis Uliannys Gibson, a crime for which he was convicted. It is unclear whether he has been charged in de Lima’s murder.
Kenny Finol, 26
Born in Maracaibo, 434 miles west of Caracas, she left Venezuela looking for work to help pay for medication and treatment for her mother, who has a heart ailment. She went to Mexico and wound up working as an escort.
In October 2017, she posted a video on her social networks alleging that a boyfriend “beat her with a machete” and nearly killed her. The video showed bruises and swelling on her face.
In another video, she addresses the alleged attacker, Bryan Mauricio González, known as “El Pozole,” who had allegedly demanded that she go back to Venezuela, according to Mexican news reports. “[He] put a pistol in my mouth, I don’t know if you can see there, I have a hole in my throat. It’s horrible,” she said in the video while she opened her mouth. “Look at me, I’m too swollen. Wait a little until some of this heals so I can get going,” she added.
She was last seen in Ecatepec, a town just north of Mexico City. Her body was found on Feb. 25. Investigators reported that she had been tortured. Her face was completely disfigured. The cause of death listed on official documents was suffocation.
González, who has been identified by various media outlets as a member of a criminal gang, has been named as a suspect in the slaying. His whereabouts remain unknown.
Lorena Cardozo, 21
She said goodbye to her family in Chivacoa, 190 miles west of Caracas, in September 2017 and moved to the Ecuadorean port city of Manta, where she sold candy and snacks on the streets.
But she lived in Manta only six months. Her body, naked but without signs of violence, was found on March 17 of this year by the side of a road nearly one hour from her home.
An autopsy showed she drowned in her own vomit. How she wound up where her body was found remains a mystery. Her family believe she was murdered, but prosecutors say there is no proof.
Prosecutor Paco Delgado issued an arrest warrant for Keivy David Lucas Alonzo, a taxi driver who picked her up at her home the night of March 16.
At the end of August, Alonzo was on the run. Delgado said that they were analyzing whether to charge Alonzo once he was located with culpable homicide or procedural fraud for lying to authorities and disrupting a crime scene.
Rosamar López, 27
She and a girlfriend left Venezuela in the middle of 2015 and settled in Panama City, where she worked for awhile as a waitress in a restaurant.
She and her Mexico-born boyfriend were murdered March 29 of this year on a road near the Las Uvas sector. She was shot in the head and her body was found outside their Malibu Chevrolet. The boyfriend’s body was found inside the car.
Her family managed to return her body to her hometown of San Felipe, 175 miles west of Caracas. But eight months later, her murder remains a mystery.
Graciela and Sol Cifuentes, 54 and 22
This mother moved to Mexico City with her daughter several years ago. Graciela Cifuentes taught photography classes at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
On March 15, their home, which was badly damaged by the earthquake that shook the Mexican capital last year, was the scene of a double murder. Both women had been stabbed and strangled. Their bodies also were burned .
Four months later, a man identified by prosecutors only as 25-year-old “Alan N,” was arrested and accused of the double homicide. Authorities identified the suspect as Sol’s former boyfriend. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 120 years in prison.
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