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MEXICO
Girls in the shadow of Cancun’s dark side
Susana Seijas
4/27/2006
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With words and activism, Lydia Cacho unmasks the child sex trade lurking beneath resort town’s luxurious façade.

Child pornography and sexual abuse are not terms usually associated with the Yucatan resort town of Cancun, where tourists from around the world flock for its sugar-white beaches, turquoise sea and five-star hotels.

Behind the façade of luxury, Lydia Cacho, a Mexican journalist and women’s rights activist, has uncovered a sordid ring of pedophilia led by powerful Mexican businessmen.

"Mexican resorts like Cancun are becoming sexual trade havens," Cacho said, "and as the United States tightens its child pornography laws, the child porn industry is getting bigger and more powerful in Mexico."

Cacho, 43, originally from Mexico City, moved to Cancun 20 years ago looking for peace and quiet. Her life now is anything but. In 2003, she opened a shelter for battered women, and last year, her book "The Demons of Eden: The Power behind Pornography," was published.

 

The book, a collection of her articles detailing Cancun’s child prostitution rings, got her arrested by a state governor trying to defend his friend implicated in the child sex crimes.

Her imprisonment made her the center of a scandal that has captivated the country, and has shone a very bright light on a little-talked about subject: child sex abuse.

It all started with a phone call from a girl Cacho calls "Emma" in her book.

Emma told Cacho what she had told police: she had been sexually abused for years by Jean Succar Kuri, a Cancun businessman, since she was 13 years old.

"Emma first denounced Succar Kuri to the authorities when she was 19, and now that she is 21 she has retracted her statements because of death threats from Succar Kuri’s people," Cacho said.

What is unforgivable to Cacho is the incapacity and unwillingness of authorities to right the situation.

"Imagine, this girl has suffered serious psychological trauma, and Succar Kuri’s defense team might be able to find a way to imprison her," Cacho said.

Cacho herself is a victim of the collusion of authorities with the rich and powerful of Mexico.

In "Demons of Eden," Cacho alleges the involvement of José Kamel Nacif, a textile magnate from the state of Puebla, known as the "King of Blue Jeans," in a Cancun child prostitution ring. Cacho wrote that Nacif is a close friend and associate of Succar Kuri, who has been jailed in Arizona for the past two years awaiting extradition to Mexico on child pornography and prostitution charges.

 

The girls Cacho writes about come mostly from Cancun. Once one girl was in Succar Kuri’s inner circle, he would persuade her to entice more girls to come to his house. The girls would play in his pool at his Cancun villa, Solymar, and he would shower them with presents and money. If they came from poor families, as most of them did, they would go back for more, and then they would be molested and the vicious cycle of sex abuse would begin.

Cacho alleges that Succar Kuri would threaten these girls — some of whom he videotaped and took digital photos having sex with him — by saying he had hidden cameras, frightening them to keep their mouths shut about the sexual abuse they were suffering.

The accusations in Cacho’s book unleashed a furious vendetta against her, and in so doing exposed a abhorrent pedophilia network across Mexico.

Cacho was held in prison briefly, amid outcries from Amnesty International and other organizations. The events that unfolded are worthy of a Hollywood movie: an audio tape of a telephone conversation was handed over to a Mexican radio station and La Jornada newspaper. Journalists identified a taped telephone conversation between Puebla Governor Mario Marín and Nacif celebrating Cacho’s arrest.

The tapes, which were broadcast throughout Mexico, revealed how wealthy people with ties to politicians abuse the country’s weak legal system in order to silence their opponents, in this case a woman fighting for children’s rights.

State prosecutors are still investigating the libel charges against Cacho — charges that could send her to prison again.

Since her release, Cacho must report to the Cancun authorities every two weeks to demonstrate she has not skipped bail on libel charges.

"Lydia Cacho is no delinquent, and by making her report to the authorities every two weeks she is being treated like one," said Elena Poniatowska, one of Mexico’s best-known contemporary writers and human rights activists. "All she has done is to write a book about a pornography ring that uses girls who are helpless and poor."

 

Although it is difficult to be optimistic, Cacho said that thanks in part to the FBI "we now know that there is link between tourism and sexual trade…like in Thailand…countries where there is sexual tourism will now have to play by international laws."

Cacho has found that child sex abuse victims are trafficked to Mexico from as far away as Argentina and that once they are in Mexico they are either hidden or made to work in table dance clubs. Cacho calls these traffickers "the businessmen of violence."

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Cacho from a cell phone in Cancun. "Mexico has lost is capacity to control the situation…corruption and impunity are taking over and these men have all the power over these little girls."

While corruption and impunity have been rampant in Mexico, Cacho says that "the fact that we are daring to talk about child abuse so openly in a country which once treated discussing it as a taboo is magnificent. It’s an important process and a right owed to the victims."

In the introduction to "The Demons of Eden," Cacho wrote, "To write a book on the abuse and trade of minors is neither easy nor pleasant. Nevertheless, it’s more dangerous to stay silent about the phenomenon."

Cacho warns that "there are entire generations of adults who have been abused when they were children and have tremendous anger" and they abuse their own children, who never learn that this treatment is wrong, let alone a violation of their human rights.

"What do you do when it’s a vicious cycle? Some girls and mothers are routinely abused, and this generates perpetrators of more abuses," she says.

For Cacho, introducing a healthy sex education for parents, so they can understand sexuality as their right, is one of the answers.

Sex tourism confirmed

A vicious cycle

Child prostitutes


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