Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean

MEXICO: Key Video Evidence Blocked in Child Sex Ring Trial

Diego Cevallos

MEXICO CITY, Sep 5 2007 (IPS) - Prosecutors in a case involving the sexual abuse of children in Mexico have failed to hand over to the courts 10 video recordings and 70 photos that show the accused, who claims to have friends in high places, in compromising circumstances with minors.

“The accused and those who were involved with him are being protected by influential people,” freelance Mexican journalist and activist Lydia Cacho said Wednesday. She added that the case has “international ramifications” and is linked to other criminal activities like the trafficking and forced disappearance of persons.

Cacho has received death threats and was even briefly thrown into prison in late 2005 for exposing a powerful child prostitution and pornography ring operating in the popular beach resort of Cancún, in her 2004 book “Los demonios del Edén” (The Demons of Eden).

The Supreme Court set up a commission in April 2006, at Congress’ behest, to investigate whether government officials violated Cacho’s civil rights when she was arrested and driven 20 hours across state lines to the central state of Puebla to face libel charges.

(She was released on bail after Amnesty International, the World Organisation Against Torture, the Inter-American Press Association and other international groups raised an outcry).

The governor of the state of Puebla, Mario Marín, and textile mogul Kamel Nacif are implicated in the harassment of Cacho.

The videos and photos in question reportedly show the accused, Jean Succar, a Lebanese-born hotel owner who is in prison facing charges of arranging child sex parties in Cancún, and others, engaged in acts of pedophilia.

Sources at the Attorney General’s Office told IPS that the tapes and photos were handed over months ago to the prosecutor’s office in the state of Quintana Roo, where the case is being heard.

But court officials in Quintana Roo, where Cancún is located, say they do not have the video and photographic evidence, although they had asked for it.

Cacho said that in a week, the deadline set by the judges for accepting new evidence will expire, and they will hand down a sentence.

The activist believes there are influential people who do not want the judges to see the videos and photos.

The case of Succar, who was arrested in the United States in February 2004 and extradited to Mexico in July 2006, is the highest-profile pedophilia case in Mexico.

But studies indicate it is only the tip of the iceberg.

A 2004 study by researcher Elena Azaola estimated that some 17,000 children under the age of 18 are victims of the sex trade in Mexico. Like Cacho’s book, her study was based on interviews with minors who managed to escape. In addition, the researcher collected information in visits to establishments where underage girls and boys were forced to work as prostitutes.

Succar returned to the headlines Wednesday after the leftwing Mexican newspaper La Jornada published an interview with one of his lawyers, who said he would no longer represent his client because he was now certain that he is a “pervert.”

Attorney Wenceslao Cisneros said he saw a video where a naked Succar can clearly be seen instructing two nude little girls around the ages of seven or eight to assume sexual positions with each other.

In an interview with IPS, Cisneros said that due to “professional ethics,” he could not provide further details of what he saw and learned as Succar’s attorney. But he claimed that until he saw the video, he had no direct proof that his client was guilty.

He said he decided to leave the case because he does not want to be involved with a “pervert,” and because he has daughters and granddaughters for whom he must set an example and who he must protect.

Cisneros said that some of the girls who spoke out against the abuse to which they were subjected as part of Succar’s child sex ring retracted their stories after the family of the accused contacted them, although the lawyer said he did not know exactly what the family told them.

Interviewed by the Radial W radio station in the capital, Cacho said she welcomed Cisneros to the world of threats and risks that she has been living in. The journalist, who has had police protection since 2005, recommended that the lawyer take precautions.

Cacho was arrested in late 2005 in Quintana Roo and driven to the state of Puebla, where she was charged with committing libel against Nacif, who owns a number of companies in that state and is a close friend of Governor Marín of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

According to Cacho, Nacif, who appears in her book, provided protection to Succar, another of his close friends.

In February 2006, the local media aired recordings of tapped telephone conversations between Nacif and Marín and between Nacif and Succar.

It emerged later that the recordings had been obtained and leaked to the press by Nacif’s (now ex-) wife.

In the first conversation, the governor of Puebla says he had Cacho, who he refers to as “that old b***h,” arrested and taught a lesson.

The two men can also be heard discussing how they had the activist thrown into a cell with “nutcases and dykes (lesbians),” so that she would be raped – something that did not occur, because in the prison, “the prisoners themselves and the guards protected me,” the writer said in an earlier conversation with IPS.

And in the second obscenity-laced conversation, Nacif and Succar discuss two underage girls with whom they plan to have sex.

Cacho stated that she knows there are videos showing public figures having sex with minors, apparently taped by Succar in his hotel in Cancún. She said, however, that she does not know who appears in the videos.

In her book, she says wealthy and politically influential men took part in Succar’s child sexual exploitation ring.

The investigations into the case have uncovered evidence that Succar and his family are also involved in a network that smuggles undocumented migrants from Cuba to the United States, via Mexico’s Caribbean coastal region.

They are also implicated in the disappearance of at least two underage girls, one of whom was from El Salvador, who were allegedly victims of the sex ring.

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