The complicity in Mexico between child sex rings and the political
and business elites "goes beyond what we can even imagine," says activist
Lydia Cacho, who faces death threats and was even thrown briefly into prison
for revealing those ties in a book.
"What we have just seen is only the tip of the iceberg,"
Cacho told IPS, after the local media aired Tuesday recordings of telephone
conversations between two prominent politicians and a hotel owner now in prison,
and a wealthy local businessman.
The number of Mexican politicians and businessmen involved in child
pornography and sex rings "would shock us if we knew the real extent of
the phenomenon," said Cacho.
In one of the illegally taped conversations broadcast Tuesday, which apparently
date back to 2004, the governor of the state of Veracruz, Fidel Herrera of the
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and Emilio Gamboa, head of the party's
bloc in the lower house of Congress, can be heard talking on friendly terms
with textile mogul Kamel Nacif.
Nacif, a Mexican of Lebanese origin, who in the obscenity-laced conversation
can be heard asking Gamboa to block a gambling bill to be debated by Congress,
is suing Cacho for libel.
In her 2004 book "Los demonios del Edén" (The Demons of Eden),
Cacho -- who is a journalist and writer as well as the director of a women's
shelter in Cancún -- links Nacif with Jean Succar, a Lebanese-born hotel
owner who is in prison facing charges of arranging paedophile parties in that
Mexican resort town.
In another of the anonymously recorded conservations leaked to the press and
broadcast Tuesday, Nacif can be heard talking with Succar.
Succar, under arrest in Mexico since July, after he was extradited from the
United States, can be heard asking Nacif for a seven million dollar loan to
purchase a hotel in Cancún, to which Nacif responds in the affirmative.
Later, the two exchange information on "the girl from Miami," who
they refer to as "putita" (little whore), and who they say they have
paid 2,000 dollars. Succar asks Nacif when it would be best to bring the girl
to Cancún, and the latter responds that "next week, you son of a
b***h, but you bring her to fornicate."
In Cacho's book, Succar is identified as the head of a ring of adults who subjected
underage girls to sexual abuse in Cancún, in which Nacif allegedly took
Succar was arrested in February 2004 in the United States on child abuse charges
and was extradited to Mexico in July, where he also faces charges for money
laundering and organised crime.
"Los demonios del Edén" contains the personal accounts of
minors who talk about the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of a ring
in which prominent figures were allegedly involved. The youngsters describe
how the hotel owner sexually abused them himself, set up a prostitution ring
to allow others to abuse them, and photographed them in order to sell the pornographic
images on the Internet.
A 2004 study by researcher Elena Azaola, which estimated that some 17,000 children
under the age of 18 are victims of the sex trade in Mexico, is also based on
interviews with minors who managed to escape, as well as visits to establishments
where underage girls and boys are forced to work as prostitutes.
The two PRI politicians, Herrera and Gamboa, denied having any illegal ties
with Nacif, and said they did not even know Succar. From their point of view,
the airing of the tapped phone conversations was a low political blow aimed
at their party.
The PRI, which ruled Mexico from 1929 to 2000, came in third in the Jul. 2
presidential and legislative elections.
Gamboa is one of the lawmakers who have approached Felipe Calderón of
the conservative governing National Action Party (PAN) over the last few days,
since he was confirmed as president-elect by the electoral court.
Javier González, a leader of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party
(PRD) legislators, said the leaked conversations between Nacif and the PRI politicians
showed that the political system "is rotten."
The PRD argues that its candidate, Andrés López Obrador, lost
the elections to Calderón because of fraud.
Cacho agrees that corruption is rife. "Many businessmen like Nacif have
amassed huge fortunes in exchange for dark favours to politicians."
So far, no direct link between politicians or prominent businessmen and child
porn or sex rings has been proven. But there are suspicions, which are fuelled
by Nacif and his web of contacts.
Cacho, who has been under police protection since last year, when she began
to receive death threats, was referred to in earlier leaked conversations, between
Nacif and Mario Marín, governor of the state of Puebla, near the capital.
In the tapped conversations, Marín, a member of the PRI, can be heard
telling Nacif that "I just gave a bump on the head to that old witch."
The two men also discussed how they had the activist arrested and 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.
The tapes, which were sent to the press anonymously and broadcast in February,
were apparently recorded in December 2005, after Cacho was thrown into jail
for 30 hours, after a grueling 20-hour drive from her home in Cancún
The activist was arrested in connection with the libel suit brought against
her by Nacif.
But when the news of her arrest broke, the rights watchdog Amnesty International,
the World Organisation Against Torture, the Inter-American Press Association
and other international groups raised an outcry, and Cacho was released on bail.
After the scandal triggered by the leaked phone conversations in February,
in which the governor of Puebla and Nacif -- who owns factories in that state
-- are heard discussing actions to teach Cacho a lesson, the Supreme Court initiated
an investigation to determine whether or not Marín had engaged in criminal
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