Forced Prostitution in Mexico : Lost Women of the Narcoguerra

“Sex Slave” by Vangobot / Pop Art Machine.

Organized crime in Mexico:
Massive transnational sex trade

The networks of traffickers in women use Mexico as a bridge to move teens to the U.S. and Canada where they are sold and sexually exploited.

By Michael Reynolds / The Rag Blog / December 3, 2009

Evangelina Hernandez continues to open windows on the under-reported consequences of the narcoguerra. This time with her chilling investigative piece on Mexican organized crime’s lucrative transnational sex trade and forced prostitution in this morning’s El Universal, “Prostitución forzada, otra cara del yugo a migrantes.”

Hernandez leads with the harrowing account of “Nancy,” a young woman snatched up by traffickers in Chiapas while riding a train carrying migrants north from Guatemala. Her abductors were Los Zetitias, a franchise of the Zetas’ diversified global criminal enterprises.

Hernandez’ telephone interview with Nancy’s brother “Rafael,” details the circumstances of his sister’s brutal saga that began in the Las Anonas Chiapas-Mayab railway station where Nancy was forced into a van and driven north to a safe house where she was beaten and threatened with death unless she participated in a pornographic video in which she was raped by several men.

Rafael told Hernandez that his sister’s kidnappers promised that she would be let go after this “little job.” Instead, said Rafael “the first video was followed by another and another.” Days later the 20 year-old Nancy was taken to a Tijuana brothel and forced into prostitution until she completed a “quota” set by her abductors. Two and half months later she was ordered to call relatives in the U.S. to fork over a ransom for her release. Rafael got the call and agreed to pay.

Without giving details, [Rafael] said that he paid a designated smuggler to move his sister to America, [and] also deposited a large sum of dollars as a “ransom” for her to surrender, but not before being warned that talking would be his death sentence.

Nancy’s sordid ordeal is just one of thousands of such stories. Hernandez provides the alarming facts:

More than 20,000 Central American women are currently prostituted in brothels and bars in south-southeast Mexico, according to End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT).

Women and girls are trafficked under false pretenses to Mexico from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. They sell them in bars for not more than $40 where they are held against their will in a situation of slavery and forced to cover their costs of accommodations, food and drugs, says the Global Report of Actions Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents (ECPAT).

The owners of many of these bars are local politicians, bankers and people with economic power operating from the shadows and earning revenues. The report warns that traffickers are recruiting younger and younger women, mostly girls.

The networks of traffickers in women use Mexico as a bridge to move teens to the U.S. and Canada where they are sold and sexually exploited, according to the World Report on Trafficking in Persons 2009, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

A 2009 American Bar Association report cites 47 organized criminal groups in Mexico that are engaged in sexual and labor exploitation in the Federal District and 17 states including Baja California, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Tlaxcala, Tamaulipas and Jalisco — the first four of these are regarded as “sex tourism” destinations. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission estimates these sex trafficking networks bring in about $50 million per year.

Hernandez closes her report with Rafael’s disheartening but understandable takeaway from his and his sister’s nightmare.

Doomed to remember

Nancy is not crying, but spends many hours without a word. She paid a high cost to reach her destination.

Her brother Rafael thinks that if one day they go to Guatemala, they will not return on a plane that stops in Mexico.

He fears that criminals will keep their word and kill them. They are never going to complain, because they doubt that the authorities will do anything to stop the rape, kidnappings and murders of women in Central America.

For more of Evangelia Hernandez’ excellent reporting, see her October reports from the US/Mexico border on corruption here, here, and here. They are in Spanish, but are well worth utilizing Google’s translation feature.

[Michael Reynolds, an investigative journalist and author, is a former correspondent for Reuters who has written for Playboy, The Nation, Mother Jones, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Rolling Stone, High Times, Alternet and other publications. He was senior intelligence analyst with the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center and has served as a consultant on domestic terrorism and transnational security. His blog is NarcoGuerra Times where this article also appears.]

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