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by Diego Cevallos

40,000 Children Believed Captive In Latin America Sex Rings

(IPS) MEXICO CITY -- 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 Eden" (The Demons of Eden), Cacho -- who is a journalist and writer as well as the director of a women's shelter in Cancun -- links Nacif with Jean Succar, a Lebanese-born hotel owner who is in prison facing charges of arranging pedophile 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 Cancun, 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 Cancun, and the latter responds that "next week, you son of a bitch, 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 Cancun, in which Nacif allegedly took part.

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 organized crime.

"Los demonios del Eden" 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 July 2 presidential and legislative elections.

Gamboa is one of the lawmakers who have approached Felipe Calderon 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 Gonzalez, 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, Andres Lopez Obrador, lost the elections to Calderon 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 Marin, governor of the state of Puebla, near the capital.

In the tapped conversations, Marin, 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 Cancun to Puebla.

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 Organization 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 Marin had engaged in criminal activity.

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Albion Monitor   September 11, 2006   (

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