Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In Mexico, human trafficking is often operated by those in power

Human trafficking is often associated with organized crime or gangs operating the smuggling. In Mexico, the perpetrators of human trafficking are sometimes those in positions of power within the government.

One reporter exposed some of this abuse of power and now receives death threats every day because of it. Lydia Cacho Ribeiro recently spoke in New York about her investigations. Inter Press Service writer Melanie Haider attended the event.

She has investigated gender violence and sex trafficking and published numerous stories and books on the subject. Her 2005 book "The Demons of Eden" exposed an international child pornography and sex trafficking ring in Cancún which involved senators and politicians.

She was thrown in jail and tortured for publishing that book. When she finally came out and started talking, the government tried to label her a terrorist, but without success. She traveled for six years to investigate the world of international sex trafficking of women, resulting in her latest book "The Slaves of Power" in 2010.

Together with non-governmental organisations and a grassroots activist network, Cacho started a prevention campaign called "No estoy en venta" - "I am not for sale" - against sex trafficking that includes a video to give young people tools they need to protect themselves. The video explains anti-trafficking laws, the tactics traffickers use to lure their victims, and other aspects of the issue.

"It is getting away from discourse of fear and moral panic and all this (crap) and going back to the discourse of 'you have the power of the information, use it for your own good and how to protect yourself and other kids in school'," she stressed.

But her fight has not come without a price. Cacho told IPS that she has a lengthy checklist of safety strategies she must adhere to in her daily life because of the threats she receives, such as using a different name to make hotel reservations when she travels and constantly switching phone cards.

"I guess right now in Mexico my biggest challenge is to stay alive," she said.

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