Mexican Journalist Threatened for Child Sex Expose
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
For reporters, Mexico is an increasingly dangerous place to work. Almost two dozen journalists have been murdered there in the last six years. Police suspect most of the killings are by narco-traffickers, but few of them have been arrested.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
And reporters get beat up or in legal trouble, or both. We have the story of a Mexican journalist who wrote a book alleging that some very powerful people in Mexico are involved in a child sex ring. Here's NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Americans might not know who Lydia Cacho is, but in Mexico she is arguably the most famous female investigative reporter of her generation.
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GARCIA-NAVARRO: I meet her at her boyfriend's stylish modern townhouse on a rainy day in Mexico City. She's wearing a purple scarf with an orange sweater. The vivid colors accent her dark hair and coffee colored eyes. She's a striking woman, but today she looks tired.
Ms. LYDIA CACHO (Investigative Reporter): I didn't have a good night's sleep. And while it happens I have nightmares sometimes.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Cacho is facing possible jail time for allegations in her book The Devil's of Eden. It's about the web of power that lies at the heart of the traffic in Mexican children.
Ms. CACHO: I guess my case is showing the strength of impunity and corruption in Mexico.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: In The Devil's of Eden, Cacho names important politicians and businessmen whom she alleges are involved in child prostitution in Cancun, where thousands of kids are for sale for sex. Last December, when the book was published, she was arrested in Cancun, where she lives, by several officers who arrived in an unmarked car. They drove her to the state of Puebla, hundreds of miles away. She says along the way...
Ms. CACHO: They wanted to rape me. They were planning to beat me up, and they even tried to make me jump into the ocean in the middle of the way to Puebla. They tried to make me cry and they put a gun in my head and they were trying to mess with my mind.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: When she arrived in Puebla, she learned that she'd been accused of defamation by Camal Nasif Borhea(ph), a powerful textile mogul based there. In her book, Cacho names Nasif as financing a child pornographer. He denies the allegations. However, in February of this year, a Mexican newspaper, La Hornala(ph) obtained a tape of supposed phone conversations between Nasif and the governor of the state of Puebla. In them, plans are discussed to have Cacho raped and silenced. The governor has denied his was one of the voices, and he is still in office.
Ms. CACHO: In every state, each governor is like a king. They do whatever they want, they buy the press. There's no accountability. I mean, there's no transparency in anything they do. They get away with it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Camal Nasif has refused to comment on the tapes. The scandal prompted the Mexico Supreme Court to investigate whether Cacho's rights were violated. Still, Cacho is now battling the defamation charge in court.
Ms. CACHO: I am nervous. I'm anxious. I'm tired. I'm sad. But I'm also sure that I have rights, so I'm willing to keep on going and defending my rights.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lydia Cacho was born in 1963 in Mexico City to an engineer father, but the most important influence, she says, was her European psychologist mother, a feminist who took her daughter along when she worked in the poorest areas of the Mexican capital.
Ms. CACHO: Every time I ask, why is this happening, I mean why is this - why are these kids so poor, why don't they have any clothing, and my mom kept saying, if you can see it and you can wonder about it, then you have the responsibility to do something about it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: As well as being a writer, Cacho runs a shelter for battered women and abused children in Cancun, and even though she's received countless death threats and travels with bodyguards, her mother's lesson sticks with her still.
Ms. CACHO: This is an issue of girls and boys being bought and used. And once you have seen the eyes of these kids and have seen the bravery of them telling the police their story, and they trusted me, they asked me to take them to the shelter we have and protect them, then you cannot just close your eyes and pretend you haven't seen this.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: She knows the risks she faces.
Ms. CACHO: I'm not willing to lose my life in a stupid way. You know? But I'm willing to give it full of things (unintelligible).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: She's already working on her next book, about the trafficking of women between Mexico and the United States. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News Mexico City.
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