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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkEditorials | Issues | April 2009 

Major Blow to Mexican Child Porn Ring
email this pageprint this pageemail usDiego Cevallos - Inter Press Service
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This case should have international repercussions; this is an extremely serious crime.
- Teresa Ulloa
Mexico City - Seven Mexicans who allegedly created and ran a child porn ring that sent on-line images to Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Chile, Spain, the United States and Venezuela were arrested in Mexico.

The ringleaders of the dismantled network included a Catholic priest and a foreign ministry IT employee, the police announced after the arrests Wednesday. The group distributed some 100,000 on-line pictures and videos of children ranging in age from infants to 10 years.

"It was an excellent blow, perhaps one of the most important so far in Latin America. But this is just the tip of the iceberg," Teresa Ulloa, director of the Mexico City-based Regional Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean (CATWLAC), told IPS.

The child pornography network was discovered by the Mexico City police cybercrime unit, which on Mar. 4 found an email with sexual content that originated in the foreign ministry. The police tracked down the computer that the email was sent from, and its user turned out to be Luis Vergara, one of the directors of the ministry’s IT department.

In a search of Vergara’s home, police found evidence of a network run by seven people from different Mexican cities. The suspects were arrested and their computers, which contained child porn, were seized.

Ulloa said she hopes the police cooperate with authorities abroad to track down the users and members of the ring in other countries, in order to arrest more criminals, which "without a doubt there are," she added.

"This case should have international repercussions; this is an extremely serious crime," said the activist, whose regional coalition brings together 250 NGOs from 25 countries.

Ulloa blamed the expansion of child porn over the Internet on the tolerance or carelessness of web service providers and administrators of social networking sites like Facebook or Hi5, where online communities can be found offering the sexual services of minors or trading child porn.

The companies’ failure to use special programmes to detect pedophiles is "a very serious problem," said Ulloa.

In a June 2008 report, the cybercrime unit of the Mexico City public prosecutor’s office reported that its agents had discovered that it can take just 12 minutes for a pedophile to trick an underage girl or boy on-line into taking off their clothes or clicking on web sites with adult content.

In Latin America there are at least 100 online forums that swap child porn, one-third of which are in Mexico, Dimitri Senmache Artola, president of the Peruvian Network Against Child Pornography, said in an October international conference on the issue in Mexico.

Ulloa said that one of the engines driving online child porn is parents’ lack of supervision of their children’s web-surfing activities. Another, she said, is the lack of educational programmes on the issue in schools.

Gerardo Sauri, head of the Mexican NGO Red por los Derechos de la Infancia (Child Rights Network), sees the problem in a similar light, saying it "begins at home."

The activist believes more education is needed, as well as greater police infrastructure to track down online pedophiles.

In the Mexican capital, which is home to 20 million of the country’s 104 million people, the cybercrime police unit has less than a dozen agents.

At a national level, the cybercrime police unit that answers to the government of President Felipe Calderón has around 300 agents.

According to Ulloa, Mexico is the second or third country in the world with the biggest child pornography and trafficking in persons problems.

But there is no consensus on the extent of the phenomenon.

A 2004 study by researcher Elena Azaola estimated that some 17,000 children under the age of 18 are victims of the sex trade in Mexico.

In June 2008, however, a lawmaker belonging to the leftwing Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) said that in the capital alone, there are around 20,000 minors trapped in child prostitution.

But four months later, the president of the city’s Human Rights Commission, Emilio Álvarez, put the number at 7,000.



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