8 March 2009

To mark International Women’s Day (http://www.internationalwomensday.com/), PEN centres around the world are focussing on the cases of four female writers who have been persecuted for their work. (http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/go/freedom-of-expression/campaigns)

One of these is award-winning writer and investigative journalist Lydia Cacho who runs a refuge for abused women and children. Cacho has written numerous articles on the prostitution of Cuban and Argentine girls in Mexico and the sexual abuse of minors. In 2005 she published a book (Demons of Eden: the power behind pornography), exposing a Mexican child pornography ring. A textile businessman, José Kamel Nacif Borge, brought charges of libel against Cacho. He is cited in the book as having ties with another Mexican businessman, Jean Succar Kuri, who owns a hotel in the popular Mexican resort, Cancún, in Quintana Roo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quintana_Roo). Succar Kuri is an accused paedophile and head of the child pornography and prostitution network, who was already detained at the time. Kamel Nacif did not deny knowing him but claimed that his reputation had suffered as a result of Cacho’s book.

On 16 December 2005, Cacho was arrested at gunpoint by Puebla state officials, and endured a twenty-hour car journey from her home in Cancún to Puebla, where she was physically threatened. On her arrival she was charged with ‘defamation’ and calumny and faced up to four years in jail if found guilty. During the spell in police custody, the writer was reportedly ill-treated and held incommunicado in an attempt to intimidate her into abandoning her work to combat child abuse and people-trafficking. In February 2006 a recorded telephone conversation alleged to be between Kamel Nacif and the governor of Puebla, Mario Marín, was released to the local media. The businessman reportedly thanked the governor for his part in Cacho’s arrest and offered Marín ‘two beautiful bottles of Cognac’ as a token of his appreciation. He also voiced his desire that the writer be raped whilst in detention.

Cacho filed a countersuit for corruption and violation of her human rights. After fighting a year-long battle, and enduring repeated death threats, the defamation charges were dismissed. However, her acquittal was only the result of her case being transferred to another state where defamation is no longer a criminal offence.

Despite the Mexico’s Supreme Court’s ruling that there had been ‘no serious violation’ of Cacho’s rights when she was arrested on Marín’s orders (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2007/dec/04/mexicocourtrulesagainstjou) , last April the special office set up to investigate crimes against journalists in Mexico ordered the arrest of five public employees for the illegal detention of Cacho. These reportedly included the former attorney general, a minister, a police commander and various criminal justice system officials, who allegedly falsified paperwork in order to facilitate her arrest. Disappointingly, in June the court in Cacho’s home state of Quintana Roo ruled that although there was evidence of arbitrary detention and torture it could not accept her case for jurisdictional reasons and recommended that she take the case to Puebla. Her appeal was rejected in January 2009. Cacho claims that it impossible to get justice in Puebla, particularly given the role of the state authorities in her ordeal, and so she will submit her case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She continues to receive threats to her life for her writing.

Lydia Cacho will be in London talking about her work at Shakespeare's Globe on 18 April, as part of International PEN’s festival of world literature, Free the Word! http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/go/literary-events/free-the-word

You may like to write to the Mexican President expressing concern at the continuing harassment of writer Lydia Cacho for writing about sexual exploitation in Mexico to:

Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Fax: 00 52 55 5093 4901/ 5277 2376
Email: felipe.calderon@presidencia.gob.mx