ONTD Political

Argentine mom rescues hundreds of sex slaves

1:25 pm - 12/16/2012
Argentine mom rescues hundreds of sex slaves

LA PLATA, Argentina (AP) — Susana Trimarco was a housewife who fussed over her family and paid scant attention to the news until her daughter left for a doctor's appointment and never came back.

After getting little help from police, Trimarco launched her own investigation into a tip that the 23-year-old was abducted and forced into sex slavery. Soon, Trimarco was visiting brothels seeking clues about her daughter and the search took an additional goal: rescuing sex slaves and helping them start new lives.

What began as a one-woman campaign a decade ago developed into a movement and Trimarco today is a hero to hundreds of women she's rescued from Argentine prostitution rings. She's been honored with the "Women of Courage" award by the U.S. State Department and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on Nov. 28. Sunday night, President Cristina Fernandez gave her a human rights award before hundreds of thousands of people in the Plaza de Mayo.

But years of exploring the decadent criminal underground haven't led Trimarco to her daughter, Maria de los Angeles "Marita" Veron, who was 23 in 2002 when she disappeared from their hometown in provincial Tucuman, leaving behind her own 3-year-old daughter Micaela.

"I live for this," the 58-year-old Trimarco told The Associated Press of her ongoing quest. "I have no other life, and the truth is, it is a very sad, very grim life that I wouldn't wish on anyone."

Her painful journey has now reached a milestone.

Publicity over Trimarco's efforts prompted Argentine authorities to make a high-profile example of her daughter's case by putting 13 people on trial for allegedly kidnapping Veron and holding her as a sex slave in a family-run operation of illegal brothels. Prostitution is not illegal in Argentina, but the exploitation of women for sex is.

A verdict is expected Tuesday after a nearly yearlong trial.

The seven men and six women have pleaded innocent and their lawyers have said there's no physical proof supporting the charges against them. The alleged ringleaders denied knowing Veron and said that women who work in their brothels do so willingly. Prosecutors have asked for up to 25 years imprisonment for those convicted.

Trimarco was the primary witness during the trial, testifying for six straight days about her search for her daughter.

The road to trial was a long one.

Frustrated by seeming indifference to her daughter's disappearance, Trimarco began her own probe and found a taxi driver who told of delivering Veron to a brothel where she was beaten and forced into prostitution. The driver is among the defendants.

With her husband and granddaughter in tow, Trimarco disguised herself as a recruiter of prostitutes and entered brothel after brothel searching for clues. She soon found herself immersed in the dangerous and grim world of organized crime, gathering evidence against police, politicians and gangsters.

"For the first time, I really understood what was happening to my daughter," she said. "I was with my husband and with Micaela, asleep in the backseat of the car because she was still very small and I had no one to leave her with."

The very first woman Trimarco rescued taught her to be strong, she said.

"It stuck with me forever: She told me not to let them see me cry, because these shameless people who had my daughter would laugh at me, and at my pain," Trimarco said. "Since then I don't cry anymore. I've made myself strong, and when I feel that a tear might drop, I remember these words and I keep my composure."

Micaela, now 13, has been by her grandmother's side throughout, contributing to publicity campaigns against human trafficking and keeping her mother's memory alive.

More than 150 witnesses testified in the trial, including a dozen former sex slaves who described brutal conditions in the brothels.

Veron may have been kidnapped twice, with the complicity of the very authorities who should have protected her, according to Julio Fernandez, who now runs a Tucuman police department devoted to investigating human trafficking. He testified that witnesses reported seeing Veron at a bus station three days after she initially disappeared, and that a police officer from La Rioja, Domingo Pascual Andrada, delivered her to a brothel there. Andrada, now among the defendants, denied knowing any of the other defendants, let alone Veron.

Other Tucuman police testified that when they sought permission in 2002 to search La Rioja brothels, a judge made them wait for hours, enabling Veron's captors to move her. That version was supported by a woman who had been a prostitute at the brothel: She testified that Veron was moved just before police arrived. The judge, Daniel Moreno, is not on trial. He denied delaying the raid or having anything to do with the defendants.

Some of the former prostitutes said they had seen Veron drugged and haggard. One testified Veron felt trapped and missed her daughter. Another said she spotted Veron with dyed-blonde hair and an infant boy she was forced to conceive in a rape by a ringleader. A third thought Veron had been sold to a brothel in Spain — a lead reported to Interpol.

Trimarco's campaign to find her daughter led the State Department to provide seed money for a foundation in Veron's name. To date, it has rescued more than 900 women and girls from sex trafficking. The foundation also provides housing, medical and psychological aid, and it helps victims sue former captors.

Argentina outlawed human trafficking in 2008, thanks in large part to the foundation's work. A new force dedicated to combating human trafficking has liberated nearly 3,000 more victims in two years, said Security Minister Nilda Garre, who wrote a newspaper commentary saying the trial's verdict should set an example.

Whatever the verdict, Trimarco's lawyer, Carlos Garmendia, says the case has already made a difference.

"Human trafficking was an invisible problem until the Marita (Veron) case," Garmendia said. "The case has put it on the national agenda."

But Trimarco wants more. "I had hoped they would break down and say what they'd done with Marita," she said.

"I feel here in my breast that she is alive and I'm not going to stop until I find her," Trimarco said. "If she's no longer in this world, I want her body."


OP: Damn! You have to respect this woman! She turned probably one of the worst situations (to lose a child without knowing if her daughter is still alive -- personally, the idea of my own daughter being in a sex ring like this is much worse to me than if she'd died years earlier.) Why wasn't she given the Nobel peace prize?

The article doesn't go into really details the various traffic rings, but TW just in case.
carminaburana 17th-Dec-2012 01:23 am (UTC)
This woman is a hero. I hope she finds her daughter. :(
keeni84 17th-Dec-2012 01:26 am (UTC)

"I feel here in my breast that she is alive and I'm not going to stop until I find her," Trimarco said. "If she's no longer in this world, I want her body."

Oh my fucking God.
the_glow_worm 17th-Dec-2012 01:45 am (UTC)
This is so much more heroic than Taken. Bravo, this woman.
girly123 17th-Dec-2012 01:58 am (UTC)
What a badass. I hope that she finds her daughter, and it's amazing the amount of good she's been able to accomplish.

I really hope she wins the Nobel Peace Prize, seriously.
cookiesmonsters 17th-Dec-2012 02:02 am (UTC)
This almost brought a tear to my eye because all it took was one woman to go through hell or high water in the hopes of finding her daughter.

It's really a testament to the world we live in where our girls/women are constantly in a tipping scale of danger if you can't walk to the doctor's office for a checkup without something possibly happening. And the level of corruption this woman must've found, it's just insane. Cases like these always remind me of that Lifetime movie, Human Trafficking, and how "invisible" this issue is.
glass_houses 17th-Dec-2012 02:10 am (UTC)
I love this woman. I think I read an article about her a few years ago and I love her.
a_phoenixdragon 17th-Dec-2012 02:15 am (UTC)
I am keeping her in my thoughts and hoping she finds her daughter. What a brave and fantastic woman. Many blessings to her and to those she has saved.
otana 17th-Dec-2012 02:44 am (UTC)
what the fuck
(no subject) - Anonymous
cecilia_weasley 17th-Dec-2012 05:10 am (UTC)
I don't get how that happened. Is there a bribery problem in Argentina? (were they able to bribe the judges/the police?)
angelus7988 17th-Dec-2012 09:19 pm (UTC)
From the article, it is implied that the judge who delayed the police raid may be connected to traffickers, so it sounds like corruption may be an issue. That said, I know fuck all about Argentina, and that judge could just be an aberration.
atheistkathleen 17th-Dec-2012 02:34 am (UTC)
amazing! i hope she finds her daughter
idemandjustice 17th-Dec-2012 02:53 am (UTC)
I've been a little emotional the last few days, and this is making me tear up. This woman is amazing. This is a true hero. I hope she finds her daughter one day.
romp 17th-Dec-2012 03:15 am (UTC)
I wish they were able to imprison all the corrupt officials abusing their power. Very close to evil. And, yeah, it's wonderful that this woman didn't just shut down with grief but instead helped hundreds.
cecilia_weasley 17th-Dec-2012 05:08 am (UTC)
I read this somewhere else, and I think this woman is amazing. I hope her daughter is found safe.
eldvno 17th-Dec-2012 05:55 am (UTC)
I can't read about this, it just makes me want to kill everything living see, this is such a devastating story all-around.
furrygreen 17th-Dec-2012 04:06 pm (UTC)
I can't read about this, it just makes me want to kill everything living see, this is such a devastating story all-around.

Really? It's more of a piece on a woman who has made it her life's goal to free victims of sexual slavery. I can't see how it's devastating all around. At least, not for the near 1k people she's freed.
mimblexwimble 17th-Dec-2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
I think the OP might be referring to this.
eldvno 19th-Dec-2012 06:10 am (UTC)
Late, but I mean the follow up, how all 13 were acquitted, and she still is nowhere near finding out what happened to her daughter
furrygreen 19th-Dec-2012 03:48 pm (UTC)
Ah, I see. You didn't reply to that comment so I was confused but not anymore. :)
apostle_of_eris 17th-Dec-2012 07:13 am (UTC)
There's something missing from stories like these, and since I noticed it was missing, I have noticed that it's always missing.
(I just Googled) Argentina has just over 40 million people. Buenos Aires is just under three million.
Even if "hundreds of women she's rescued from Argentine prostitution rings" is an exaggeration (I don't know one way or the other), that must represent . . . thousands? . . . tens of thousands? of customers.
There are no sales without buyers. I see no investigation of buyers by either police or researchers.
biting_moopie 17th-Dec-2012 09:56 am (UTC)
That's a really good point. The buyers are never discussed in stories like these. And why do we keep raising men who treat women this way?
wrestlingdog 17th-Dec-2012 01:14 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure if there are any such investigations of buyers in Argentina, but I definitely agree there should be.
biting_moopie 17th-Dec-2012 09:56 am (UTC)
Thank you for posting this story. Susana Trimarco is incredible. I hope she finds her daughter soon.
angelus7988 17th-Dec-2012 09:20 pm (UTC)
Susana Trimarco may be my new hero. I am in awe of her strength.
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