June 9, 2006

The Devils of Eden

By Mark R. Day

Two years ago, a team of U.S. marshals, aided by members of Interpol, pulled a car over on a street in Chandler, Arizona and arrested a middle aged man named Jean Succar. Lebanese by birth, Succar is a multi-millionaire with businesses in Cancun, Mexico and Los Angeles.

Mexican authorities say he is the kingpin of a child sex trafficking and pornography ring based in Cancun with close ties to top Mexican politicians and members of the country’s business elite. Succar is awaiting extradition to Mexico and is being defended by the Goldberg and Charles law firm of San Diego.

Author, Lydia Cacho.

The succar case surfaced in 2005 with publication of Los Demonios del Eden* (The Devils of Eden: The power that protects child pornography), by Lydia Cacho. Cacho is a writer and the director of a center for abused women and children in Cancun. The release of the controversial book shattered Mexico’s silence about the taboo subject of commercialized child sex abuse, showed its connections to powerful mafias and politicians, and led to a widely publicized libel suit against Cacho.

Her book documents the case against Succar and others she accuses of involvement in the child sex trade. One of those she accused of attending Succar’s house parties with children is Camel Nacif, also Lebanese-born.

Nacif is a textile magnate with denim maquiladoras in Puebla and several other Mexican cities. He is also a high-rolling gambler in Las Vegas and has been investigated by the State of Nevada Gaming Commission for tax evasion, money laundering and arms trafficking.

When Nacif filed a defamation suit against Cacho, the Mexican judicial police arrested her on Dec. 16, 2005 and drove her by car on harrowing 21-hour trip from Cancun to Puebla.

Cacho paid a fine, was released and greeted by a crowd of supporters, including the well-known Mexican feminist Elena Poniatowska. Some of the women carried picket signs denouncing Puebla governor Mario Marin, who defended his close friend, Nacif. One of the signs read: “El Plan Puebla-Pedofila,” mocking the trade agreement, Plan Puebla-Panama.

On Feb. 14, 2006, the Mexican newspaper La Jornada revealed several taped phone conversations between Gov. Marin and Nacif, in which the two discussed having Cacho tortured and abused in prison. Puebla prosecutor Blanca Laura Villeda has accused Cacho of lying and altering the tape recordings to aid her defense.

In her book, Cacho documents her allegations against Jean Succar, Kamel Nacif and others with video interviews (some secretly taped), photographs and audiotaped interviews with alleged victims, as well as pornographic web sites offering photos and videos of children for sale.

The most damning testimony against Jean Succar came from a 20-year old woman nicknamed “Emma” whom Succar befriended when she was nine-years-old. Emma claims that Succar repeatedly molested her, then showed photographs he had taken of her and placed on his website. Other children made similar allegations, adding that Succar’s wife Gloria often videotaped sexual encounters with Succar at his Cancun home that were later sold. (After receiving death threats, Emma withdrew her testimony, weakening the cases against Succar and Nacif.)

What subsequently happened became a nightmare for the Succar’s alleged victims. State and federal prosecutors gathered their testimonies, called a press conference and revealed the names of the accusers, their parents, even their addresses and phone numbers. Moreover, federal prosecutors called in Succar twice to interrogate him, but failed to arrest him. Cacho suggests that he paid off the prosecutors who allowed him to slip out of Mexico to the United States.

Cacho concludes that the social stigma of not only being a victim of sexual abuse—but of being re-victimized, has prevented thousands of other victims from coming forth to seek justice. She adds that besides the inefficiency and corruption of the authorities, there lies a deeper problem—a macho culture that turns a blind eye to women and children, uses them for recreational purposes, then offers impunity to those who harass, intimidate and molest them.

In the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, journalist Carlos Fazio writes that the Cacho case illustrates the symbiotic connections between powerful economic and political figures, with close ties to President Vicente Fox, and the sexual abuse of children. “It unmasks the confrontation between the men with money and those who live in the apartheid of poverty or take sides with them.”

(* The book is available at the Libreria Gerardo in Tijuana or at amazon.com)

Mark R. Day is a journalist and film maker who lives in Vista. He recently won an Emmy for his television crime special: “Sex Trafficking: Looking for the Indicators.”

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