In a scandal that highlights official tolerance of illegal sex, authorities in Guatemala have dismantled a child prostitution ring allegedly involving high-ranking officials.
Five people accused of selling children for sex and six suspected clients have been captured, including the son of a Supreme Court magistrate, lawyer Cesar Barrientos Aguirre, reported Prensa Libre.
The arrests follow the rescue of various victims in the southwestern department of Suchitepequez last December, alongside three suspected human traffickers. Barrientos was defending two of those three suspects during a court hearing in January when he was apparently recognized by one of the child victims.
It is alleged that "exclusive" clients -- including doctors, senators, and other government officials -- paid between $75 and $255 for sex with girls aged between 13 and 17, reported Prensa Libre. The children received $12 to $24 for each "activity," said prosecutors.
Two Suchitepequez mayors were also among the clients, according to Leonal Dubon, the director of a children's refuge who was named one of the US Department of State's Trafficking In Persons 'Heroes' in its 2011 report.
Prosecutors requested that the case involving the three suspected human traffickers arrested in December be moved to a court in Guatemala City; however, their petition was denied, with critics claiming it was because of Barrientos' relation to the Supreme Court magistrate.
InSight Crime Analysis
Prostitution is legal in Guatemala, but all forms of trafficking are prohibited. All prostitution involving minors is also illegal. However the United Nations Special Rapporteur on child trafficking Najay Maalla M’jid warned last year that child prositution was still a significant problem in the country, exacerbated by an inefficient judical system and high levels of impunity.
Guatemala has made some moves towards tackling the issue of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Last year the government announced it would set up a special unit to deal specifically with human trafficking cases.