Fear silences human trafficking victims: Mexico prosecutor

Tue May 26, 2015 9:18pm EDT
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By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Zunduri, enslaved at a dry cleaners shop in Mexico City, was so thirsty at one point she blistered her mouth trying to drink steam from an iron, and was so hungry she chewed the polythene wrapping used to cover garments.

The 23-year-old Mexican woman, known only as Zunduri, told state prosecutors of her two-year ordeal after escaping last month, exposing one of the worst cases of slavery to come to light in the Mexican capital.

"It's almost unbelievable to think a person can be treated this way. It's one of the worst cases I've ever come across," said veteran prosecutor Juana Camila Bautista, who heads the Mexico City prosecutor's human trafficking office.

"Zunduri was chained, hit and tortured. She had 620 injuries on her body. Doctors said she has the body of an 81-year-old," Bautista told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

Seven people, including the female owner of the dry cleaning shop, have been charged with human trafficking and detained awaiting trial.

"We believe there is enough evidence along with the victim's testimony for those charged to get the maximum 30-year prison sentence for human trafficking," Bautista said.

Zunduri managed to escape and report the crime to police, but thousands of cases of slavery remain invisible.

The most common form of human trafficking in Mexico's sprawling capital of 20 million is carried out by gangs who force women and girls into sex work, Bautista said.   Continued...