Christian congresswoman fights exploitation of children in Mexico

In June, Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography, estimated there are 3.6 million children, from a population of 110 million, between the ages of five and 17 years old working in poor conditions without the possibility to attend school and seek a better future.

Leading the fight to change this fact is Christian Congresswoman, Rosi Orozco, head of Mexico’s Special Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

"Human trafficking is a crime with a complex social impact whose main characteristic is to turn people into commodities that are traded on national and international black markets, who work under the impunity given to them by the authorities," Orozco says.

"It is important to fight the roots that lead to the phenomenon of trafficking in persons, as most children, women, young victims of trafficking come from backgrounds of poverty, resulting from the lack of educational and employment opportunities."

Rosa Maria Orozco was elected to Mexico’s 500-seat Chamber of Deputies in July 2009. She represents the PAN party (National Action Party), which is led by President Felipe Calderón. Orozco entered politics for one reason only - to combat the exploitation of children.

"My aim is to end the commercial [and] sexual exploitation of children in Mexico," she says.

Her husband, Alejandro Orozco is the General Director of the National Institute of Older Persons, which is responsible for Mexico’s 9 million citizens over age 60.Together, they are the founders of Casa Sobre la Roca, or ‘House on the Rock', in Mexico City, which has more than 17,000 members.

In support President Calderón’s National Development Plan to create a ‘secure, prosperous, just, clean and democratic’ Mexico, they created ‘Transformations Mexico’ in 2006, to empower Christians to work at the grass roots level to bring lasting change to their country.

The challenges facing Mexico were highlighted by the Pentagon in a 2008 report which stated that, "Mexico is at risk of becoming a failed state’ and bears consideration ‘for rapid and sudden collapse."

It noted that "…the government, its politicians, police and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels."

Following his election in December 2006 President Calderón declared war on the drug cartels, who are fighting to control the $25bn a year drug trade. He has deployed soldiers and federal police to restore the rule of law in regions where local authorities have been corrupted under the influence of the drug lords. The choice given to public servants has been ‘plata o plomo’? Translated literally - silver or lead - meaning ‘accept a bribe or the assassin's bullet'.

According to the US State Department, more than 22,000 people have been killed in Mexico by organised crime since the crackdown began. The government estimates violence shaves 1 percentage point from GDP each year.

Mexico’s drug-related killings in 2010 rose to 5,339 to mid-June, compared with 6,587 in 2009, according to data from Reforma, a Mexico City newspaper. On June 28, a leading candidate running for Governor in a border state was killed by a drug gang.

He was the highest level politician to be assassinated since a presidential candidate was killed in 1994.It is within this environment that Orozco is working to bring change. ‘As Christians we will not rest until we see Mexico transformed,’ she says.

Before entering Congress, she founded a home to care for girls and women involved in the sex trade. Personally confronting the pimps who trade in exploitation, Orozco faces many risks. ‘

"We face the challenge daily," she notes.

Today, her efforts require personal security as she takes on organised crime and her daughter has to study in Europe, due to the threat of kidnapping.

In March, Orozco displayed leadership at a national level, when she spoke out against plans to move the notorious paedophile, Jean Succar Kuri, from a high security prison, to a municipal prison in Cancun. In 2006 Succar Kuri was extradited from the US for numerous crimes against minors in Mexico.Over the past few years, 16,000 victims of abuse have been reported, yet only one person has been convicted of a crime.

Orozco’s stand for justice led one of Mexico’s leading journalists for El Universal, a national newspaper, to write of the ‘struggle of Rosi’ against those who traffic children, including fathers and mothers.

"Rosi's courage stands in stark contrast to the soullessness of these people. She is relentless in her call for punishment, the application of the law, increased penalties, more effective punishment and better co-ordination from the authorities. To the victims she offers her love, empathy, tears and her willingness to listen to their terrible stories, which they have involuntarily played a part in.

"There are probably moments when you feel there is an indifference and misunderstanding about what you do. But you are not alone.

"Again Deputy, sincerely and from my heart, I say 'God bless you'."