Politics in Mexico have a particular way of functioning. Politicians do as they please, act without fear or accountability for their actions, and benefit from public positions in a society characterized by impunity, corruption, influence peddling and illicit enrichment. It may seem that political positions are used to favour powerful individuals, instead of focusing on the common good of Mexican society.
Cuauhtémoc Gutiérrez de la Torre was until last April, head of the National Revolutionary Party (PRI) in the country’s capital, Mexico City. This man is now the protagonist of one of the worst scandals in PRI’s history, which is yet to be punished by the authorities.
Gutiérrez de la Torre ran a prostitution network in the party’s premises using public funds, until MVS News managed to make it public. This is not the first time Mexican media knows about its disgusting practices, as it had been previously accused of running this network over 10 years ago. Well documented reports suggest that this man is the main responsible of the recruitment of young women, which month by month would receive a salary for their humiliating work as Gutiérrez’s sex slaves.
Money to pay for Gutiérrez’s whims came from the Ministry of Finance under Roberto Zamorano Pineda’s administration, a personal friend of Gutiérrez. Young women were found to receive 11.000 MXN to nourish the sexual fantasies of who represented PRI in Mexico’s most important city, and the party of Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto.
In order to trap young women, staff promoted Internet ads suggesting positions for females between 18 to 32 years old were available at a ‘government’s office, offering a salary of 8.000 to 14.000 MXN’. When women attended the ‘interviews’ were requested to change clothes, and give out information on their weight, height and availability. If successful, women would have to work outside traditional business hours.
Around 12 to 15 women were at Gutiérrez’s service, and if one of them gained weight or resisted to follow his orders, the young woman would be immediately fired. Most of women were divorced, single parents or students from impoverished backgrounds. MVS reporter –whose identity has been protected since the investigation was released on April 2nd- documented this information saying women in charge of recruitment told ‘candidates’ they would need to perform sexual acts with Gutiérrez at any time he felt like it, as well as seducing him and pleasing his needs.
If the application was successful, women would be paid by PRI and would have to meet Gutiérrez in order to be finally approved. ‘Girls’, as he would called them, usually had to have sex with Gutiérrez from that first day onwards, wear short skirts and blazers with the PRI emblem, and follow his orders.
As soon as the scandal was brought to light, PRI requested the immediate removal of Gutiérrez as head of the party in Mexico City, while investigations took place. When questioned about the scandal, Gutiérrez denied every accusation and said this was a political circus aimed to discredit his work. He also accused MVS News of extortion as he had been ‘receiving threatening calls’ and regretted members of the PRI were turning their backs against him.
Gutiérrez had also been investigated in 2003 by the Reforma newspaper, but no legal measures were taken against him. Civil society organizations protested outside PRI premises days after the information had been released, requesting authorities to end cases of corruption and abuse by this politician. Some members of the PRI also show their discontent asking his definite expulsion from the party. When surveyed, 80 per cent of Mexicans at the national level said they did not think Gutiérrez would pay for his actions, while 77 per cent of people interviewed in Mexico City believed he was guilty, and 69 per cent considered there would be no legal actions against him.
Finally on Thursday May 1, a young 24-year-old filed a criminal complaint against Gutiérrez. Since then, the case has been in charge of the Attorney General of Justice in Mexico City. Women implicated in the case have lied in favour of Gutiérrez, accusing MVS News of offering them money to release false information. However, MVS’s investigation clearly showed how these women were taking part of this recruitment process, exhibiting their inconsistencies and direct implications in the case. Mexican population in general, strongly supports MVS’s work, as it can be inferred this is one of the most respectable news media channels in the country, under the leadership of journalist, Carmen Aristegui.
The case has moved beyond MVS’s investigation, as other sources have confirmed Gutiérrez intimidated and obligated women to travel with the PRI team to conferences or events to other states in Mexico. During these trips, women were not allowed to speak with other people but their crew, had to be supervised at all times, and could not leave the places where they had been assigned to ‘work’. Other sources confirm some women might have been trafficked to the PRI premises or forced to continue to work in the party under threats.
Several attempts to shut down the scandals have been made by Gutiérrez and some of his partners, especially some militants of the PRI party. Human rights and trafficking advocates have been also accused of taking ‘illegal actions’ against Gutiérrez, however, this also shows inconsistencies in favour of human rights organizations. Most women victims fear for their lives and integrity, being this one of the main reasons why they are still to file more criminal complaints.
Gutiérrez is a living proof of what are some of our great challenges as Mexicans, which underlie tackling illegal practices in public positions. Young disadvantaged women are victims of a deeply corrupted system which seem to perpetuate its existence in favour of privileged and powerful minorities, and not the well-being of the population. As long as men as Gutiérrez – as this is not the only case within PRI, but in other parties-, Mexico will continue to be ruled by criminals, not by good governance or democracy.
I would expect from authorities to do what is right with Gutiérrez and the people who helped him with this network. As a woman, I can only advocate for those young Mexican women who are victims of systems which continue to see them as mere sexual objects. This is not only about the diversion of public funds used for private purposes, these are public funds used to undermine women’s rights which make us wonder what is the real purpose of the state, to protect us, or to go against us?
Karol Alejandra Arámbula Carrillo – Consultant in International Affairs (Twitter @KarolArambula).