In Mexico, kidnapped children usually stay missing
August 29, 1996
Web posted at: 7:00 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT)
Editor's note: The first World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children continued Thursday in Sweden.
From Mexico City Bureau Chief Lucia Newman
MEXICO CITY (CNN) -- Sonia Pinto seems like any normal
16-year-old, except that she's spent the last two years
desperately trying to piece together her past, which was
snatched away a decade ago.
Pinto was only 6 when she was kidnapped and taken to
Guatemala to live with a family that never allowed her to go
"I remembered that the man who took me had stolen me and that
I was from Mexico, but I couldn't remember the names of my
parents or my last name," Pinto said.
Pinto's mother found her nine years later when someone
recognized her daughter's photograph, which appeared on a
television program about kidnapped children.
Little Maria also has been reunited with her mother, after
family members found the kidnappers who sold the then
2-year-old to a childless couple for less than $200.
Still, despite their traumatic experiences, many consider
these children lucky. At least, eventually, they were
reunited with their parents.
"Five years ago, my little daughter walked just across the
street to buy tortillas," said Angelina De Cortez, whose
child was kidnapped. "A witness saw a man put his hand over
her face and put her in a car. She hasn't been seen since."
Hundreds of other Mexican children and infants have
disappeared without a trace, according to the Foundation of
Stolen Children, one of at least five organizations looking
for missing youngsters.
Looking the other way
From babies sold for adoption to youngsters stolen for sexual
abuse or for begging and selling on the streets, the numbers
of kidnapped children are on the rise.
"There are even cases of youngsters mutilated to provoke
pity so they can fetch more money," said Rafael Lubiano of
the Mexico City Legislature.
Others are kidnapped to help smuggle drugs across the U.S.
border. Most of the victims are from working class and poor
families. One man says men with shotguns broke into his
roadside shack and took away two of his three children.
Too often, police brush off cries for help.
"In ... Mexico, we get no support. Not from the
police, not from anyone," one person said. "The authorities
don't even bother to investigate."
That's usually left to the parents. The lucky ones get a
stipend from the city government to help check out leads.
Mexico City's legislature is debating ways to increase
penalties to deter child trafficking. But the real deterrent
-- an effective, sensitive law enforcement system -- requires
more than just another law.
It takes a society that makes the protection of its children
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