A bizarre religious cult that is suspected of running a prostitution ring has been broken up by Mexican law enforcement officers.
The cult, called the "Defenders of Christ," operated in the border states of Tamaulipas and Coahuila. According to to the AP, the "defenders" were prostituting female recruits and forcing them to have sex with a Spanish man who acted as the cult´s leader and claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, Mexico's National Migration Institute said that it had arrested 24 cult members earlier this week in a house located near Nuevo Laredo, a city that is right across from the Texas border.
Fourteen of the detainees were not Mexican, and included six Spaniards, two Bolivians and a Venezuelan man, called Jose Losanger Segovia, who is suspected of being the group's leader by Mexican officials. However, Losanger is only listed as a "bishop" of the "Defenders of Christ" in a website that warns against involvement in the cult. This site affirms cult specialists who say the leader of the group was Spanish citizen, Ignacio Gonzalez de Arriba.
According to the AP, Gonzalez, lured people into the cult by offering courses on bio-programming, an esoteric discipline, that is supposed to help people to deal with pain, anxiety, depression, and other psychological problems. Mexico´s National Institute of Migration said that cult leaders deprived followers of their freedom, cut them off from the outside world, and "forced labor tasks" on them that included prostitution.
The forced recruitment of people for sexual tasks, and other sorts of jobs, is defined by the UN as "human trafficking." The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that every year human trafficking generates world-wide profits of $32 billion or more, making it the third most profitable crime in the world, after drug trafficking and the illegal weapons deals.
Mexican officials estimate that somewhere between 16,000 to 20,000 children in this country are currently victims of human trafficking.
Rosi Orozco, a former congresswoman and now president of an anti-human trafficking NGO called "Comision Unidos Contra la Trata," says that prostitution rings in Mexico usually lure young girls through fake job offerings that promise a better life. Prostitution ring members also "court" young females on social media and get them to go out on dates in order to kidnap them, Orozco told ABC/Univision.
Orozco added that is was unusual for religious cults to serve as a front for human trafficking. But the announcement that the "Defenders of Christ" cult had been broken up by officials, gave a flicker of hope to some victims´ relatives.
"I have some belief that my daughter could be with that group" said Leticia Mora, whose daughter, 24 year old Georgina Mora, has been missing since May 30, 2011.
Leticia Mora displays a poster of her daughter Georgina, who went missing in 2011 (Photo: Manuel Rueda)
Leticia Mora was one of several women with disappeared daughters attending a meeting in Mexico City Wednesday morning, in which officials launched a nation-wide help line for victims of human trafficking.
She said that a few days after Georgina disappeared, her husband received a text message from an unknown source, which told the couple to "stop looking" for their daughter, because "they would not find her."
The message had an area code from Tamaulipas state, the same area of Mexico, where police detained members of the "Defenders of Christ" cult.
But with hundreds of sex trafficking rings operating around the Mexico, the chances that Georgina is one of the victims of the "Defenders of Christ" are slim. Georgina disappeared shortly after she began working for a company that was planning to open a casino near Atizapan. The casino, which never opened its doors to the public, had hired several young women to work as bartenders and hostesses.
"This is like a cancer that keeps growing inside you, and the only medicine is to find my daughter," Mora said of her current situation. She even abandoned her job as a talent recruiter more than a year ago so that she can devote her time exclusively to her daughter's search. With a group of twenty women from the state of Mexico, whose daughters have also gone missing, Mora has managed to convince local prosecutors to offer a $23,000 reward for information that leads to Georgina´s whereabouts.