We arrived at Chiquimula, a small guatemalan town near the border with Honduras this February 14th, Valentine’s Day. At first glance, Chiquimula is a town like any other in Central America: busy marketplaces, women cooking in the streets, schoolboys and schoolgirls running around in small groups into the streets.
We met agent Ana Salazar, who quickly dispelled our first impression of the town. She told us about the dark underworld that lies under the sunny skies of Chiquimula, and how children and teenagers had been rescued from the grasp of human trafficking networks that had made Chiquimula their stopping point. “Justice is not served to central american children,” she says, in the middle of sharing with us a saddening tale of her work against powerful and negligent authorities who, in most cases, would just shove sex trafficking cases under the table and forget about them.
Salazar told us many stories of how she, in her job as a police officer, rescued small girls and teenagers from sexual exploitation by their own parents, as well as captives who were forced into prostitution.
One particular story that she told me had to do with the case of a hirl aged seven who was being exploited by her mother, who would “rent” her to a powerful member of the local government for 400 quetzales. She told us of the day she apprehended the man in question, how she spoke softly to the little girl and told her everything would be ok. After a long legal battle in which even members of her team doubke-crossed her, a conviction was finally achieved for the government member, and the girl found a home in aunt’s family.
Salazar tells us that it is hard to see how her efforts usually don’t yield any results for the minors she protects. She keeps, however, making a difference in this little dot named Chiquimula.
– Nincy Perdomo
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