San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Human trafficking

Latin American trafficking ring disrupted after death of minor in Mexico

QUITO, Ecuador — Police have charged 42 members of a criminal gang following an investigation into the trafficking and rape of a 12-year-old Ecuadorean girl who later committed suicide, officials said.

The gang, based in Ecuador and Mexico, is accused of the illegal transfer and rape of the girl, Noemi Álvarez, and faces further charges of trafficking and abuse of other victims, investigators from both countries told reporters in Quito.

Authorities said the charges follow an 11-month investigation of the criminal network, and that 14 people were detained in Mexico.

Álvarez took her life in a shelter in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico on March 11, 2014 while trying to reunite with her parents in the United States, Mexican prosecutor Mónica Castillejos said.

Investigators said she was raped days before being brought to the shelter, where she had been transferred by authorities after being discovered with a trafficker.

Her story was featured in a New York Times article last year about the plight of child migrants.

The suspects face charges of criminal organization, trafficking, sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and aggravated rape.

Castillejos said authorities uncovered appalling stories of sexual assault and imprisonment of women and child migrants during the investigation.

Mexican officials hailed the investigation, saying it allowed both countries to derail a very wide network of traffickers of children.

Earlier this month, Ecuador sentenced two people to 16 years in prison involved in the Álvarez case.

Around 650 Ecuadorean children left the country in 2014 in search of their migrant parents, according to a country official.

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