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Whistleblower publishes manual for parents on detecting child abuse

P1073669 Lydia Cacho's celebrity was apparent from the get-go last Thursday night in the trendy Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City, where the journalist launched her new book "Not With My Child" (Con Mi Hij@ No).

When your humble correspondent arrived for the launch at the beautiful bookshop Libreria Rosario Castellanos, the raven-haired writer was posing for an all-male squad of newspaper photographers. In a country where journalists are killed for poking their noses into dark places and challenging the powers that be, Cacho has become something of a hero for doing just that and surviving, albeit by the skin of her teeth.

The photo session was brief, and then it was on with the business of launching her latest book -- a manual for parents in Mexico to help them recognize if their children are being abused and, if so, what they can do about it. That might seem like a rather strange subject for a book, but it is the product of Cacho's rather harrowing experience.

The sexual abuse of minors is a topic she has specialized in, and Cacho has been the victim of harassment due to her investigations into the issue.

She was a relatively unknown journalist until she published a book in 2006 that alleged the existence of a child sex ring in the southern state of Cancun, after which she was illegally arrested and harassed by some of the powerful men she implicated in "Los Demonios del Eden" (see more details of the case here).

She catapulted to fame when she challenged her aggressors by going public and filing a legal action against them -- although it was ultimately unsuccessful.

Since then, Cacho has become something of a symbol for the issue of the repression of journalists and freedom of expression in Mexico. Her last book, "Memories of a Disgrace (Memorias de una Infamia)" detailed the events that unfolded after the publication of "Los Demonios del Eden."

Speaking to a packed auditorium on Thursday, Cacho said that after "Los Demonios del Eden" was published, she was inundated by more than 3,000 e-mails from people who were worried their children were being abused, or who knew their children had been abused and didn't know what to do about it. That prompted her to write "Not With My Child," which she says is an effort to answer the questions she received from her anxious public.

"My intention was that it would be as though I was accompanying the people reading it," said Cacho.

She was joined on Thursday by journalist Carmen Aristegui, herself no stranger to being silenced. Her prominent and critical morning talk show on the capital's W Radio was cut last January after five years on air (read the details here).  At the time, the outspoken broadcaster, who continues to host a show on CNN Espanol, said that she suspected her head had been called for by powerful members of President Felipe Calderon'€™s administration. Aristegui launched a new show on a different network this morning.

She commended Cacho on Thursday for seeking solutions and changes to the problem of child abuse in Mexico.

"We know it"s there and is something that we have to confront," she said.

"Not With My Child" includes chapters on the history of pedophilia and the sexual abuse of children, as well as how to negotiate Mexico's ineffective justice system. Cacho says that building strong social networks is one of the most important means of detecting and putting a stop to child abuse in Mexico.

"Not With My Child" is published by Editorial Grijalbo, of Random House Mondadori.

-- Deborah Bonello

Photo: Journalist Lydia Cacho holds up her new book for the cameras at a launch event in Mexico City.  Credit: Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times.

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Great work. Denial in Mexico runs too deep.


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