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Guatemala: Breaking Down the Doors of Brothels

Julio Roberto Prado is a Guatemalan lawyer, who frequently investigates and prosecutes cases of human trafficking, in particular, abuse against women and children. He blogs under a pseudonym, which allows him to show an inside look at the difficult situations of the victims. This recent post on his blog Noticias Para Dios describes some of the sights and sounds of a typical day in his work [es], where he requests a search warrant from a judge. His post also reveals how working a stressful and draining environment like this can affect the morale of those working to end human trafficking and abuse.

Tenía puestos mis zapatos negros, vamos, todos saben que cuando los llevo es porque romperé alguna puerta. Ese día sería para rescatar a una niña de once años y a su hermana de quince de uno de los más grandes prostíbulos de la ciudad.

I had my black shoes on, come on, everyone knows that when I have them on some door will be broken down. Today it will be to rescue an 11-year-old girl and her 15-year-old sister from one of the biggest brothels in the city.

He shares his day's plans with some of his fellow law-enforcing colleagues:

A los hombres les gustan tiernas, dice uno de los policías. Me cuenta que el otro día fue hacia Retalhuleu una ciudad del interior del país. Allí entró a un sitio donde fue a rescatar a mujeres encadenadas en las camas, donde las obligaban a coger con los clientes. Estaban todas flacas, me dice. Me daban tanta tristeza, no comían, amarradas, con sus trajes típicos a los camastros. Pero qué se puede esperar de esos lugares, si hay algunos donde subastan vírgenes los primeros viernes de cada mes.

Men like them young, say one of the police officers. He tells me that the other day he went to the interior city of Retalhuleu, where he entered a place to rescuse women chained to the bed, where they were forced to have sex with clients. All of them were skinny, he tells me. They saddened me, they did not eat, and were tied up wearing their typical outfits. What else could be expected from places like that, where some places even auction off virgins the first Fridays of each month.

In order to get the search warrant, Prado needs to get in line to see the judge to explain the situation. While standing in line, he observes some of the unfortunate circumstances of victims:

Al llegar, una enorme fila de gente me espera. Me dispongo a aguardar por mi turno, para hablar con el juez y explicarle que necesitamos entrar al bar. Delante de mí, una señora luce todavía golpeada. Reparte su tiempo entre llorar y mecer a su hijo de brazos, mientras otra niña pequeña se prende de su pierna. Quisiera fumar. Quisiera encender un cigarro y apagármelo en el brazo izquierdo y despertar de una maldita vez.

Oigo que la mujer ha sido golpeada por su marido. Atrás siguen una muchacha con sus padres. La abusaron. Recuerdo que es fin de mes. Que acaba de pasar un fin de semana largo.

When I arrive, a long line awaits me. I wait my turn to talk to the judge and explain that we need to enter the bar [to rescue the children]. In front of me, there is a woman who appears to be beaten. She splits her time between crying and rocking her son in her arms, while another young girl holds onto her leg. I want to smoke. I want to light a cigarrette and extinguish it on my left arm and wake up for once.

I hear a woman that was hit by her husband. Behind me, there is a girl with her parents. They abused her. I remember that it is the end of the month. It was a long weekend.

These stories have taken a toll on the lawyer:

Permanezco sin hablar. Cuando trabajas con el dolor ajeno, te empiezas a vaciar por dentro. Le dejas espacio al dolor, le permites habitarte. A mí me llena el dolor de doce niños abusados y veintidós niñas prostituidas. Son los casos que llevo investigados con solución. Los otros no me habitan, me succionan.

I remain without talking. When you work with the pain of others, you begin to feel empty on the inside. You leave space for the pain, you allow it to live inside you. I am filled with the pain of 12 abused children and 22 young girls prostituted. Those are the cases that I have been investigated with some solution. The other cases do not live inside me, they suck life out of me.

When he finally reaches the judge to request the search warrant, he is granted the order. However, he is disgusted by the comments made by the judge:

Me dice que me permitirá entrar.

Ya de pie, me despido y abro la puerta. Antes de salir, el juez me dice: “ese lugar es lindo, hay buenas muchachas allí. Si encuentra algún amigo mío dentro, ahí se lo encargo”. Se ríe.

Trato de sonreír pero más bien me sale una mueca de asco.

He tells me that I will be permitted to enter [the brothel].

On my feet, I say goodbye and open the door. Before leaving, the judge tells me, “that place is nice, there are fine girls there. If you see a friend of mine inside, take care of him.” He laughs.

I try to smile, but instead I have a look of revulsion.

As he leaves, he is reminded of the stark reality of these types of cases:

Afuera, la señora golpeada, calma a su hijo de brazos y la muchacha abusada llora con su madre.

Es su turno de hablar con el juez. Les toca explicarle su dolor. Mientras que para mí, al salir a la calle, una invasión de aire, humo y ruido me recuerdan que es lunes. Un día cualquiera, que se repetirá hasta la saciedad.

Subo al auto y voy por las niñas. Sé que hoy tampoco podré dormir.

Outside, the woman who was beaten, calms the child in her arms and the abused young girl cries with her mother.

It is their turn to talk with the judge and explain their pain. While for me, upon going out to the street, a rush of air, smoke, and noise reminds me that today is Monday. Any other day, that will be repeated until repletion.

I get in the car and go to rescue the girls. I know that I will not be able to sleep tonight either.

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