Following pressure over ongoing sexual exploitation of children in the city, Medellin’s mayor announced on Wednesday that a police crackdown has saved 16 children from sexual exploitation.
The children under the age of 14 were saved from child sex rings in the center of Medellin, said Mayor Anibal Gaviria.
Seven hotels and two bars were closed for facilitating sex with minors, Gaviria added.
The rescued minors have been passed to child protection services to ensure their medical well-being and provide a safe environment for them before attempting to initiate contact with the children’s families.
The raids took place around Plaza Botero, one of the main tourist attractions in Medellin during the day, but a safe haven for the child sex industry at night when most police abandon the city center.
Areas with high levels of child sex exploitation in Medellin
102 girls and one boy
38 girls and nine boys
Veracruz and Parque Berrio
27 girls and two boys
Plaza Roja Pinilla
El Tiempo report a rising trend of sex tourists visiting the square to ask for Pokemon, girls between the ages of 10 and 12 years old.
Medellin Mayor Anibal Gaviria stated that the premises linked to child sex exploitation would be closed permanently as a means of avoiding further criminal activity.
Gaviria added that the police activity was only going to increase in the future, and that authorities had identified 11 problem areas in Medellin alone.
The Medellin government has long been accused of neglect when it comes to child exploitation, but was embarrassed by a documentary on British television network Channel 4 in which the city was called “the world’s biggest brothel” and residents of the city’s poor neighborhoods explained how the exploitation of children was common in Medellin.
The documentary by Peruvian journalist Guillermo Galdos paints a grim picture of life in Medellin. The running theme throughout the documentary is that while life has improved for the majority of people since the lawlessness of the eighties and nineties drug wars, that the city is a dangerous place for young women who can often find themselves forced into the sex trade.
Shortly after, the city announced a new initiative between the governmental family welfare agency and the Medellin police authorities which saw the installation of CCTV security cameras and added police officers to the children and adolescents police unit in the city, to combat reportedly high levels of paid sex with underage sex workers.