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Brazil: Tracking child pornographers over Internet

Publish Date: 10 Jan 2005

Source: EFE News Service
Brazilians Tracking Child Pornographers Over Internet

EFE NEWS SERVICE: Brazilian authorities say a big Internet flea-market site was used by purveyors and buyers of child pornography and are seeking warrants to try to track down the criminals through cyberspace.

The site in question is called MercadoLibre, the biggest of its type in South America and one where the vast majority of the goods offered and bought are legitimate.

"There are strong indications of pedophilia in the ads," Prosecutor of the Republic Sergio Suiama told the weekly magazine Epoca.

The official, coordinator of the Task Force to Combat Pedophilia in Sao Paulo, said he would ask the courts to grant access to the personal information of sellers and buyers on the MercadoLibre site.

The government plans to release guidelines Monday for a campaign to deal with child prostitution during the Southern Hemisphere summer, when large numbers of foreigners visit Brazil, especially the country's beach resorts.

Non-governmental organizations estimate that some 100,000 minors between the ages of 13 and 16 sell themselves for money in Brazil.

Mauro Fausetti, an attorney for MercadoLibre, said his client would cooperate with authorities, adding that the offers of child pornography and images accompanying them were withdrawn from the site as soon as the irregularities were detected.

In late 2004, the e-commerce site, which handles transactions totaling some $250 million a year and covering a broad range of goods, was used to offer sexually explicit photographs of children, according to Epoca.

At least three different compact discs apparently produced by Brazilians contained the explicit images and were sold for between 7.50 reais and 13 reais (approximately $2.80 and $4.80) each.

One of the sellers said his CD contained some 13,000 images of girls losing their virginity. Another vendor said his products contained images of parents having sex with their children.

The ads, which registered some 12,000 hits on the site and resulted in about 20 sales, were discovered by law-enforcement agents, who determined that underage children appeared in some of them.

Those involved in the child-pornography businesses could face charges of pedophilia and procuring for prostitution, crimes that carry prison terms of 4-10 years in Brazil.

Child prostitution has become a growing problem in Brazil, where about one-third of the population lives in poverty and crime is rampant.

The government has announced several initiatives to combat child prostitution and pornography in the wake of scandals and reports of foreigners who plan their vacations around the sexual exploitation of girls and boys.

A scandal last September involved Federal District Legislative Chamber head Benicio Tavares, who was accused of having sexual relations with young girls.

Tavares was accused of participating - along with other politicians and legislators - in an orgy Sept. 17-19 on a yacht on the Amazon region's Negro River.

Police said that 17 women, including several minors, were hired in Manaus, the capital of the northern state of Amazonas, to accompany the passengers on board the boat.

Three of the young girls told investigators that Tavares was one of the men with whom they, and other women, had sexual relations while on the cruise.

Tavares admitted going on the trip, but he denied that any of the women were on board.

Brazil launched a campaign against sexual tourism last month and said it would organize a regional effort to stem the practice.

During a meeting with non-governmental organizations from around the world, Tourism Minister Walfrido Mares Guia pledged to coordinate the actions of South American nations against sexual tourism and underage prostitution.

Brazil's current campaign includes warning tourists on flights headed to the country that individuals convicted of sexually exploiting minors can face long prison sentences.

Last October, Brazilian authorities arrested three Germans and four Italians in a police operation targeting a prostitution ring that used the Internet to promote sexual tourism in a northeastern coastal town.

The operation's principal target was a German named Oliver Frank Gunther, whom police accused of managing the Brazil-Club, an Internet site on which visitors could select the prostitute with whom they would spend time in Fortaleza, the capital of the northeastern province of Ceara.

Authorities alleged that some of the prostitutes were minors.

U.S. State Department figures indicate that some 2 million children from developing countries are exploited by adults from industrialized nations who engage in sexual tourism, much of it these days arranged via Internet.

© 2005 EFE News Service