Argentina’s ‘Mother Courage’ scores victory against sex trade mafias

Susana Trimarco vows to keep fighting after 10 convicted of pushing her daughter into prostitution

Susana Trimarco in Madrid in 2010.
Susana Trimarco in Madrid in 2010.CRISTÓBAL MANUEL

Susana Trimarco, a national heroine in Argentina for her relentless search for her missing daughter, has just scored a major legal victory against the people who forced ‘Marita’ into the sex trade in 2002.

Her daughter, María Verón, who was 23 at the time of her disappearance, remains missing, but a court has just convicted 10 people to between 10 and 22 years in prison for abducting her and forcing her into prostitution.

It has been a 12-year struggle, during which time Susana Trimarco went as far as posing as a prostitute herself in order to infiltrate the sex mafias and find out what happened to her daughter. Her work landed 13 people in court, but the first trial acquitted all of the accused. Now, “justice has been done,” said Trimarco.

“I was expecting a lot more, but will settle for this. I don’t mean that I will not keep fighting, though. We will keep at it until the day we know what they did with Marita [...]. There is a before and an after with this ruling. After a 12-year fight, we are managing to get something done.”

In December 2002, after a 10-month trial with more than 100 witnesses, the Penal Court of Tucumán had unanimously acquitted the 13 suspects, who hugged each other as the witnesses insulted the judges and one of Trimarco’s lawyers stated that “this is a case of corruption.”

But Trimarco did not shed a single tear that day.

“I am stronger than ever. I am a very cold person because they made me that way”

“I am stronger than ever. I am a very cold person because they made me that way. Mica [her grand-daughter Micaela, now 15, the daughter of Marita Verón] was raised inside courthouses. I will not stop until these individuals are tried. I am very calm about everything I have done and all the girls I have rescued. This ends here, but tomorrow a new fight begins.”

Last December, the Supreme Court of Tucumán partially revoked that initial ruling by confirming two acquittals, ending all procedures against one suspect who has since died, and establishing that the remaining 10 had to be tried again.

On Tuesday of this week, three judges found all 10 guilty.

“I have not found Marita, but justice has been done here for all those girls who these people hurt so very much, and who continue to live in fear,” said Trimarco after hearing the decision.

‘Mother Courage,’ as she is popularly known in Argentina, said she hoped that the convicted individuals would “open their hearts” and tell her where her daughter is. “It cannot be, for a person to appropriate another person like this and make her disappear. Everyone sitting on that dock knows it.”

Trimarco also expressed gratitude for Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who has publicly and privately expressed support for Trimarco’s quest. “Cristina told me that we cannot remain passive, that we have to keep fighting and give Mica [her grand-daughter] some answers. Cristina told me she was with me as a mother, not as a president. From mother to mother, she is an excellent woman and I feel that she is with me.”

In 2007 the US government granted Trimarco the International Women of Courage Award. That year she created the María de los Ángeles Foundation to help pull prostitutes off the streets. Three years later, her husband Daniel Verón passed away following a long depression triggered by Marita’s disappearance. He often told his wife not to take on the brothel mafias, but Susana paid no heed. Her quest has inspired a TV series.

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