Latin America and the Caribbean

14 August 1995

By George Meek

RIO DE JANEIRO--Rio de Janeiro has gained international notoriety for violent crime, including massacres by police, and gang raids on beaches. The City's children and youth are often victims of this violence. Correspondent George Meek in Rio reports on a group that is working to help them.

Text: The eight-year-old organization is called the Brazilian Center for Defense of Children and Adolescents. Its current director is a dynamic lawyer named Cristina Leonardo. She says the Center, in downtown Rio, receives an average of 30 complaints every day.

Leonardo: Most of the complaints we receive concern missing children and violations of human rights by police invading the poorest communities. People there do not receive direct attention from the government. There is no center to defend them. They file complaints so we can be advocates for them, because they are afraid to go to the prosecutor's office.

Meek: Ms. Leonardo says her office works with a team of lawyers and social workers to investigate the complaints and serve as advocates for the young victims. She says some of the children are brtually exploited.

Leonardo: It was proved that there are Mafia-type rings for child prostitution, and even for trafficking in organs.

Meek: Ms. Leonardo says there has not been an actual conviction for trafficking in organs, but in one case a girl died under suspicious circumstances in a hospital, and when the body was turned over to her family for burial, her internal organs were missing.

The Director of the Brazilian Center for the Defense of Children and Adolescents says some of the kidnapped victims are taken far from Rio. One girl was found in the Northeast.

Leonardo: They enticed the girl and took her to Bahia. They addicted her to a medicinal herb, and were preparing her to be a drug courier. We were able to rescue her. She is receiving psychological treatment and returning to a normal life.

Meek: Ms. Leonardo syas that while the Center is working with an increasing load of new cases, it is still trying to obtain convictions of the p[olice who allegedly killed seven teenagers at Rio's Candelaría Church in 1993. Ms. Leonardo knew the victims personally, and will not rest until their murderers are behind bars.


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