No Touching Ground painted a moving portrait of Susana Trimarco in downtown Buenos Aires on Friday. The brave mother who has survived two murder attempts, death threats and having her house burnt down, has led a 10-year search to find her missing daughter Marita (23) who was kidnapped by a human trafficking ring in Tucumán in 2002 and forced into prostitution in the nearby city of La Rioja.
Suspecting that the police and government officials were putting obstacles in the way of her investigation, Trimarco decided to go after her daughter on her own. She began dressing up as a prostitute and visiting bars in La Rioja that doubled as brothels. She got the phone numbers of people she suspected of being involved in trafficking and called them saying she wanted to buy girls. In June 2002, she set up a meeting with a female trafficker and gained access to a safe house where 12 girls were being held hostage and were being sold for US$900 each.
In October 2002, when Trimarco and three Chilean journalists went undercover in La Rioja, men with ties to the brothels pursued and shot at them. In operations like these, Trimarco continued to find and rescue trafficked girls. Prostitution is not illegal in Argentina but in 2008, largely because of Trimarco’s lobbying efforts, Argentina made human trafficking a federal crime. In more than a decade of work, Trimarco has personally rescued more than 150 trafficked girls, some as young as 12, and helped return them to their families.
In February 2012, 13 people, including former police officers, were put on trial for allegedly kidnapping Marita and holding her as a sex slave in a family-run operation of illegal brothels. Last month Marita’s alleged kidnappers, were acquitted by a provincial court in Tucumán who ruled that there was no way to prove that she had been kidnapped and forced into a prostitution ring.
After the verdict, protests took place all over Argentina accusing the three judges involved in the case of corruption. Personal data, addresses, telephone and bank statements of the judges were also published anonymously on the internet and windows were smashed in the Casa de Tucumán building in Buenos Aires.