Brave Thinkers 2011 November 2011

Lydia Cacho Ribeiro

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Journalist; author
Cancún, Mexico

Attacked and arrested for investigating a Mexican crime ring, an undeterred reporter goes after another syndicate.

In 1999, Lydia Cacho Ribeiro learned what it means to be an activist journalist in Mexico. In the bathroom of a bus station, as what she believes was retaliation for her journalism and advocacy for women, she says she was raped and beaten by a stranger and left for dead. Undeterred, she continued to agitate in newspaper columns and on the radio, and in 2005 published a book exposing a child-pornography ring lurking beneath the luxurious hedonism of Cancún, her home city.* Cacho accused Jean Succar Kuri, a prominent hotel magnate, of abusing more than 100 underage girls, and various politicians and businessmen of using their influence to protect him.

Cacho was accused of defamation by an associate of Kuri’s. Police officers threw her in a van, she claims, and drove her more than 20 hours from Cancún to Puebla, where her accuser was based. The charges never stuck. Still, in a country where some 40 journalists have been killed in the past five years, Cacho had ample reason to quiet down.

Brave Thinkers 2011She hasn’t. Last year, Cacho published an explosive new book exposing a sex-trafficking operation and again naming alleged participants. In June she received what she described as “very specific” threats against her life. She alerted the Mexican authorities—and then, unshaken in her commitment to exposing the thugs terrorizing her country, she alerted the press.


*The original version of this article stated that Cancún is Cacho's home state. Cancún is a city in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.


Image: Alexandre Meneghini/Associated Press

Nicole Allan is an Atlantic associate editor
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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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