Human traffickers took her daughter 12 years ago, and Susana Trimarco has been fighting ever since to get her back—and stop others from being taken.
María “Marita” Verón was 23 and living in the Argentine city of San Miguel de Tucumán when she vanished one April day in 2002. Twelve years later she’s still missing, and her mother, Susana Trimarco, has been waging an uphill, largely solitary battle against tremendous odds to recover her daughter and bring her back to safety.
Last week Trimarco’s efforts to help scores of children who have fallen victim to traffickers—but have since been saved—got a boost.
The local government in Tucumán donated an ex–military barracks to Trimarco’s María de los Angeles Foundation as a haven for victims of human trafficking. In a statement, Trimarco called it “a space to contain and care for the children of survivors of people trafficking, of women who are subject to prostitution, or who have been victims of any gender violence related crime.”
That comes on the heels of another recent victory: In December, a criminal court convicted 10 people of crimes relating to Verón’s disappearance, ranging from being “necessary participants” in the kidnapping and forced prostitution of the young woman to being conspirators in the “aggravated holding and concealment for the exercise of prostitution.”
The recent convictions overturned a 2012 acquittal of 13 defendants—a ruling that was met with widespread derision by human rights and legal advocates and even earned the sitting judges a reprimand from Argentina’s president, Christina Kirchner, who for several years has been an outspoken advocate and supporter of Trimarco’s. Sentencing for all 10 is expected sometime next month.
“The convictions helped people build a sense of community, of power, and showed them what advocacy looks like,” says Thema Bryant-Davis, an associate professor in psychology at Pepperdine University and an expert on modern-day slavery and human trafficking. “It also helps to reduce stigma and shame for survivors.”
There has been a growing awareness about trafficking across much of South America thanks to Trimarco’s efforts.