Medellin has one facade: modern revitalized urban center and the birth place of Fernando Botero, the artist who paints and sculpts fat people and fat animals. Then there is the Medellin of the comunas and the gangs, of drugs, hired killers and the legacy of Pablo Escobar.
The drug kingpin was known to hire men to bring him virgins. The deceiving and entrapment of girls continues in Medellin’s underworld. Young girls, most between 10 and 15, are lured with offers of brand-name clothing and meals at luxury restaurants, which include top of the range whisky and cocaine, according to Luis Pardo, Director of NGO Corporacion Consultoria de Conflicto Urabano (C3).
The girls’ photos then appear in brochures, or on online catalogues where their virginity is auctioned off to the highest bidder – mostly drug barons and foreign sex tourists. Customers are passed a secret PIN number, which grants them access to the auction website where they can bid on the girls.
The biggest clients are sex tourism networks, many of them run by foreigners, who illegally guide tourists through Medellin’s brothels and red-light zones. Colombian women have an international reputation for beauty which has led to “sexual tourism packages.” Foreign tourists are willing to pay as much as US $3000 for a “paisita.” Locals call the girls selected for foreigners “pokemones.” They are usually between 10 and 12 years old and fetch the highest price.
Girls also end up in orgies thrown by the drug lords and mafia kingpins.
In downtown Medellin alone, there are at least 20 motels where children are prostituted.
Colombia has lax laws on prostitution: it is legal if the women are 18 or over and no intermediaries are involved.
Minors often volunteer to join a gang, which, police say, makes the prostitution of minors difficult to monitor. As authorities take no control, the gangs become the true authorities in the comunas. If the girls’ families accept the overtures of the gangs, they receive payment. If they refuse, they are threatened into leaving their homes, or killed for not co-operating. Many of the girls come from families in extreme poverty and many suffer domestic abuse.