On Monday, actress Allison Mack of “Smallville” fame pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy for her alleged role in recruiting women as “sex slaves” for the notorious cult, NXIVM. And although you may have already heard of NXIVM due to the headline-making allegations made against it last year, what you may not know is that the NXIVM cult was especially popular within circles of the Mexican elite, including Ana Cristina Fox, daughter of former Mexican president Vicente Fox
NXIVM was founded in 1998 by Keith Raniere, and was initially created as a multi-lateral-marketing scheme that aimed to teach its members self-improvement tools that would help people “experience more joy in their lives.” However, as Raniere amassed an increasingly devoted following, NXIVM’s practices became more unorthodox.
According to former members, NXIVM followers were branded with Raniere’s initials and forced to partake in starvation diets in order to please Raniere.
With the help of female recruiters such as actress Allison Mack and co-founder Nancy Salzman, NXIVM developed a secret sect within the organization called “DOS” that brainwashed its female members and forced them into sex-slave relationships with Raniere.
NXIVM became an especially big hit among the Mexican elite, successfully recruiting four children of former Presidents of Mexico, including Ana Cristina Fox, daughter of former Mexican president Vicente Fox.
According to the explosive book written by Catherine Oxenberg, “Captive: A Mother’s Crusade to Save Her Daughter From a Terrifying Cult”, Raniere targeted wealthy and powerful individuals to join his cult knowing that he could exert more influence through having a roster of rich members.
One of NXIVM’s most devoted members was Emiliano Salinas, the son of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas. Salinas was highly involved in NXIVM’s “Executive Success Programs”, or “ESPs”–which were a series of lectures and conferences aimed at self-improvement. Salinas, became a particular devotee to Raniere, joining the Executive Board of Directors in 2009 and eventually heading up the Mexican branch of the organization. Through Salinas, NXIVM was able to recruit other members of powerful political families, like Ana Cristina Fox, daughter of former Mexican president Vicente Fox and Federico de la Madrid, son of former President Miguel de la Madrid.
Through Salinas, Raniere planned to infiltrate the Mexican government.
According to Oxenberg’s book “Captive”, Raniere was planning on using his power over Salinas to eventually infiltrate the Mexican government from its highest office. The alleged plan was to “get [Salinas] into office in Mexico’s next Presidential election” so that NXIVM would have power on the world’s political stage”. After Salinas took office, Rainiere would be able to control him like a “puppet” in order to “rule over Mexico”.
In late 2017, former devotees of the DOS sect within NXIVM took their accusations public, prompting an investigation into the organization. In early 2018, Raniere was arrested in Mexico on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor. According to Oxenberg, Raniere was deported instead of extradited because authorities worried that the Salinas family would “use their government ties to block extradition”. Shortly after Raniere’s arrest, Allison Mack was arrested on similar charges. Both are scheduled to be tried in federal court on April 29.
Since then, Emiliano Salinas has reportedly cut all ties with the organization.
With the various cases of murdered Latina teens flooding news headlines in recent months, there’s no doubt our country has a crisis on its hands. Violence against women remains a prominent issue in the United States. Often times, particularly in today’s political climate where immigrants and Latinos are a target, Latinas often find themselves wrapped up in attacks unleashed by violent partners and bureaucratic red tape.
The latest story of one such incident includes a particularly violent headline from over the weekend.
On Saturday, a man allegedly shot a 10-month-old baby in the head after the child’s mom rejected him at a party in Fresno, Calif.
According to the Fresno Police Department, Marcos Antonio Echartea, 23, fanatically followed Deziree Menagh, 18, at a party.
The two had met a week prior, and when he saw her at the gathering, he hounded her every move. Echartea turned down the man’s advances, resisting him when he tried to force her on his lap and leaving the party early to get away from him.
“It was very apparent that he wanted a relationship with her,” Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said at a news conference Sunday, according to BuzzFeed News.
Menagh left the party with her daughter in the car of a male friend. As the three of them drove off, they stopped while making a U-turn about a block away, when Echartea appeared walking toward them. Near the car, the man reportedly fired three shots into the driver’s side window. The blasts hit Fayth in the side of her head as she sat on her mother’s lap in the passenger seat.
“We have every reason to believe that Marcus knew that baby Fayth was in that vehicle when he fired three rounds into that vehicle,” Dyer said.
The driver rushed to the hospital and called the police. On the phone, a dispatcher informed him there were officers nearby who could care for the baby as they waited for an ambulance.
The baby remains in the hospital, where she is in critical condition after doctors pulled bullet fragments from her head.
“We are hoping and praying that baby Fayth is able to survive this injury, as well as make a full recovery,” Dyer said. “I know the parents are broken. They’re hurting.”
Echartea, who was arrested at his house and charged with three counts of attempted murder, is also a suspect in a similar child shooting “over a female.” On the night of May 27, the man visited the home of his ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend and fired his gun numerous times inside. During his attack, he almost hit a one-year-old baby.
“It’s very apparent that Marcos Echartea has no regard for human life, even a baby,” Dyer said.
The man is currently facing additional felony counts, including assault with a deadly weapon, related to the previous shooting as well.
The premiere of Netflix’s new limited series, “When They See Us,” has sparked outrage over the injustices surrounding a heinous crime and spectacularly mishandled case fraught with racism. The series — directed by Ava Duvernay — tells the story of five young Black and brown men who were framed for a horrendous crime. Due to the incompetence and bigotry of the NYPD and New York District Attorney’s Office, the Central Park 5 lost their freedom and their childhoods.
In 1989, the group of kids was picked up by the NYPD as persons of interest in an assault and rape in Central Park. For 24 hours, the boys were interrogated without the presence of parents or lawyers. The detectives conducting the interviews used harsh and unethical questioning and tactics to coerce confessions from the group. Behind closed doors, they were beaten and denied food, water, and sleep. Non-surprisingly, by the end of their interrogations, the boys were willing to say anything to go home.
That is how the Central Park 5 found themselves falsely accused of the grisly attack on jogger, Trisha Meili.
The Central Park 5 were granted two separate trials for the rape and assault of Mieli but their fates were the same. Their trials showed that the defense had several conflicting timelines. Also, the boys were unable to recall details of the attack. Their taped confessions appeared forced and the physical evidence tied to the case didn’t match any of the defendants.
Still — even with this incredible lack of evidence — the five boys were found guilty. Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise would go on to each serve between 6-12 years in prison.
Throughout their years in prison, the five faced degrading treatment and targeted harassment for their perceived crime. Despite the convictions, their communities continued to fight for their freedom. The boys’ families were also tormented and singled out because of the criminal attention.
Despite all this, the Central Park 5 maintained that they were guilt-free during the entire ordeal. They were eventually completely exonerated. However, when their names were finally cleared, it wasn’t a police breakthrough that confirmed their innocence.
They were freed because the person who attacked Meili in Central Park was already in prison.
Matias Reyes was 17 when he attacked Meili in Central Park. Though she has become his best-known victim, she is only one in a string of attacks that started in 1988. One of these attacks was just two days before the Central Park assault. After the Apri 1989 rape of Meili, Reyes attacked five other women in the Upper East Side.
Reyes attacked nine women in total and all but one was raped. Additionally, all of his victims were beaten or sliced with a knife during the attacks. Some of the women were even stabbed in the eyes. This was Reyes’ attempt to keep his victims from recognizing him later.
The series of violent offenses had been noticed by the local news. However, the media was quick to move on to the next big crime. During this time, New York was a hotbed of criminal activity. Rape especially was rampant that year. Reyes’ attacks were simply seen as more of the same criminal activity that the city had come to expect.
While all of these attacks are atrocious — made even worse by the lack of attention they’ve received — one actually resulted in two murders.
Lourdes Gonzalez was a mother of three living in the Upper West Side with her boyfriend, Antonio Serrano. The two had plans to leave New York with their blended family to find some place that offered more green spaces than Central Park. Their youngest, Amanda, was only three-months-old but Gonzalez had discovered that she was pregnant yet again.
On the night of June 13, 1989, she shared the good news and the family celebrated. The next day, their lives would forever be changed by Reyes’ brutality.
That day, Gonzalez was alone in their apartment with her three kids, Amanda and the couple’s six-year-old sons, Tony and Carlitos. Serrano — the superintendent of their building — was out for the day. While Gonzalez was in the kitchen with Baby Amanda, someone knocked on the front door.
At Gonzalez’s request, Tony went to check who was there. It was a young Latino man who immediately asked if the building super was at home. When Tony responded in the negative, the man — now revealed to be Matias Reyes — pushed pass the little boy and entered the basement apartment. It’s then that Gonzalez saw the intruder.
Aware of what was going to happen, Gonzalez passed her baby to her boys and told them to go the bedroom and lock the door behind them.
Though they were just in the next room, the children were spared the torment of hearing their mother’s attack. However, they did hear the threat Reyes leveled at Gonzalez before assaulting her.
“I’ll take your eyes or your kids,” Tony — now an adult — recalls the words his mother’s attacker said that day.
Once alone, Reyes overpowered Gonzalez. He used one of her own kitchen knives to stab the young mother nine times in her chest and abdomen. Like other victims, she was also sliced on her face. Sometime during the brutal assault, he raped her.
It only took minutes, but once it was over, both Gonzalez and the room were covered in blood. That’s how her children found her when they left their hiding spot. Despite all the blood, Gonzalez was already on the phone, frantically calling 911. The boys carefully hid their baby sister in the bedroom closet and then ran to the neighbors for help.
Gonzalez was found outside her apartment, collapsed on her way to the elevator. She deliriously repeated to her rescuers to get her baby from the room. The mother would only live another few hours before she would succumb to her wounds.
Gonzalez and her unborn child were the only ones to lose their lives during Reyes’ ruthless rampage.
After attacking the ninth woman, Reyes was finally captured in August of 1989. At first, he didn’t mention the assault on Gonzalez but did after further interrogation. The crimes he was convicted of didn’t include every offense during his reign of terror but it did land him in prison for life.
Reyes wouldn’t go on to admit to the Central Park assault until 2001. He confessed of his own free will because he claimed it was the, “right thing to do.” Reyes was not tried for Gonzalez’s attack and received no extra sentence for the deaths he caused.
Knowing what we know now, we can’t help but think about the detectives who investigated the Central Park assault. If they had connected that case to Reyes’ previous ones, the Central Park 5 would not have been suspects. If they focused on the correct narrative, Gonzalez and her unborn child wouldn’t have lost their lives. Had they conducted a non-bias investigation, even after the Gonzalez case, they could have stopped other attacks.
These detectives could have spared the Central Park 5 years of imprisonment.
The racist push of the New York District Attorney’s Office to incriminate the five brown and Black boys should never be forgotten. Not only did their activities take childhoods away from the five boys, their inactivity terrorized eight other women. Due to their short sidedness, Tony, Carlitos and Amanda grew up without their mother. Lourdes and her baby are gone because of their disgraceful misdirection.
The account of Gonzale and the other women victimized by Reyes shouldn’t replace the story of Trisha Meili or the Central Park 5. Instead, they should be remembered side-by-side. They should stand as an example of a racist institution that operates with way too much unchecked power and the disservice it does to marginalized communities.
There isn’t anything we can do to erase the pain felt by the Central Park 5, Gonzalez, Meili or any of the victims. However, we can make sure this sort of bigotry and ineptitude never goes unchecked again.
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