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Your victory!
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A year ago we launched a campaign to pressure authorities in Brazil to find Joel Cruz, the former mayor of Taiobeiras, who had fled justice after once again being accused of paying poor mothers to abuse their daughters.

Cruz had used his considerable power and wealth before to escape other charges of child abuse in the town, where his abuse of hundreds, perhaps thousands of young girls, had been an open secret for over three decades. You can read more about his case here.

Taiobeiras is a town in the region in the north of Minas state where we work. We knew this was a case we needed to get involved with, even if we didn't really hold out too much hope that this man - one of the most powerful people in the whole region - would finally be held accountable for his crimes.

When we asked you to start sending letters to Taiobeiras' police chief, asking for more to be done to find him, we imagined it would be more of a protest at the absence of justice than something which would actually achieve justice. More than 700 of you sent letters, and they eventually reached the highest police authority in the state, who assigned an investigator solely to track Cruz down. He was arrested in April this year.

On Monday Cruz was sentenced to 26 years, ten months and 24 days in jail - without a right to appeal.

The sentence was for just one of the girls he raped. In the coming months he will receive more jail terms for the other two cases. He was also condemned to cover all the court costs of his case - the money he had used to pay mothers to hand over their young daughters, and to buy his impunity, for so many years.

In a last ditch attempt to get off the hook, Cruz had also used his fortune to pay Taiobeiras voters to elect his nephew as the new mayor of the town. The courts are now hoping to nullify the result before he takes office next year.

We at Meninadança wept tears of joy when we heard the news. Not only for his victims over the years, many of whom we have met, some of whom are now mothers themselves, who never thought they would see justice done. But also because we had seen Brazilian authorities - from the police to the justice system - working together to defend the rights of those poor, powerless victims, against all our expectations and experience at the outset.

It has given us renewed hope, both in Brazil's justice system when people of principle are involved, and also in what other seemingly impossible things can be achieved when we, ordinary people all around the world, come together on behalf of the most vulnerable.

That's why this achievement is also yours. If you wrote your letter, you really did make this happen. The ramifications of what you did are immeasurable - both in the lives of hundreds of girls and women who were victims of Cruz, but also on a society which now knows that even the powerful cannot abuse a child and get away with it. The effects of this will be felt for years and will bring change. Thanks again for being a part of this, your victory.


We are full of praise for Taiobeira's public prosecutor Dr Andreia Nunes Duraes, who worked tirelessly and made sure every legal loophole was closed that Cruz could have used to destroy the case. Over the course of the year she expressed to us many times how anxious she was to see Cruz condemned before he died, on behalf of his many victims, and that she saw his condemnation as one of her life's most important achievements. If you would like to send Andreia a message thanking and encouraging her, please reply to this email and we'll pass them on.



 
 
 
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