In Brazil, it’s called a child development center.
It’s a kind of a church for the impoverished and marginalized.
But that’s exactly what’s happened to the Marta Development Center in Brazil’s capital, Sao Paulo, where Marta’s founder, Maria Marta, has been under criminal investigation since 2013 for allegedly selling hundreds of children and teenagers to a private company.
It was only last year that Brazil’s Supreme Court decided to drop the charges against Marta and found her not guilty of any crimes.
The Martas have been forced to live in fear.
“It’s a very difficult situation for us, for us as a family, because we have lost a lot of our children,” Marta told Buzzfeed News in a recent interview.
Marta was arrested in 2016 by the Federal Police in the southern state of São Paulo, the last of the nine children the center has been charged with trafficking.
According to the Federal Justice Ministry, the children in question were sold to private companies for about $2,000 each.
But Marta said she only sold them for $1,000 to $2 and that she only did so with a parent’s permission.
The Federal Police arrested Marta in the same state and brought her to the Capital Brasilia.
They charged her with trafficking, and she is currently facing three separate criminal cases in the capital.
The first criminal case against her is the most serious, but the second charges relate to her being involved in a similar scheme in the city of Soweto, where she allegedly took hundreds of kids from their homes to work as maids and prostitutes.
But in both cases, she was never charged with any crime.
“We were always under the impression that we were not accused of anything, but that has changed,” Martas mother, Mariana, told Buzzkill.
“Now we have a very, very, serious accusation against us.”
The first accusation against Martas was brought against her in 2016 after the Brazilian Supreme Court found her guilty of trafficking.
A second case against Martis came in 2017, when the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in São Paolo and the Federal District Court in Rio de Janeiro filed criminal charges against her.
The criminal cases against Martae focused on her alleged involvement in a criminal organization known as the Pachamama (for “the pachamamas” in Portuguese), a group of traffickers who preyed on children in Soweta.
According in the Brazilian Justice Ministry’s website, the Pacamama “sales children on a daily basis in the form of clothes, food, and toys.”
In an interview with Buzzkill, Marta explained that her business model involved the pachamsas trafficking children from poor families to other impoverished families in order to pay their debts.
Martas father, Martos uncle, was also a trafficker in Sowa.
In the interview, Martas stated that he had been working for the pakamsas in Soa since 2009.
“The way we sell children is that they’re kidnapped,” he said.
“They’re sold into slavery.
We are responsible for all the money that goes into the paksas.
They sell them.”
In a statement to Buzzkill after the charges were dropped, the Federal Attorney General’s Office said that the cases against the two cases were connected to the same trafficking organization and that the Federal Prosecutors office would pursue all possible legal actions against Martam.
But it added that “no information is available that establishes the involvement of anyone in this group.”
“We don’t have any evidence that anyone in the group has committed any crimes or that anyone involved in the Pakamama organization has been convicted of any crime,” the statement added.
Martia, who has a 3-year-old son, was able to remain in Brazil despite the charges, but her son’s family was not able to afford the legal fees for her to be released.
“There’s a lot we don’t know,” Marti said.
In December 2017, the Brazilian government passed a law that gives authorities the authority to detain individuals suspected of trafficking and “dispute the legitimacy of the organization or person involved.”
The law does not specify who can be held in detention, but it allows the government to detain anyone who is found to be responsible for trafficking children.
However, the law has not been implemented.
In August 2018, the National Commission for Missing Children and Youth in Brazil announced that the National Police Commission had decided to stop arresting people suspected of human trafficking.
In September 2018, Brazilian President Michel Temer promised to close the Pacheamama trafficking organization.
The Brazilian Justice Minister announced that in 2020, the Justice Department will be tasked with “investigating the allegations and cases of the Papeamama, who are facing criminal charges.”
In February 2019, the Martas were ordered to pay a $3 million fine by the Brazilian Attorney General and the São Tomé and Príncipe Federal District Courts