Nuevo Laredo, Mexico -
The Spanish leader of a sect in Mexico who saw himself as the reincarnation of Christ is being investigated over claims children were forced into sex, an official said on Wednesday.
Mexican authorities broke up the cult, Defenders of Christ, during a raid on Saturday on a house near the US border in Nuevo Laredo city, where 14 foreigners, including Spaniard Ignacio Gonzalez de Arriba, and 10 Mexicans were found last week.
Gonzalez de Arriba was accused by former members of “promoting illegal sexual practices in which he forced minors to participate, and we are working on that,” a source in the prosecutor's office told AFP.
Another official said that leaders of the cult were being investigated for human trafficking.
The National Migration Institute had said on Monday that all of the cult's foreign members were detained amid accusations that they deprived people of their freedom while making them do forced labour and “pay tithes.”
While a statement from the institute named Jose Arenas Losanger of Venezuela as the sect's leader, the Support Network for Sect Victims, which filed a complaint to Mexican authorities in 2012, said he was Gonzalez de Arriba's deputy.
The network, a victims advocacy group, and a former cult member said that Gonzalez de Arriba forced women into sex slavery, forbade followers to bathe and made them eat raw animal parts such as heart, liver and tripe.
Followers were indoctrinated by watching hours of videos of the cult leader's teachings, men were encouraged to have several wives and women were forced into prostitution, said Myrna Garcia, an adviser to the network.
Women were “sex slaves, it was human trafficking,” Garcia said in an interview. “He would convince people that he was Jesus Christ.”
Men, meanwhile, were taught martial arts “so that they could cause harm to someone who may try to hurt their leader,” she said. Members who wanted to become “apostles” with privileges had to pay as much as $100 000.
A 40-year-old woman who left the sect a few years ago said women were forced to participate in orgies and fetch prostitutes for the cult's leader, in a house that was filthy and filled with pictures of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
“They broke you down, punished you by not letting you eat and denigrated you,” said the woman, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.
“The psychosis was so terrible that you believed all of it,” she added. “But then I thought, 'Christ can't be such a cruel person, screaming at people, forcing you to prostitute yourself.'“
Gonzalez de Arriba was against hygiene and would go many days without a bath, she said.
When authorities raided the house, the people inside were filthy and wore dirty clothes, migration official Carlos Alberto Franco Chavez said on Saturday.
The woman said Gonzalez de Arriba would urinate on flowers “because he said it would help them grow.”
“He forced us to eat animal organs like tripe, heart, liver - supposedly because raw organs gave you powers and energy,” the woman said. “When you're hungry, you eat what they put in front of you.
The foreign sect members included six Spaniards, two Brazilians, two Bolivians, two Venezuelans, one Argentine and one Ecuadoran. - Sapa-AFP