The Case of Andrés Roemer: Mexico’s Harvey Weinstein

Andrés Roemer BELatina Latinx
Photo: Twitter.

Despite being a country with one of the most powerful feminist movements in Latin America, Mexico is one of the last to formally join the #MeToo movement. This time it has been the allegations of sexual harassment and violence against the famous communicator and writer Andrés Roemer, fueled by social media, which has made the Mexican government take action on the matter.

According to El País, the Mexico City Prosecutor’s Office has ordered the police to look for Roemer, who now lives in Jerusalem, to appear before a judge for the crime of rape.

Roemer is accused of raping one woman twice, but many others accuse him of sexual crimes to varying degrees. The Prosecutor’s Office, which closely follows the individual processes of the assaulted women, has eight open investigation files. They assured the process is to be carried out “with a gender perspective, differential, and specialized approach, as well as guaranteeing a new way to investigate the crimes, with special emphasis on justice for women,” they said in a statement. The case is being handled by the prosecutor María Isabel González Chávez, from the Sexual Crimes Unit, under the supervision of the Attorney General, Ernestina Godoy.

A Modus Operandi Followed in Lockstep

The first public complaint against Roemer was made by Itzel Schnaas, a 31-year-old professional dancer in Mexico City. Although Roemer’s conduct was “an open secret” in the intellectual and governmental spheres of power, as journalist María Scherer explained to TIME magazine, it was the video of Schnaas that went viral on social media that “changed everything.”

On Feb. 15, she posted a nearly seven-minute YouTube video saying with anger: “It turns out that I had barely been born when you started raping women and sowing fear to obtain their silence, you miserable a-hole,” she says in Spanish. “You ought to be scared of us. Because I am certain that many other women are going to add their accusations to this one.”

Since then, 36 women have publicly accused Andrés Roemer of sexual harassment, abuse, and rape on social media and in the press. At least six have formally accused Roemer before the prosecutor’s office.

For TIME, Roemer’s alleged crimes are “comparable in scope and style to those of Harvey Weinstein.” In the case of the Mexican communicator, his status as a public figure, bolstered by his close friendship with the likes of former Mexican President Vicente Fox and billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pliego, both witnesses at his 2018 wedding, gave him confidence that his abuses would not be brought to justice.

As the magazine continues, citing figures from investigative journalism outlets such as Animal Politico, according to one study, only 5% of sexual abuse or rape cases in Mexico end in a conviction.

“It’s very hard to get proof like a video, medical evidence, or something that proves the aggression,” said Viridiana Valgañón, a lawyer with Mexican women’s-rights organization Equis, to the magazine. “You come face to face with the machinery of patriarchal justice because your word, as a female victim, is doubted at every turn.”

From his position of power, and thanks to his public profile, Andrés Roemer would contact women — among journalists and artists — or take advantage of circumstances to invite them for coffee and discuss their professional future. The vast majority of the stories coincide in a change of plans, a chauffeur who takes the woman to Roemer’s mansion in Barrio Roma, a locked door, and the worst scenario imaginable.

A Renaissance Man?

Andrés Isaac Roemer Slomianski describes himself, like so many other intellectuals, through his academic resume. Roemer holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of California at Berkeley.

Author of sixteen books, the grandson of the famous Jewish conductor Ernesto Roemer became renowned for his summa cum laude degrees and his specialization in politics and cultural economics.

Roemer’s career describes a journey both bold and prolific, from the head of the Department of Econometric Analysis at the Ministry of Fisheries in the late 1980s to a member of the advisory board of the National Human Rights Commission and Mexico’s ambassador to UNESCO before being ousted in the wake of his abuse scandal.

However, it was his role as co-founder of the Ciudad de las Ideas Mentes Brillantes International Festival, “a celebration of human creativity and curiosity,” as its website says, that provided a stage for Roemer to rub shoulders with the most internationally recognized voices in culture while representing a platform for many professional women who wanted to break into the industry.

As TIME explained, the Festival of Brilliant Minds has been held almost every November since 2008 in Puebla, becoming a cultural touchstone that has pumped at least $17 million into the state since 2007.

Knowing all that was at stake in the face of the accusations, Roemer posted a video on networks defending his innocence and even attempting to falsely incriminate the defendants.

The result was the same as the Weinstein case: women’s anger and exhaustion were stronger. Organizations such as Nosotras Para Ellas and the collective Periodistas Unidas de México supported the victims. The Prosecutor’s Office listened, and now the days are counting down for justice to finally be served.