February 16, 2010 in Nation/World

Adviser says he’s smuggling suspect

Ben Fox Associated Press
 

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – The man who served as legal adviser to 10 American missionaries jailed in Haiti on charges of child kidnapping acknowledged Monday that he is the suspect wanted in El Salvador on human smuggling accusations.

In a call from an unknown location, Jorge Puello told the Associated Press he was innocent of the accusations and that he and his Salvadoran wife had taken in young women from the Caribbean and Central America who had been abandoned by smugglers.

Salvadoran authorities want to prosecute Puello and his jailed wife for allegedly luring women and girls into prostitution with bogus offers of modeling jobs.

“I’m planning to go to El Salvador to tackle this problem,” Puello said in a telephone interview with the AP. “I am not afraid to face the music.”

Each new detail emerging about the past of the 32-year-old seems to add to the embarrassment and discomfort of the American missionaries that Puello volunteered to help, and who are still awaiting release from a Port-au-Prince jail.

On Monday, a Haitian prosecutor said a power outage delayed his printing of a recommendation to release the 10 Americans charged with child kidnapping. Because today is a national holiday, he doesn’t expect the judge to issue a decision until Wednesday morning.

The detention of the Americans comes amid concerns about a possible increase in human trafficking out of Haiti following the Jan. 12 earthquake. Guards at the frontier between Haiti and the Dominican Republic rescued 22 children, between 7 and 16 years old, over the past two days from smugglers, said Francisco Gil Ramirez, chief of the Dominican Special Border Security Corps. Six suspected traffickers, all Haitian, were taken into custody, he said.

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