A secretary organizing the appointment. A driver who was going to look for the young woman at her house. A welcoming butler serving a glass of wine. An environment that looked the other way when the door to the room was closed. What was happening there was an open secret that broke out on February 15 with a series of complaints of sexual abuse against the Mexican writer and philanthropist Andrés Roemer. The communicator, who built a career based on multiple awards and the support of powerful friends, now faces an investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office and a score of accusations dating back three decades. With similar accounts, the victims claim to have arrived at the house deceived under the promise of a job offer. Three more women now join the complaints and tell this newspaper about the attacks they suffered at the hands of the cultural standard-bearer of Mexico.
The reputation of Andrés Roemer (Mexico City, 57 years old) is on the ground these days. His work merits positioned him as a natural ambassador for his country. He held positions as an official in four governments, advised presidents and became part of the National Human Rights Commission. In 2007, he founded the Ciudad de las Ideas, the most important conference festival in Mexico. That trajectory was his greatest ostentation. But while being applauded in public, it was whispered: If you are a young girl, stay away. Cinephile Marina Magro met him in 2007, when she was 21 years old. He was working at a cultural event in the Mexican capital when he came across him. “He asked me what I did and he told me that I was just looking for a girl [chica] like me for the City of Ideas ”, he tells by phone.
Magro, who is now 35 years old, gave him his contact and looked “forward” to the call. Working for the great cultural festival made him excited. Two days later Roemer invited him to his home, where he lived with his partner. The imposing house of the communicator in the Roma neighborhood left her “screened”. Upon entering, he remembers, they went to the terrace where I was waiting for him with a bottle of wine and caviar. “We started talking, I had a drink and when he poured me more I realized that he didn’t drink, but he insisted that I do so,” says Magro, who currently runs the cultural company La Vaca Independiente. “He was super flattering, he told me: ‘I love you, you’re perfect for this job,’ she says.
Her interest in cinema led Roemer to invite her to visit the basement, where he had his own movie theater set up, and to a library full of books on the seventh art. As Magro recalls, while she was searching the library, the writer began to talk to her about how much he liked to bathe in a tub, with wine, a book, and some massages. “At that he stopped talking and I heard a commotion. I turned around and he was behind me, with his pants unbuttoned and masturbating ”. The woman defended herself by yelling at him, hitting him and throwing things at the door to open it. “I got very crazy, I even broke his glasses,” she says, “I thought he was going to rape me, I couldn’t find another logical explanation for what I saw.” He left the house warning that he would go to report him, which unleashed the threats from the communicator. “He would call me and send me messages saying that I had looked for him and not to say anything or my career would be over.”
Years after the episode, Magro was chatting with a friend when she realized that both had experienced similar situations with the same man. “It was his mechanism: he had invited us to his house for a supposed job interview and he did the same to us,” says Jenny -fictitious name-. This woman, who prefers to remain anonymous out of fear, met him through mutual friends when she was 26 years old and was studying art history. In her case, she says, Roemer jumped on her and groped her in the basement. “I was sitting on the arm of the chair and he began to insinuate me, he approached me and I felt his erect penis on my thighs: I was paralyzed,” she recalls. “He came over me to the kisses until I fell on the couch, started like crazy to take it off and ran away.”
Jenny left the house in the Roma neighborhood and told her parents, her boyfriend and her acquaintances. That’s how she learned that she had, in addition to Magro, another friend who had been harassed by Roemer. “We were girls of the same age and he knew that we were very thirsty for work [trabajo], and took advantage. I felt that nothing was going to happen to him, ”says the woman, who has been working in the culture industry and the media for 15 years. The fear of giving his name is due to the fear that the complaints will end in nothing. The terrifying figures of the Mexican justice register that only 1% of crimes in the country are punished. “It’s Mexico, we grew up here. When you realize how those macabre universes of men with so much power are woven, you don’t even get involved ”, he adds.
A similar story lived JC, a 39-year-old woman who only wants to give her initials, also out of fear. The communicator took an appointment from her in 2006 under the promise of moving his contacts within the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) to help her do a master’s degree. At that time, JC was 24 years old and was a fellow at TV Azteca, where Roemer works as a television host. They arranged to meet at a restaurant, but he canceled and asked her to come to the house. Once inside the library, he put a book on the young woman’s lap and slid a hand between her legs underneath, the woman says. He took off her glasses, loosed her hair, took off her jacket, and lunged at her. “He took off his pants and got on top of me. I said to myself: why is this man on top of me? ”, He remembers. “I threw it and ran away.”
Ten years later, JC returned to Roemer’s house. She wanted to work in the City of Ideas and was convinced that she was partly to blame for what had happened. “I thought that I had not been able to control it because it was very young,” he says. The decade between the two visits had not changed the modus operandiIt had only sped it up. “Not a single minute had passed and he started a lot more aggressive than the other time. I don’t know if it was because nothing ever happened to him, but his behavior was much worse ”. After trying to lift her skirt, the woman scolded him and asked him to listen to her. The communicator offered her a job at the end of the meeting and she declined. “I told him that I preferred not to take it because I had not liked how he had behaved,” he recalls, “he replied that he had not done anything, that he had everything recorded because there were cameras in his house and he threatened me with the lawyers. This newspaper tried to contact Roemer to ask him about these accusations, but there was no response.
The testimonies of these women are now added to three others given by the dancer Itzel Schnaas, the journalist Monserrat Ortiz and the communicator Talia Margolis. In addition to about twenty who have done it anonymously through social networks. Roemer’s name had already appeared in March 2019, amid the Me Too outbreak in Mexico, in a long list of alleged abusers. Four anonymous complaints were then posted on Twitter with accounts similar to those made public this year. “The media lynching has been exaggerated,” the communicator reproached 10 days ago in conversation with this newspaper. “I offer, on behalf of many men, our ignorance on issues that we have unconsciously locked into,” he said.
The shock of the new complaints has pushed back the philanthropist, who has closed his Twitter account after denying the accusations. Unesco removed him from the position of Goodwill Ambassador and Columbia University removed him from the list of invited professors. Only TV Azteca, owned by businessman Ricardo Salinas Pliego -one of the most powerful men in Mexico-, has kept silent about the case. Despite the request of several employees, Salinas Pliego, co-founder of the Ciudad de las Ideas and owner of the ADN 40 channel, has kept Roemer’s Sunday program on the air. “It is humiliating for us that he continues to work there,” says Magro, “I don’t know what they expect to get him out.”
Subscribe here to newsletter of EL PAÍS México and receive all the informative keys of the current situation of this country
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.