Andrés Roemer, Mexican intellectual and founder of “Ciudad de Las Ideas” meeting, issued arrest warrants for sexual harassment, rape, and abuse

June 1, 2021 • 1:15 pm

I attended the Ciudad de Las Ideas conference twice in Puebla, Mexico (see here here, and here), which approximates a Mexican TED conference except that there is a lot more stuff besides talks, including entertainment, discussions, and, for the lucky participants, some nice tourism, food, the hospitality of wonderful locals, and the chance to rub elbows with an international lineup of notables.

The conference is run by Andrés Roemer, writer, entrepreneur, public intellectual, and former UNESCO ambassador. Actually, I should say “was” run, because I doubt it will ever be held again. The ugly facts are that Roemer has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by over sixty women. Before resigning from the honorary board of advisors, I read every bit of testimony I could, and the common elements of the accusations of the various women was so striking that I had no choice but to sever my ties with Roemer. Several other prominent people have also resigned, but they can speak for themselves. (My photo is gone now, but photos remain of people who have also resigned, so do not assume that a presence there reflects an unwillingness to resign.)

The story started on February 15 when a professional ballet dancer, Itzel Schnass, put her accusations in public—on YouTube. I don’t have a Spanish translation here, but I did at one time, and perhaps you can understand this:

The accusations of rape, sexual harassment and abuse against Roemer are now detailed in this Time Magazine article (click on screenshot below). I was told at the beginning of these accusations that, in Mexico, the cult of machismo is so strong that Roemer would never face jail, much less a trial or even public opprobrium, for what he allegedly did to these women. Thankfully, this has now changed. As Time reports (click on screenshot):

A brief summary of what’s transpired as one woman after another came forward:

Since [February 15], 36 women have publicly accused Andrés Roemer, leveling charges of sexual harassment, abuse and rape on social media and in the press. At least six have formally accused the 57-year-old before the Mexico City prosecutor’s office, Mexico City’s attorney general confirmed on May 24. In February, UNESCO stripped him of his Goodwill Ambassador title, and Columbia University, where he was a visiting scholar, cut ties with him. On May 5, amid reports that Roemer was in Israel, a Mexico City judge issued a warrant for his arrest for rape. His assets were frozen the same day. On May 21, Mexico City’s attorney general announced that a second warrant for Roemer’s arrest had been issued and that her office was preparing an extradition request from Israel. Roemer has denied the accusations. “I have never raped, assaulted, threatened or used any type of violence against any woman,” he said in a statement to Radio Formula on May 6. Roemer’s assistant did not make him available for comment for this story.

“Itzel Schnaas’ video changed everything,” says María Scherer, a journalist who started investigating rumors about abuse by Roemer years ago when, she says, it was still an open secret. Roemer’s alleged crimes are comparable in scope and style to those of Harvey Weinstein. Like the former film producer, Roemer’s power and status—cemented by friendships with the likes of former Mexican President Vicente Fox and billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pliego, both witnesses at his 2018 wedding—helped ensure his alleged victims’ silence. He also benefited from a legal system that practically guarantees impunity: according to one study, only 5% of sexual abuse or rape cases in Mexico end in a sentence. “It’s very hard to get proof like a video, medical evidence or something that proves the aggression,” says Viridiana Valgañón, a lawyer with Mexican women’s-rights organization Equis. “You come face to face with the machinery of patriarchal justice, because your word, as a female victim, is doubted at every turn.”

You can read about Roemer’s alleged modus operandi in the article, which, as I read one bit of testimony after another, showed that he’d hatched a nefarious plan for attacking these women. And although the accusers initially lacked hope given Mexican culture, the tide turned when a feminist group, the United Mexican Journalists, started naming Roemer on their tweets.

Roemer denied the allegations, but there were so many that appeared, including allegations of misconduct in the U.S., that neither the press nor the Mexican government could ignore it:

On Feb. 23, 2021, in an extremely rare move, the Mexico City prosecutor’s office opened an investigation ex officio into Roemer, based on the news reports of his alleged crimes. Finally, a legal path was open for the women to pursue Roemer. The next day, he deleted his Twitter account.

Romer went to Israel (I think “fled” is the appropriate word), where he faces an extradition request.  I can hardly think that Israel won’t grant it. What happens when he returns to Mexico for trial will show how seriously the government takes multiple accusations of sexual misconduct.  I cannot imagine he will not be tried.

I met Roemer several times, and of course there was no sign of his perfidy, but such things are not displayed publicly. Nor did I hear any rumors, but they were already circulating in samizdat.

I thank the brave women who came forward in a culture not friendly to such accusations, and to those women who allowed me to read their statements, as well as to the woman (you know who you are) who translated them into English for me and brought this matter to my attention.

Andres Roemer

7 thoughts on “Andrés Roemer, Mexican intellectual and founder of “Ciudad de Las Ideas” meeting, issued arrest warrants for sexual harassment, rape, and abuse

  1. Sounds like a really great guy. He should be right up there with D. Trump or Bill Cosby in the asshole hall of fame for those guys. Even Jeff Gaezt might say, hey I wasn’t that bad.

  2. Hopefully he’ll be tried and found guilty and serve time. Sounds like that’s a toss-up, but this kind of behavior by powerful men is at least coming to light. Brave women indeed. Hopefully you’ll keep us informed of Roemer’s fate.

  3. Brava to the ballerina Itzel Schnaas for having the stone gonads to come forward. If characters like Roemer can’t get laid on the basis of charm and wit and charisma, they don’t deserve to get laid at all. Of course, this kind of conduct isn’t really about getting laid, is it? It’s about exercising a certain kind of power for power’s sake, about the jollies some assholes get from causing women pain and misery and discomfort.

    1. Although different in degree, I think we all know people who are a bit like this guy. What I mean is that they seem … normal. Kind, funny, concerned about stuff. But when they get a women in their proximity and there is a power difference, they just can’t seem to not be a Lothario.
      One of my earliest such encounters was a popular professor in my department when I was an undergrad. There was what we would today call a “whisper network” about him, and it was certainly true!

      1. There is a big sexual assault scandal in our military right now and the military person responsible for distributing vaccine federally had to step down. I said out loud, “is every military man a sexual predator?” It is so disappointing to see this occur over and over.

  4. I wonder if it will occur to Mexico, or some not insignificant fraction of the population, to take offense at what it/they allege to be a cultural stereotyping of machismo. Or do they take some perverse sense of pride in machismo?

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