He was a famous writer, a visiting scholar at Columbia University, and a Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO. That is, until the former Mexican diplomat fled to Israel amid allegations of sexual harassment and rape by more than 50 women.
On Sunday, Israel announced that it had arrested Andrés Roemer, a former consul general to San Francisco who became the poster boy of the #MeToo movement in Mexico. His arrest comes two and a half years after sexual misconduct allegations against him from dozens of young women surfaced, and a Mexico City judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
It was the brazenness of Roemer’s alleged sexual conduct, and the elite circles in which he moved, that made his case so high profile in Mexico in 2021, and drew comparisons to that of movie producer Harvey Weinstein in the U.S. Dozens of young women detailed how he recruited them at the annual Festival of Brilliant Minds, a gathering point for Mexico’s upper class. Roemer rose to prominence as a founder and curator of the festival.
The snowball of accusations began after Itzel Schnaas, a professional ballet dancer, posted a seven-minute video on YouTube detailing how Roemer lured her in with promises to discuss an artistic collaboration. Hours before the arranged meeting, she said, he changed the location from a restaurant to his home. What she expected to be a professional meeting turned into an assault, she said. He insisted she drink an alcoholic beverage, commented on her “sexy” physique, and then stroked her legs and masturbated. He ended the meeting by pulling out a fistful of cash and telling her to arrive at their next meeting with a skirt purchased by him.
She posted the video in February 2021 in the hopes that it would get maximum attention before International Women’s Day on March 8, she told TIME magazine. The video quickly ricocheted around social media and dozens of women came forward with nearly identical accounts, some of them extending back more than a decade.
Talia Margolis, who works in communications, wrote in a tweet that she met Roemer at the festival. Around 2011, when she was 21, she ran into him at a restaurant and he invited her to his house to talk about her career. As she steered the conversation toward her career, he interrupted and said “what great tits you have,” she said. She said she told him she didn’t go to his house for a sexual encounter, and apologized if she had given him the wrong impression. He responded by asking if her pubic area was clean-shaven, she said. She fled his house humiliated, she wrote.
In a 2021 statement, Roemer denied all allegations against him. “I have never raped, assaulted, threatened, or used any type of violence against any woman.”
Mexican authorities said they have sought Roemer’s arrest since 2021, according to Reuters, while Israel said it didn’t receive the request until 2022. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Monday that Roemer will be extradited to Mexico to face charges of sex crimes, although it’s unclear when that will happen.
If he is extradited, Roemer could, like Weinstein, end up spending many years in prison. That would be a watershed moment in Mexico, a country with deeply embedded problems of machismo, violence against women and impunity.
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