Photos of Dania Suarez, the 24-year-old prostitute who reportedly blew the lid off the Secret Service prostitution scandal, were first published in the New York Daily News on Thursday. The photos show Suarez in bikinis and tight jeans, posing cheekily for the camera. In one photo, she is holding her hand on her hip while wearing a colorful bikini posing into front of a kayak. In another photo, she is leaning on a chair showing off tight jeans and stiletto heels.
Further details were revealed about the escort, as well. Suarez is a single mother with a 9-year-old son. She has a dog, a pug named Valentino. Her neighbors had no idea she was working as a prostitute in the Colombian district of Cartagena.
"I asked her if she worked, she said no," Dania Suarez's neighbor, Maria Quintero, told the NY Daily News. "I asked her if her boyfriend helped her. She said no. Then it hit me." Suarez rents a hacienda-style home for approximately $600 per month in the community.
Another neighbor said that Suarez seemed to live a glamorous life out on the town but mainly kept to herself while at home.
"She always left late at night. She traveled a lot, to fancy destinations," Maria Cubides told the NY Daily News. "She never brought guys home. She kept to herself. I'm surprised she did all that noise to get her money. She's not that kind of person."
Another neighbor, Dona Betty, said Suarez told people she working as a dancer. "She showed up early in the morning, with her heels on her hands," she said. "We suspected, but she keeps to herself. She is a good mother."
Dania Suarez via Twitter
The Secret Service agent involved with Suarez was supposed to pay her $800 for her services. After he offered her a measly $30 (ultimately agreeing on $225, according to The New York Post) upon her exit from the Hotel Caribe, Suarez raised international hell.
Prostitution is legal in Colombia in designated "tolerance zones," according to the 2008 Human Rights Report published by the U.S. Department of State.However, enforcement of the restriction to these zones is difficult to maintain. Such lax prostitution laws are making Colombia a haven for sex tourism. The Human Rights Reports states that prostitution in Colombia is exacerbated by both poverty and internal displacement.
Sex workers can be found walking around the Cartagena region, in the streets, the bars, the hotels and the private clubs, looking for ready and willing customers. The New York Times reported that these women can charge $300 or more to go out with the customers.
Some prostitutes think that the recent Secret Service scandal will bring more customers to their city. "Now we are world-class, with the president's bodyguards coming to try out Colombian girls," one freelance prostitute who works the streets of Cartagena told The NY Times. She moved from her hometown, Cali, because she preferred the "well-heeled foreign clients" in Cartagena.
However, prostitution remains a dangerous business.
In its 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report, the State Department found that Colombia is one of the Western Hemisphere's "major source countries for women and girls trafficked abroad for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation."
Despite the legality of prostitution in Colombia, solicitation of sex by Secret Service agents is considered inappropriate behavior.
The photos of Dania Suarez have brought the entire Secret Service prostitution scandal to a new level, giving a face to the heated controversy surrounding the issue. The photos were followed up by the disclosure of two names of supervising agents - David Chaney and Greg Stokes. Chaney was forced to retire and Stokes got fired, according to The Post.
Chaney's personal Facebook photos were subsequently published, one of which was from 2008, while he guarded Sarah Palin during her run as GOP vice president. The photo shows Chaney standing behind Palin, with the caption: "I was really checking her out, if you know what i mean."
Palin responded to the incident on FOX News, saying it is "a symptom of government run amok."
"It's like, who's minding the store around here?" Palin told FOX. "The president, for one, he better be wary, there, of when Secret Service is accompanying his family on vacation. They may be checking out the first lady instead of guarding her."
The entire culture of the U.S. Secret Service Agency is currently under scrutiny. This Secret Service scandal in Colombia might not be as unorthodox as it may sound.
The Wall Street Journal reported about a motto amongst current and formal officials in the Secret Service known as "wheels up, rings off."
"According to current and former officials, 'wheels up, rings off,' has long been a running joke among men in the agency, meaning that for some agents, wedding rings were optional after the plane took off, particularly for foreign travel assignments," wrote The Journal's Laura Meckler and Keith Johnson.
Journalist and commentator Kiri Blakeley asked in a blog post Tuesday why there are not more female Secret Service agents.
"The reason there should be more is simple: Women don't get into trouble the way men do," she wrote. "Seriously, can you imagine a bunch of Secret Service gals going on a trip to Colombia, where they are scheduled to secure the environment for their boss, who happens to be, oh, the most powerful man in the world, and then hiring a bunch of call guys?" she asked. Females make up about a quarter of the Secret Service Agency's 6,913 employees in 2010, according to an Equal Opportunity Employment Commission report .
Jeffrey Robinson, who wrote "Standing Next to History: An Agent's Life Inside the Secret Service," with former senior special agent Joseph Petro, said the Secret Service scandal boils down to "alcohol, mixed with testosterone and a dash of hubris, and that's a nasty combination," according to CNN.
However, Robinson added that bad behavior by the boys while they are away from home is not a rarity. "But they are idiots, they know what they are supposed to do and how they are supposed to behave," he added of the 11 agents reportedly involved, some of whom are married.
Dania Suarez via Twitter User @EmisorAtlantic
Is the macho-culture of this organization to blame?
Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post reporter and author of "In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect," also discussed the role of women in the Secret Service.
"They [Women] are involved in everything. There's not a problem with women at all. I just don't think there's any issue here at all," he told CNN. Insinuations that a pervasive macho culture exists within the service is what fueled the prostitution scandal are wrong, added Kessler.
"When women first started there was this issue, but that's a long time ago. Obviously this episode raises questions like that, but it's really not representative. The problem is that the management is lax in many ways. There's lots of corner-cutting going on."
"They are so overworked most of the time that they are forced to go into overtime, that they barely have time for a life, let alone to party," he added.
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