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Venezuela: Human Trafficking

By Alexandra Beech,

Even as the Venezuelan government continues to present itself as a champion of the poor, evidence continues to surface that many women and children are languishing. In a report released on Monday by the US State Department, Venezuela was ranked among the ten countries with the severest form of human trafficking. In “The Fourth Annual Trafficking in Persons Report”, the State Department ranked Venezuela a Tier 3, which is a country whose government does not “fully comply with the minimum standards and [is] not making significant efforts to do so.”

According to the State Department, "severe forms of trafficking in persons" is defined as “(a) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or (b) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery." Human trafficking victims, according to the report, “have either never consented or, if they initially consented, their consent has been negated by the coercive, deceptive or abusive actions of the traffickers. Trafficking victims often are unaware that they will be forced into prostitution or exploitative labor situations. According to the report, “Venezuela is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Brazilian and Colombian women and girls are trafficked to and through Venezuela. Venezuelans are trafficked internally for the domestic sex trade and to Western Europe, particularly Spain.”

In 1998, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez vowed to help the thousands of homeless children. Besides saying that he planned to convert the presidential palace into residence for children, the populist president said that he wouldn’t rest while so many children slept on newspapers. However, far from having improved the plight of children, many of them today are suffering the devastation of child prostitution. In fact, “Venezuelan sex tourism that encourages underage prostitution is a concern. There are reports that in border areas Venezuelans are trafficked to mining camps in Guyana for sexual exploitation and abducted by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to be used as soldiers.” In addition, “Venezuela is a transit country for illegal migration; some of these migrants are believed to be trafficking victims.”

What has the Venezuelan government done to protect the women and children who are victims of trafficking? According the report:

- The Government of Venezuela does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.

- Due to Venezuela’s current political situation, the government is not devoting serious attention or resources to trafficking in persons, which is a growing regional problem.

- The government carries out no anti-trafficking law enforcement; it has no victim protection policy....Venezuela is being reclassified from Tier 2 to Tier 3.

- The government has no pro-active law enforcement strategy to combat trafficking. Human rights organizations and police have received some complaints about trafficking, but Venezuelan authorities maintain they have not identified a widespread problem. There were no reported arrests or convictions of traffickers in the context of internal underage prostitution or international trafficking in 2003.

- The government has no policy to protect trafficking victims.

- The government does not train officials in identifying or rescuing victims. In the past, Venezuelan border officials summarily deported undocumented foreigners.

- The government does not formally acknowledge trafficking as a significant problem and conducts no information or education campaigns.

The report states that “the government has removed immigration officials involved in human smuggling, which often can be linked to human trafficking,” which is a minor step, given that “Venezuela's long porous borders facilitate the movement of trafficked persons into and through the country and require better government control.”

The trafficking of persons is a human rights violation. “Fundamentally, trafficking in persons violates the universal human right to life, liberty, and freedom from slavery in all its forms. Trafficking of children undermines the basic need of a child to grow up in a protective environment and the right to be free from sexual abuse and exploitation.”

For further information, please click here Excerpt VENEZUELA (TIER 3)

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