Neha Patil (Editor)

Human trafficking in Venezuela

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Venezuela is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Venezuelan women and girls are trafficked within the country for sexual exploitation, lured from poor regions in the nation's interior to urban and tourist areas. Victims are recruited through false job offers, and subsequently forced into prostitution or conditions of labor exploitation. Child prostitution in urban areas and child sex tourism in resort destinations such as Margarita Island appear to be growing. Venezuelan women and girls are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation to Western Europe and Mexico, in addition to Caribbean destinations such as Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, and the Dominican Republic. Men, women, and children from Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and the People's Republic of China are trafficked to and through Venezuela and may be subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor.



Venezuelan law prohibits most forms of trafficking in porn. In March 2007, the government enacted the Organic Law on the Right of Women to a Violence-Free Life. Article 56 of the new law prohibits the trafficking of women, girls, and adolescents for purposes of sexual exploitation, prostitution, forced labor, or slavery, and prescribes punishments of 15 to 20 years' imprisonment. Articles 46 and 47 of the new law prohibit forced prostitution and sexual slavery, and carry penalties of 15 to 20 years' imprisonment. This legislation closed a gap in Venezuelan law, in which the internal trafficking of adults was not prohibited. These new anti-trafficking provisions, however, do not address the trafficking of adult males or boys. Article 16 of the Organic Law Against Organized Crime, enacted in 2005, prohibits trafficking across international borders for labor or sexual exploitation, and prescribes penalties ranging from 10 to 18 years imprisonment. Provisions of Venezuela's 2004 Naturalization and Immigration Law criminalize transnational trafficking for labor exploitation, prescribing punishments of four to 10 years imprisonment. The above penalties are commensurate with those for other grave crimes. The Child Protection Act and various articles of Venezuela's penal code can be used to prosecute internal trafficking of minors, but many of these statutes carry extremely low penalties, mostly fines.

During 2007, the government opened two criminal investigations against three trafficking suspects in Caracas; these cases were pending as of 2008. As of 2007, government officials reported that an additional 12 trafficking-related investigations remained open from previous years. The actual number of trafficking investigations is difficult to determine since the government may not be distinguishing between human trafficking and alien smuggling crimes. No convictions or sentences against trafficking offenders were reported in 2007. Police indicate that some trafficking victims are reluctant to press charges due to long court delays and fear of reprisals from their traffickers. International organizations indicate that the government cooperates with Interpol on some transnational trafficking cases, and has increased screening for potential trafficking situations at airports and border checkpoints after receiving UNHCR-sponsored training last year. As of 2008, the government was investigating an immigration official for trafficking-related complicity. Corruption among oter public officials, particularly related to the issuance of false identity documents, appeared to be widespread.


As of 2008, the Venezuelan government did not operate shelters dedicated for trafficking victims, and relied on NGOs to provide the bulk of victim assistance without government funding. Government-provided psychological and medical examinations were available for trafficking victims, but comprehensive victim services such as counseling, follow-up medical assistance, job training, and reintegration assistance were generally unavailable. The government operates a national hotline through which it receives trafficking complaints, and refers trafficking victims to NGOs for care. The government reported assisting 22 trafficking victims in 2007, in addition to collaborating with IOM to repatriate two Venezuelan victims who had been trafficked to Switzerland and Mexico. The lack of a secure witness protection program discouraged some victims from assisting with the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. According to NGOs, the government does not have a formal mechanism for identifying trafficking victims among prostituted persons in the nation's commercial sex trade. As of 2008, there were no reports of victims being jailed or penalized for crimes committed as a result of being trafficked. The government provides some legal protection for the resettlement of foreign victims to third countries if it appears they may face hardship or retribution if returned to their country of origin.


The government acknowledges that human trafficking is a problem in Venezuela, but views the country as principally a transit point. Nonetheless, the government has increased efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts and to raise public awareness about the dangers of human trafficking by airing public service announcements and widely distributing posters and pamphlets against commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, and child sex tourism, and advertising the government's hotline number. The government also reported shutting down a hotel on Margarita Island which had been advertised in the United Kingdom as a destination for sex tourism. It has also sponsored a large number of nationwide anti-trafficking workshops and training programs for police officers and other government officials. The government has partnered with UNICEF to continue to draft a national anti-trafficking action plan, and collaborated with NGOs and international organizations on other anti-trafficking efforts, but relations with these organizations are reported to be uneven. Moreover, high turnover in official personnel appears to have hampered some of the government's overall anti-trafficking efforts.

In June 2014 the United States named Venezuela as one of four countries it signaled out as not doing enough to prevent human trafficking. In its annual Trafficking in Persons report, the United States said it had lowered Venezuela's ranking to Tier 3, the lowest grade possible. Since Venezuela has ranked within Tier 3, it risks being subject to certain sanctions and could lose non-humanitarian and non-trade-related aid from the United States.


Human trafficking in Venezuela Wikipedia

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