U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Guatemala
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons|
|Publication Date||12 June 2007|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Guatemala, 12 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/467be3b52.html [accessed 27 May 2015]|
Guatemala (Tier 2 Watch List)
Guatemala is a source, transit, and destination country for Guatemalans and Central Americans trafficked for the purposes of labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Human trafficking is a significant and growing problem in the country. Guatemalans and women and children trafficked through Guatemala from El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua are subject to commercial sexual exploitation in Mexico, Belize, and the United States. In the Mexican border area, Guatemalan children are exploited for forced labor and begging; Guatemalan men and women are exploited for labor in commercial agriculture. Border areas with Mexico and Belize remain a top concern due to the heavy flow of undocumented migrants, many of whom fall victim to traffickers.
The Government of Guatemala does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Guatemala is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in persons, particularly in terms of convicting and sentencing human traffickers for their crimes. The government demonstrated its commitment to combating human trafficking by sponsoring victim-targeted public awareness campaigns, promoting much-needed penal-code reforms, leading anti-trafficking cooperation with neighboring countries, and fostering anti-trafficking awareness among government officials through an inter-agency working group. However, the government failed to convict and punish trafficking offenders during the year. It should make every effort to carry out the legislative reforms necessary to effectively address trafficking crimes. The government also should consider providing greater legal protections for foreign trafficking victims, and continue work with NGOs and civil society to improve victim services, especially for adults. Providing additional anti-trafficking training for judges and police, and devoting more resources to anti-trafficking police and prosecutors, are additional goals.
Government efforts to punish traffickers dropped precipitously during the reporting period. Thirty-two trafficking-related cases were filed with the Public Ministry; 28 investigations remain open; no convictions were reported. This represents a significant decrease from last year, when 50 prosecutions and 15 convictions were achieved. Prosecutors continue to face problems in court with the application of Guatemala's anti-trafficking laws, which were amended in 2005 to expand the definition of trafficking and allow for 7- to 16-year prison terms. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other grave crimes. Many judges threw out charges under the new statute in favor of better-defined and more familiar offenses, which carry far lighter penalties, mostly fines not accompanying prison terms. Efforts to reform the penal code and develop broader anti-trafficking legislation must address these concerns to ensure that traffickers are convicted and serve serious sentences. The government remained an anti-trafficking leader by cooperating and sharing information with neighboring countries, advocating a regional approach for combating trafficking in persons. But credible reports also indicate that some local officials have facilitated acts of human trafficking by compromising police investigations and raids of brothels, accepting bribes, and falsifying identity documents. The government should take additional steps to identify these corrupt officials and punish them.
The government's protection efforts remained inadequate. The government does not offer assistance dedicated to victims of trafficking. Child victims received basic care at seven government-run shelters. The government refers most victims to NGOs for services. Guatemalan authorities encourage victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. While victims' rights are generally respected, foreign adult victims are not provided legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they face hardship or retribution. Last year, 564 aliens, mostly from Central America, were rescued from brothels but then were deported; many were potential trafficking victims. The government also rescued 300 children, who were transferred to NGOs. Due to resource constraints and the volume of migrants in the country, many aliens are simply left at the border; some are potential trafficking victims who fall back into the hands of their traffickers. No meaningful government mechanism for screening potential trafficking victims exists.
The government took solid steps to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. It launched several nationwide public-awareness campaigns to warn potential victims of the dangers of trafficking, featuring posters, brochures, radio broadcasts, and bus advertising. One campaign targeted the country's southern borders with El Salvador and Honduras. The government also supports scholarship programs to keep poor children in school.