Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July 2014, 14:54 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Bolivia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Bolivia, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30ce03c.html [accessed 24 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

BOLIVIA (Tier 2)

Bolivia is principally a source country for men, women, and children who are exploited in sex trafficking and forced labor within the country or abroad. A significant number of Bolivians are found in conditions of forced labor in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Spain, the United States, and other countries, usually in sweatshops and agriculture, as well as in domestic service. Within Bolivia, women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking, often in urban areas. Bolivian women and girls are also exploited in sex trafficking in neighboring countries, including Argentina, Peru, and Chile. To a more limited extent, women from other nearby countries, including Brazil and Paraguay, have been identified in sex trafficking in Bolivia. Members of indigenous communities are vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking. Within the country, Bolivian children are found in forced labor in mining, agriculture, and as domestic servants, and some women and girls are forced to work as hostesses. Reports also indicate some families lease out their children for forced labor in mining and agriculture near border areas with Peru. In Chile and Brazil, authorities have identified some Bolivian children forced to courier drugs.

The Government of Bolivia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, authorities achieved the first forced labor conviction in Bolivia and established a new office to coordinate trafficking prosecution efforts. However, despite the large number of possible trafficking cases identified by dedicated trafficking and smuggling units around the country, authorities did not report how many victims it identified or assisted during the year, and victim services, including for the large number of repatriated Bolivian victims, were inadequate.

Recommendations for Bolivia: Enhance victim services across the country through increased resources designated for specialized assistance for trafficking victims, including for victims of forced labor; strengthen efforts to prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders and fraudulent labor recruiters; increase resources for dedicated anti-trafficking prosecutorial and police units to address the challenges in moving from investigation to successful prosecution; enhance efforts to identify trafficking victims proactively through developing formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; intensify law enforcement efforts against the forced labor of adults and children, including domestic servitude and the forced prostitution of adults; work with destination countries to ensure that returning Bolivian trafficking victims receive care services; enhance ongoing training opportunities for police officers, judicial officials, social workers, and other government officials; and increase public awareness about human trafficking, particularly among Bolivians seeking work abroad.

Prosecution

The government made uneven progress in its law enforcement efforts against human trafficking during the year. While authorities achieved the country's first forced labor conviction, successful prosecutions remained low given the large number of cases identified. Bolivia prohibits all forms of human trafficking through Law 3325, a 2006 human trafficking and smuggling law that prescribes penalties of eight to 12 years' imprisonment for both internal and transnational trafficking offenses. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed under Bolivian law for other serious crimes, such as rape. This law also prohibits illegal adoption as a form of human trafficking, a crime that does not fall within the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

The Bolivian National Police reported investigating over 250 cases of potential human trafficking in 2011, and prosecutors reported that almost 300 trafficking cases remained pending. There was no information available regarding how many of these cases involved forced labor or illegal adoption. There continued to be a significant disparity between the large number of cases investigated and the low number of cases successfully prosecuted. Authorities did not report the number of prosecutions initiated during the year. With substantial civil society assistance, authorities prosecuted and convicted two labor trafficking offenders in 2011 under smuggling statutes, with sentences of 13 years and 4 months, sentences the traffickers appealed. The government also reported convicting seven sex trafficking offenders through plea bargains under the trafficking law: reported sentences ranged from eight to 10 years' imprisonment. In comparison, in 2010, the government reported prosecuting 31 trafficking offenders and convicting seven under pimping and sexual exploitation statutes.

The government maintained 13 specialized trafficking and smuggling units with funding from a foreign government; two of the units opened during the year. The dedicated anti-trafficking prosecutorial unit in the capital was underfunded and understaffed. During the year, the lack of data-tracking mechanisms for trafficking crimes made it difficult for officials to coordinate or track cases through the judicial process. In September 2011, the Attorney General announced the creation of a national coordination office responsible for sexual crimes, human trafficking, and human smuggling. During the reporting period, this office centralized information, drafted victim care protocols, and designated one prosecutor in each department as a regional coordinator on these issues. Law enforcement officials and prosecutors received anti-trafficking training funded by NGOs, international organizations, and a foreign government, but the Bolivian government did not report funding any training of its officials. Some judges reportedly were reluctant to use the anti-trafficking law. Authorities reported no investigation, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials for trafficking-related complicity. There were no reports of cooperative international investigations with the governments of receiving countries during the year.

Protection

Bolivian government efforts to protect trafficking victims remained limited, and civil society organizations provided the vast majority of specialized care without government funding. The government lacked formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, though some police and prosecutors reportedly referred victims to services and shelters during the year. In past years, the Bolivian police have reported the number of possible trafficking victims identified by officers, and the number of victims that were referred to care services; authorities did not report this data for 2011. The government of La Paz provided some funding to one NGO shelter for female sex trafficking victims and victims of sexual abuse; the shelter reported assisting 38 trafficking victims during the year. A special victims unit in Santa Cruz reported providing medical attention, shelter, food, and clothing to 18 victims in 2011. Two civil society organizations in Potosi received limited government funding to assist six female trafficking victims. NGOs and religious groups without government funding provided the majority of shelter care and reintegration programs to trafficking victims; most of these services were targeted at female victims of abuse, and some shelters also housed juvenile offenders. Temporary and long-term services for victims remained unavailable in parts of the country. Services for adult female victims and for male victims were virtually non-existent. Argentine officials reported identifying hundreds of Bolivian victims of trafficking during the year, many of whom reportedly chose to return to Bolivia. There were no reports that the government provided assistance to Bolivian victims repatriated from other countries.

The government encouraged victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders, although victims often chose not to cooperate because of their fear of reprisals from traffickers, and their lack of faith in the judicial system. A special victims unit in Santa Cruz provided legal assistance to 39 victims in 2011. An NGO reported that officials often fail to record initial victim statements that can be used during trials in lieu of a victim testifying in court. Furthermore, as courts maintain open records, no mechanisms existed to protect information about trafficking victims, and the legal structure often provided greater safeguards to accused trafficking offenders than to victims. The government did not provide foreign trafficking victims with legal alternatives to deportation to countries where they may face retribution or hardship.

Prevention

The government sustained limited prevention and public awareness efforts, largely in collaboration with international donors. The National Anti-Trafficking Council did not report meeting during the year, and effective coordination between government agencies was low. Investigators from the specialized trafficking and smuggling units reported that they spoke at schools to raise awareness of human trafficking. No efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor were reported during the year. The government provided human rights training with anti-trafficking content for its troops before they deployed on international peacekeeping missions.

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