Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Guatemala
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons|
|Publication Date||4 June 2008|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Guatemala, 4 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/484f9a1a9.html [accessed 2 March 2015]|
GUATEMALA (Tier 2 Watch List)
Guatemala is a source, transit, and destination country for Guatemalans and Central Americans trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Human trafficking is a significant and growing problem in the country. A nascent child sex tourism problem in certain tourist areas has been reported by NGOs. Guatemalan women and children are trafficked within the country, and primarily to Mexico and the United States, for commercial sexual exploitation. Guatemalan men, women, and children are trafficked within the country, as well as to Mexico and the United States, for forced labor. In the Mexican border area, Guatemalan children are exploited for forced labor and begging; Guatemalan men and women are exploited for labor in 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. Guatemala is a destination country for victims from El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, who are subject to commercial sexual exploitation, and a transit point for Central Americans trafficked to Mexico and the United States.
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 nonetheless placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in persons, particularly with respect to ensuring that trafficking offenders are appropriately prosecuted, and for their crimes.
Recommendations for Guatemala: Enact legislative reforms or take other measures necessary to ensure that trafficking offenses can be successfully prosecuted in court; increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders under existing laws, including public officials complicit with trafficking activity; improve victim services; provide foreign trafficking victims with a legal alternative to removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution; increase anti-trafficking training for judges and police; and dedicate more resources to anti-trafficking efforts.
The government sustained limited efforts against trafficking offenders during the reporting period. While prosecutors initiated trafficking prosecutions, they continued to face problems in court with application of Guatemala's comprehensive anti-trafficking law, Article 194 of the Penal Code. This statutory provision was amended in 2005 to expand the definition of trafficking and to prescribe six to 12 years' imprisonment, a punishment sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other grave crimes, such as rape. Trafficking-related crimes include "corruption of minors," which prescribes penalties of two to six years' imprisonment, and "pandering" or "procuring," which are punishable with fines rather than imprisonment. Judges continued to dismiss charges under Article 194 in favor of more familiar but less serious offenses, such as pandering, which carry penalties that are inadequate to deter trafficking crimes. Efforts to reform the anti-trafficking law must address these judicial concerns to ensure that traffickers are convicted under appropriate charges and serve serious sentences. During the reporting period, the government prosecuted eight defendants on trafficking-related offenses carrying lower penalties, securing commutable sentences ranging from three to four years in prison. No efforts to prosecute government officials complicit in trafficking have been reported. In November 2007, the attorney general's office formed a dedicated 12-person unit to investigate and prosecute human trafficking and illegal adoption cases. Credible reports from NGOs and international organizations indicate that corrupt public officials impeded law enforcement efforts and facilitated human trafficking by ignoring trafficking activity in brothels and commercial sex sites, leaking information about impending police raids to suspected traffickers, accepting or extorting bribes, sexually exploiting minors, and falsifying identity documents. Increased prosecutions of corrupt officials and expanded anti-trafficking training for police and prosecutors, particularly relating to distinctions between alien smuggling and human trafficking offenses, would strengthen the government's law enforcement efforts. Additional training to assist judges in recognizing trafficking crimes and treating victims with sensitivity would also bolster the government's efforts.
The government made modest improvements to its protection efforts, but assistance remained inadequate overall during the reporting period. The government provides limited assistance dedicated to trafficking victims, and relies on NGOs and international organizations to provide the bulk of victim services. Child victims are eligible for basic care at seven government-run shelters, but were usually referred to NGOs such as Casa Alianza for specific trafficking victim assistance. Services for adult victims remain virtually non-existent.
In December 2007, the government opened a migrants' shelter in Guatemala City with separate space for foreign trafficking victims. This marks an improvement from previous years when foreign victims were simply detained before deportation. The government also instituted a protocol for repatriating foreign minors to their families. Guatemalan authorities encouraged victims to assist with the investigation and prosecution of traffickers, but many victims were reluctant to do so, due to fear of violence and reprisals. Strengthening the existing witness protection program and providing witness support during court proceedings would assist the government's prosecutorial efforts. Foreign adult victims were not provided legal alternatives to removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution; in most cases, such victims were promptly deported. Due to resource constraints and the volume of migrants in the country, some aliens were simply left at the border. The government continued use of proactive police techniques such as raids and surveillance operations to rescue victims from trafficking situations. During the reporting period, the government instituted a formal mechanism for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as prostituted women in brothels, and developed instructions for attending to sex-crime victims, which include specific provisions on how to identify and assist trafficking victims. The government trained consular officials on recognizing and assisting Guatemalans trafficked abroad.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. In September 2007, the government launched a new call center to provide information about the dangers of human trafficking, and to refer victims for assistance. The government also continued nationwide public-awareness campaigns to warn citizens of the dangers of trafficking, featuring posters, brochures, radio broadcasts, and bus advertising. The government conducted sensitization workshops for parents in rural areas, reaching more than 400 persons. In October 2007, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a regional seminar on developing model anti-trafficking legislation in Latin America. An informal interagency anti-trafficking working group was formalized into a government commission, and a 10-year national action plan to combat human trafficking was adopted. A nationwide public awareness campaign launched in 2006 included efforts to reduce demand for commercial sexual acts.