Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Venezuela
|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 - Venezuela, 4 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/484f9a47c.html [accessed 22 December 2014]|
VENEZUELA (Tier 2 Watch List)
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 (P.R.C.) are trafficked to and through Venezuela and may be subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor.
The Government of Venezuela does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the Government of Venezuela showed greater resolve to address trafficking through law enforcement measures and prevention efforts, though stringent punishment of offenders and victim assistance remain lacking. Nevertheless, the Government of Venezuela is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for failing to provide evidence of increasing efforts to protect and assist trafficking victims.
Recommendations for Venezuela: amend laws to prohibit and adequately punish all forms of trafficking in persons; intensify efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence trafficking offenders; confront trafficking complicity by public officials; provide greater assistance to trafficking victims; and increase training for law enforcement officials.
The Government of Venezuela made limited, but improved, anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the last year. Venezuelan law prohibits most forms of trafficking in persons. 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 sufficiently stringent, and 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. Instituting more stringent penalties would improve deterrence of trafficking crimes against children, particularly boys.
During the reporting period, the government opened two criminal investigations against three trafficking suspects in Caracas; these cases are pending. Government officials reported that an additional 12 trafficking-related investigations remain open from previous years. However, 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 are reported. Police indicate that some trafficking victims are reluctant to press charges due to long court delays and fear of reprisals from their traffickers. Additional training for police and prosecutors on victim interviewing, in addition to providing victims with greater government or NGO support during court proceedings, should assist with encouraging victims to confront and prosecute 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. The government is investigating an immigration official for trafficking-related complicity. Corruption among other public officials, particularly related to the issuance of false identity documents, appeared to be widespread.
The Venezuelan government's efforts to assist trafficking victims remained inadequate during the reporting period. The 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 remained lacking. 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 last year, 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. Additional anti-trafficking training for public officials would assist the government's efforts, particularly on identifying minors in prostitution as trafficking victims. 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. It has not yet recognized its role as a source country for women and children trafficked within the country and internationally for sexual exploitation. Nonetheless, the government 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 also sponsored a large number of nationwide anti-trafficking workshops and training programs for police officers and other government officials. The government 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 progress. Dedicated personnel would assist the government's efforts, in addition to training on application of Venezuela's different anti-trafficking laws and distinctions between alien smuggling and human trafficking offenses.