Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - Venezuela
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||14 June 2010|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - Venezuela, 14 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c1883b73e.html [accessed 25 April 2014]|
VENEZUELA (Tier 2 Watch List)
Venezuela is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution and forced labor. Venezuelan women and girls are found in conditions of forced prostitution within the country, lured from poor interior regions to urban and tourist areas, such as Caracas, Maracaibo, and Margarita Island. Victims are often recruited through false job offers. Some Venezuelan and Ecuadorian children are forced to work as street beggars or as domestic servants. Venezuelan women and girls are trafficked across international borders for forced prostitution to Mexico and Western Europe, and to Caribbean destinations, such as Trinidad and Tobago, the Netherlands Antilles, and the Dominican Republic. Organized crime is widely believed to be involved in sex trafficking in Venezuela. Venezuela is a transit country for men, women, and children from neighboring countries, such as Colombia and Peru, as well as a destination for migrants from China, who are subsequently subjected to forced labor. Some of these migrants may be subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor in Venezuela. Human trafficking is reportedly increasing in Venezuela's Orinoco River Basin area, where victims are exploited in mining operations, and in border regions of Tachira State, which suffer from political violence and infiltration by armed rebel groups.
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 convicted two trafficking offenders and maintained public awareness initiatives. Despite these efforts, the government did not provide adequate assistance to victims and did not increase its capability to combat human trafficking through amending existing laws to prohibit the internal trafficking of men and boys, enhancing data collection, or improving interagency coordination; therefore, Venezuela is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year. The Government of Venezuela provided minimal information on its efforts to combat human trafficking for this report.
Recommendations for Venezuela: Amend existing trafficking laws to prohibit and adequately punish the internal trafficking of men and boys; intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; provide greater assistance and services to trafficking victims; implement formal and proactive procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; designate a coordinator to lead the government's anti-trafficking efforts; and improve data collection for trafficking crimes.
The Government of Venezuela modestly increased its limited anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the last year. Venezuelan law prohibits most forms of human trafficking through its 2007 Organic Law on the Right of Women to a Violence-Free Life. Article 56 of this law prohibits the trafficking of women and girls for the purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, irregular adoption, or organ extraction, prescribing punishments of 15 to 20 years' imprisonment. Articles 46 and 47 prohibit forced prostitution and sexual slavery, and carry penalties of 10 to 20 years' imprisonment. 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 of 10 to 18 years' imprisonment. The above penalties are sufficiently stringent, and commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. These anti-trafficking provisions, however, do not address the internal trafficking of adult males or boys. Prosecutors also can use Venezuela's Child Protection Act and various articles of the penal code to prosecute the internal trafficking of children, though many of these statutes carry extremely low penalties – typically a maximum of three months in jail or fines.
The government investigated a small number of trafficking cases, including one involving the alleged labor trafficking of 56 Colombian workers on a Venezuelan shrimp farm. During the reporting period, the government reported convicting an offender for trafficking women into forced prostitution in Spain: he received a sentence of 17 years, six months. Authorities also reported one conviction for the prostitution of a minor; a trafficking offender who subjected a child to forced prostitution was sentenced to six years and six months. During the previous year, no trafficking-related convictions had been reported. Authorities collaborated with the governments of Spain, Romania, and Trinidad & Tobago on transnational trafficking cases. There were no confirmed reports of government complicity with human trafficking in 2009, though corruption among public officials, particularly related to the issuance of false identity documents, appeared to be widespread. Seven Cuban doctors and one nurse filed a lawsuit in the United States against the governments of Venezuela and Cuba and the Venezuelan state-run oil company for labor exploitation; the medical workers claimed they were forced into servitude and paid low wages to help repay Cuba's oil debts to Venezuela. Many Venezuelan law enforcement officials reportedly did not distinguish between human trafficking and migrant smuggling offenses.
The government sustained limited efforts to assist trafficking victims during the reporting period. According to NGOs, the government did not have a formal mechanism for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution. The government also did not operate shelters accessible to or dedicated for trafficking victims, relying on NGOs and international organizations to provide the bulk of victim assistance. State-operated shelters for victims of domestic violence or at-risk youth did not have sufficient space or adequate services to meet the needs of trafficking victims. Government-provided psychological and medical examinations were available to trafficking victims, but additional victim services, such as follow-up medical aid, legal assistance with filing a complaint, job training, and reintegration assistance, remained lacking. Authorities encouraged some victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. There were no reports of victims being jailed or penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Foreign victims who faced retribution if returned to their country of origin could apply for refugee status; however, the government did not report whether any trafficking victims applied for or received this status over the past year. There were no reports of government assistance to repatriated trafficking victims during the reporting period.
The Venezuelan government maintained efforts to prevent human trafficking over the year by conducting some public awareness campaigns about the dangers of human trafficking. The government continued to operate a national 24-hour hotline through which it received trafficking complaints. However, NGOs reported it frequently does not work or is not answered. The government aired public service announcements and distributed materials to raise awareness about commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Authorities collaborated with NGOs and international organizations on other anti-trafficking efforts, but relations with these organizations were reportedly mixed. The lack of a central coordinating body for the government's anti-trafficking efforts led to difficulties in obtaining comprehensive information about the government's anti-trafficking activities. The extent of anti-trafficking training provided to government officials was unclear. Lower-level government officials acknowledge human trafficking is a problem in the country. No specific activities to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor were reported during the year.