Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April 2014, 11:39 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Venezuela

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Venezuela, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee382.html [accessed 25 April 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.

Venezuela (Tier 3)

Venezuela is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Venezuelan women and girls are found in conditions of sex trafficking within the country, lured from poor interior regions to urban and tourist centers, such as Caracas, Maracaibo, and Margarita Island. Victims are often recruited through false job offers. To a lesser extent, Brazilian women and Colombian women are subjected to forced prostitution in Venezuela. Some Venezuelan children are forced to work as street beggars or as domestic servants. Some Venezuelan women are transported from coastal areas by small boats to Caribbean islands, particularly Aruba, Curacao and Trinidad & Tobago, where they are subjected to forced prostitution. 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, as well as a destination for migrants from China, who may be subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor in Venezuela.

The Government of Venezuela does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and has been placed on Tier 2 Watch for the last four consecutive years. Therefore, pursuant to Section 107 of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, Venezuela is deemed not to be making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards and is placed on Tier 3. According to the public ministry's website, the government investigated potential cases of suspected human trafficking and arrested at least 12 people for trafficking crimes during the reporting period; however, there was no further publicly available information regarding those cases. Authorities maintained public awareness initiatives but did not implement formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims or provide victims with specialized care or services. The government drafted a comprehensive bill that would prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, but did not enhance its interagency efforts to combat trafficking. The Government of Venezuela did not provide information on its efforts to combat human trafficking for this report, and there were no official statistics or comprehensive data on the extent and nature of the trafficking problem in Venezuela.

Recommendations for Venezuela: Amend existing trafficking laws to prohibit and adequately punish all forms of human trafficking; intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute cases of forced prostitution and forced labor, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; provide greater assistance and specialized services to trafficking victims; implement formal and proactive procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; strengthen government anti-trafficking framework by developing and implementing a national plan or strategy to combat trafficking; enhance interagency cooperation; and improve data collection for trafficking crimes.

Prosecution

The Government of Venezuela maintained 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 men or boys. Prosecutors also could use Venezuela's Child Protection Act and various articles of the penal code to prosecute the internal trafficking of children, though there were no publicly available reports of convictions for this crime during the reporting period and many of these statutes prescribe inadequate penalties – typically a maximum of three months in jail or fines. In November 2010 the government presented a draft Organic Law against Trafficking in Persons to the National Assembly, written in consultation with civil society organizations. The draft law would increase the penalties for trafficking to 15-25 years' imprisonment, impose a penalty of 10-12 years' imprisonment on collaborators, and extend the prohibition against trafficking in women and girls to all persons, which would include men and boys, for cases of internal trafficking, in addition to establishing provisions for victim protection and interagency coordination.

The government investigated and arrested individuals in a small number of trafficking cases, most of which involved the forced prostitution of women and children. During the reporting period, there were no publicly available reports of convictions of human trafficking offenders; in comparison, authorities reported achieving one trafficking conviction and one conviction for child prostitution during the previous year. There was no public information regarding joint trafficking investigations between the Government of Venezuela and other foreign governments. There were no public allegations that Venezuelan government officials were complicit in human trafficking, and the Venezuelan government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or sentencing of public officials. There were continued media reports of corruption among public officials related to the issuance of false identity documents.

Protection

The government sustained limited efforts to assist trafficking victims during the reporting period. According to NGOs, the government did not employ a formal mechanism for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution. The government did not operate shelters specifically for trafficking victims, but its shelters for victims of domestic violence or at-risk youth were open to trafficking victims. One NGO operated two shelters that provided specialized services for female sex trafficking victims as well as services for victims of domestic violence. In February 2011, local media reported that law enforcement officials took 11 girls who were forced into prostitution in Caracas to a government shelter for victims of sexual abuse after arresting their alleged traffickers. 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. In May 2010, the Government of Venezuela established Women Help Units to provide legal, psychological and medical assistance to female victims of gender-based violence; it is unclear whether these units have assisted any trafficking victims.

There was no information publicly available about whether the government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. Also, 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 publicly available reports of government assistance to repatriated trafficking victims during the reporting period.

Prevention

The Venezuelan government maintained efforts to prevent human trafficking over the year by raising public awareness through anti-trafficking campaigns and by training public officials. The government continued to operate a national 24-hour hotline through which it received trafficking complaints; however, NGOs reported it functioned only sporadically. The government aired public service announcements and distributed materials to raise awareness about commercial sexual exploitation. The extent of anti-trafficking training provided by government officials was unclear; however, the Ministry of Interior and Justice reported holding training sessions for law enforcement agencies, community organizations, and schools during the reporting period. 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 efforts. Overall transparency in the government's anti-trafficking efforts was low, and the government did not report publicly on the extent of the problem or its policy or measures to combat human trafficking. In December 2010, local media reported that Venezuelan authorities arrested two individuals who allegedly operated an online network offering child sex tourism packages to Spanish citizens visiting Venezuela. No specific activities to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor were reported during the year.

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