U.S. Department of State 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report - Guatemala

Guatemala (Tier 2)

Guatemala is a source, transit, and – to a lesser extent – a destination country for trafficking of persons. Most often, Guatemalan victims are young women and minors who are trafficked abroad for sexual exploitation. There is also internal trafficking involving the forced labor and sexual exploitation of children. Foreign victims are mainly Central and South Americans, including Ecuadorians, often being smuggled through Guatemala to Mexico and the United States, who are pushed into sexual and other exploitation by traffickers. Guatemala is also a transit country for illegal migrants, some of whom may be trafficked.

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. Officials in the government are aware of the trafficking challenge, but have made only limited progress in implementing policies to combat the problem. Further cooperation between the governments of Guatemala and Mexico is needed to address trafficking abuses on their common border.


The government's Action Plan against Sexual Exploitation of Minors and Adolescents, approved in July 2001, is a comprehensive plan but so far has demonstrated minimal results. The Human Rights Ombudsman's office conducts the government's prevention efforts. The office sponsored public information campaigns on the dangers of trafficking found in illegal migration. Other governmental offices are dedicated to assisting indigenous women abused in domestic violence. The Presidential Secretariat of Social Welfare coordinated government cooperation with civil society groups under the plan to combat sexual exploitation of minors. The government provides office space to many NGOs that work to gather information and prevent trafficking.


The Government of Guatemala has shown some resolution to combat trafficking, but law enforcement does not receive the priority it should be given. Guatemala has several laws against trafficking in its immigration and criminal statutes, but the prosecutions and convictions of traffickers have been few. Officials in the Human Rights Ombudsman's office, Labor Ministry, and State prosecutors investigate trafficking cases. According to government figures, during the reporting period some 50 prosecutions dealing with possible cross-border trafficking abuses were initiated. There was at least one conviction, but information on convictions is incomplete. In 2003, in a positive move, police arrested several likely child traffickers. Under the applicable statutes, penalties for traffickers are generally too lenient. Mid-level and senior immigration officials have been accused of corrupt practices, and there have been allegations that former military officers have been involved in migrant smuggling rings. The government named a new anti-corruption commission in 2002 to address its serious corruption problem. During the reporting period, about 130 officials were dismissed for corruption, according to the government. The government does not fully monitor and control its borders; and efforts particularly along the Mexican border, a region of much international trafficking, have been inadequate.


The government does not assist trafficking victims specifically, but it does provide limited general assistance to crime victims in centers in provincial capitals. Trafficking victims can use any of these centers, but there is no information available on the number of victims who have done so. Foreign victims are not treated as criminals; however, some are subject to quick deportation, but many stay in Guatemala. Trafficking victims are not encouraged to act as witnesses against their traffickers. The government provides specialized training for police and other officials for dealing with victims of crime.


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