U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - El Salvador

El Salvador (Tier 2)

El Salvador is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation; it is also a source country for forced labor. Salvadorans are trafficked to the United States, Canada, Mexico, and other countries in Central America. Salvadoran women and children are trafficked internally for prostitution from the rural and eastern part of the country to urban areas. Most foreign victims are women and children from Nicaragua, Honduras, and countries in South America, particularly Colombia. In some cases Salvadorans have been trafficked for commercial agriculture to the United States.

The Government of El Salvador does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. In particular, the government has failed to take effective action against underage prostitution. An effective anti-trafficking measure would be to change the law in order to make enforcement of prostitution laws fall under the National Civilian Police (PNC), rather than the less capable municipal guard forces. This measure would require the PNC to receive additional resources commensurate with this responsibility.


The government does not vigorously enforce existing laws that prohibit trafficking and punish traffickers. Convictions are rare. The government indicted three suspected traffickers under the country's anti-trafficking law. These prosecutions are the first under the newly reformed anti-trafficking statute. The Attorney General's office should use this and other applicable laws to more aggressively investigate, prosecute, and convict brothel owners, especially those involved in the commercial sexual exploitation of children. In 2003, police arrested 33 individuals for commercial sexual exploitation of minors, prosecutors presented 51 individuals charged with involvement in child prostitution to the courts for either their initial hearing or trial, and San Salvador courts tried 17 individuals for violating anti-prostitution laws. Of these 17, one was convicted for involvement in child prostitution. The government in 2003 carried out anti-trafficking training for police, prosecutors, and judges. The government recently revised the law against sex crimes to increase the penalties for sex offenses against children, and to sanction individuals that use electronic means to distribute pornography.


Limited by resources, the government provides reasonable protections for Salvadorans, particularly children, but it fails to adequately protect foreign trafficking victims. The government's child welfare agency (ISNA) provides protection, counseling, shelter, and legal assistance to at-risk Salvadoran children, including underage trafficking victims. During the reporting period, 69 children engaged in prostitution were turned over to ISNA's care. The government cooperates with NGOs and refers Salvadoran trafficking victims to them, but it runs no shelters specifically for trafficking victims. The government does provide funding to repatriate sick or minor Salvadorans from neighboring countries. Illegal immigrants, who may include foreign victims of trafficking, face quick deportation as a matter of policy, unless they are children.


The government has aggressively used the media to warn the public about trafficking. With UNICEF support, the government sponsored public service ads on television warning about trafficking associated with illegal migration. The government is participating in an ILO-IPEC "Timebound" Program to eliminate the commercial sexual exploitation of children. As part of this program, the government sponsored newspaper ads warning about this sexual exploitation. With U.S. Government support, the government's child welfare agency also sponsored publicity campaigns via posters, radio, and TV that warn about child trafficking situations.


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