U.S. Department of State 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report - Guatemala
Guatemala (Tier 2)
Guatemala is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children from Guatemala and other Central American countries trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Guatemalan and foreign women and children are exploited in Guatemala, and they are also trafficked for exploitation in other Central American countries, Mexico, and the United States. Exploitation of minors and illegal foreign migrants may be decreasing in the capital and moving to outlying areas due to law enforcement efforts in Guatemala City. The border with Mexico remains an area of heightened concern due to a steady flow of illegal migrants, many of whom fall victim to traffickers.
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. Over the last year, the government showed clear progress in key areas by increasing efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers, launching a victim-targeted public awareness campaign in border areas, and continuing anti-trafficking cooperation with neighboring countries. The government should correct deficiencies in current laws and procedures so that traffickers face more serious punishment. It should also increase its efforts to raise public awareness and work with NGOs to improve trafficking-appropriate victim assistance for all trafficking victims.
The Government of Guatemala increased trafficking investigations and prosecutions, but achieved only limited progress in punishing traffickers over the last year. Cooperation and information sharing with regional neighbors continued. Police, immigration, and prosecutors carried out joint operations, often with NGO participation, that led to 86 trafficking arrests, including at least 35 for the commercial sexual exploitation of minors, resulting in 50 prosecutions and 15 convictions. Prosecutors encountered problems when attempting to apply anti-trafficking statutes, which were amended in early 2005 to expand the definition of trafficking and allow for more stringent seven to 16-year prison terms. Judges often threw out trafficking charges in favor of more familiar, but less serious offenses carrying less stringent punishments that could be commuted to fines. Efforts to further reform the penal code and develop broader anti-trafficking legislation must address this problem to ensure that traffickers face serious jail sentences. The government did not prosecute or convict any public officials for complicity in trafficking despite credible reports of such corruption.
The government's protection efforts over the last year remained inadequate. Assistance focused on minors and was not trafficking-specific. Minors received basic necessities at seven government-run centers for abandoned and "special needs" children. The government cooperated with and relied upon NGOs for most victim assistance but did not fund NGO programs. While victims were not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked, foreign adult victims were not provided legal alternatives to their removal to countries in which they could face hardship or retribution. Resource constraints also limited government services for large numbers of individuals deported from Mexico, many of whom were foreign and possibly trafficking victims.
The government made some progress, though in general prevention efforts remained deficient during the reporting period. A campaign launched in early 2006 targeted victims at major crossings on the border with El Salvador. The government should work with NGOs, community groups, and the media to expand campaigns and reach more potential victims.