Guatemala (Tier 2)

Guatemala is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Guatemalan women and children are found in forced and child prostitution within the country, as well as in Mexico and the United States. Boys from Guatemala and other Central American countries are found in commercial sexual exploitation, particularly in Guatemala City and on Guatemala's borders with Honduras and Mexico. Guatemalan men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor within the country, often in agriculture or domestic service, and particularly near the Mexican border and in the highland region. Guatemalan men, women, and children also are found in conditions of forced labor in Mexico and the United States in agriculture and the garment industry. Indigenous Guatemalans are particularly vulnerable to labor exploitation. In the border area with Mexico, Guatemalan children are exploited for forced begging on streets and forced labor in municipal dumps. Guatemala is a destination country for women and girls from El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia, and Nicaragua, in forced and child prostitution. Migrants from Central American countries transit through Guatemala en route to Mexico and the United States; some may become human trafficking victims. Child sex tourism is prevalent in certain tourist areas such as Antigua, Puerto Barrios, and around Lake Atitlan, and child sex tourists predominately come from Canada, Germany, Spain, and the United States. According to NGOs and government officials, organized crime networks continue to be involved in some cases of human trafficking.

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. During the reporting period, Guatemalan officials maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and inaugurated a specialized shelter for adult trafficking victims. Guatemalan authorities continued to partner with civil society to develop and implement protocols on victim protections, and increased funding for the secretariat responsible for coordinating government anti-trafficking efforts. Investigative units, however, remained under-funded, many judges and law enforcement officials were poorly informed about human trafficking, and official complicity continued to impede anti-trafficking efforts.

Recommendations for Guatemala: Vigorously implement the anti-trafficking law and statutes prohibiting child sex tourism; continue efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, especially suspected cases of forced labor and domestic servitude, and convict and punish trafficking offenders, including public officials complicit in trafficking; enhance the availability of specialized victims services throughout the country, including through partnerships with civil society; conduct anti-trafficking training for local judges, police, immigration officers, and other government officials; and increase funding for anti-trafficking efforts, particularly for the country's dedicated prosecutorial and police units.


The government increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year. Article 202 of the Guatemalan penal code, which came into force in early 2009, prohibits the transport, transfer, retention, harboring, or reception of persons for the purposes of exploitation, including forced prostitution, sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, begging, slavery, illegal adoptions, or forced marriage, in addition to other prohibited purposes. Penalties prescribed under Article 202 are from eight to 18 years' imprisonment; under aggravated circumstances, such as when the crime involves kidnapping, threats, violence, weapons, or a public official, penalties increase by one-third. Such penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Some trafficking cases, however, continued to be prosecuted under other statutes, such as "corruption of minors," which carry lesser sentences. The government maintained a small prosecutorial unit to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases; however, over half of this unit's investigations focused on illegal adoptions, which do not fall within the international definition of human trafficking. This unit had only three prosecutors and lacked sufficient funding and staff. During the reporting period, authorities achieved 10 convictions for human trafficking offenses, two of which were charged under the anti-trafficking law; the other convictions were achieved under statutes relating to pimping of children and employing children in jobs that risk their integrity and health. Sentences ranged from three to five years' imprisonment; all convicted trafficking offenders appealed, and some were out on bail. In comparison, during the previous year, the Guatemalan government reported seven convictions for human trafficking offenses, one of which related to forced labor.

Anti-trafficking police and prosecutors suffered from a lack of funding, human resources, and training. Some judges reportedly dismissed trafficking cases or acquitted trafficking offenders due to a lack of understanding of the crime. Credible reports from international organizations, NGOs, and several government officials continued to indicate that corrupt public officials impeded anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and facilitated trafficking activity by accepting or extorting bribes, falsifying identity documents, leaking information about impending police raids to suspected traffickers, and ignoring trafficking activity in commercial sex sites. The government did not report prosecuting or convicting any officials complicit in human trafficking. In partnership with civil society and foreign governments, Guatemalan authorities held numerous anti-trafficking workshops and conferences aimed at educating and building capacity among judges, police, public prosecutors, immigration officers, and other government officials, as well as educating foreign diplomats accredited in Guatemala about the government's new repatriation protocol for trafficking victims. Guatemalan authorities collaborated with Nicaraguan, Honduran, and Salvadoran officials on several trafficking investigations.


While the government relied largely on NGOs and international organizations to provide the bulk of victim services during the reporting period, in March 2011 Guatemalan authorities inaugurated a shelter for adult victims and dedicated an area and specialized services for child trafficking victims at an existing residential facility for children. While the government reported employing a standard operating procedure on how to assist sex trafficking victims, it does not employ procedures for identifying forced labor victims among vulnerable populations, and most NGOs remain critical of the government's ability to identify trafficking victims effectively. According to NGOs, the government's referral mechanism for trafficking victims was streamlined in late 2010. Child victims were referred to two NGO-operated shelters dedicated for girl trafficking victims, or could be placed in state-run group homes designed for orphans or homeless children. NGOs did not receive government funding to provide services to trafficking victims. Prior to the inauguration of the government shelter, most foreign adult victims were placed in the migration detention center before being voluntarily repatriated. Adult foreign victims previously were held in the migration detention center in inadequate conditions for months before deportation. During the reporting period, however, the Government of Guatemala improved the living quarters dedicated to trafficking victims in the center, as well as the quality and speed of counseling and legal services, and most cases were processed within a week. During the reporting period, the government identified 373 possible trafficking victims, 180 of which were housed at the migrant detention center, and determined that 54 were trafficking victims. Although Guatemalan authorities encouraged victims to assist with the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, most victims did not file complaints due to fear of violence or reprisals and the inadequacy of the government's limited program to protect witnesses from potential retaliation. Guatemalan law allows for victim testimony via video, and some victims did so. The government did not detain, fine, or otherwise penalize identified victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Some foreign trafficking victims, however, may not have had their victim status recognized by Guatemalan authorities before being deported as undocumented migrants. Guatemalan law establishes legal alternatives to removal of foreign victims who may face hardship or retribution upon repatriation. The authorities offered these alternatives to foreign trafficking victims, but reported that no victims had accepted. In March 2011, government officials signed a protocol for the repatriation of trafficking victims, formalizing repatriation mechanisms followed during the reporting period. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs facilitated the repatriation of 57 trafficking victims returning to Guatemala from abroad, 44 of whom were identified in Mexico, and seven foreign victims wishing to return to their countries of origin.


Members of civil society noted enhanced coordination among government and NGO anti-trafficking actors. The Ministry of Education conducted training sessions and seminars on human trafficking for teachers, students and parents, and reported reaching over 20,000 Guatemalan citizens. The government displayed significant transparency in its anti-trafficking measures; its human rights ombudsman published a report on the trafficking situation in Guatemala that included data on government efforts, as well as recommendations. Funding for the Secretariat Against Sexual Violence, Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons increased substantially during the year, though it still fell short of the $610,000 designated as start-up funding in 2009. The legislature, however, approved $500,000 for the secretariat for 2011. Despite increasing reports of child sex tourism, which is prohibited by Article 195 of the penal code, there were no reported prosecutions or convictions of child sex tourists. In addition to efforts to educate the public, especially school children, about trafficking through awareness campaigns, authorities reported educating some Guatemalan workers living in the northern border region and working in Mexico about the dangers of forced labor. Authorities provided training on human trafficking to Guatemalan troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.


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