30 July 2021
Posteado en : Reportage
Every year more than 1.7 million women and girls are victims of sexual exploitation. Although the criminal networks and pimps are the ones committing these crimes, they are often able to act thanks to corrupt officials who allow these activities or even participate in them. On World Anti-Trafficking Day, we focus on this dimension of human trafficking and on the commitment of the Latin American Prosecutors' Offices to combat it.
Gabriella is 15 years old, but her ID card says she has just turned 19. For two years, a network of pimps has had her locked in a brothel where they sexually exploit her. Six months ago she managed to escape from them. When she saw a police station in the distance, she thought she was safe. On arrival, she was seen by a police officer, who led her into a room and took a statement from her. When Gabriella finished speaking, the police officer left the room for a moment to make a call. Fifteen minutes later, a car turned up at the police station to take her back to the brothel from which she had escaped. The next day, the policeman stopped by to get the pimps to return the favour.
Gabriella does not exist, but her story is lived every day by more than 1.7 million women and girls who are victims of sexual exploitation. Although pimps are often singled out, corrupt officials who look the other way or cover up these crimes are equally responsible. “Corruption is a scourge that permeates all structures, both public and private. The area of human trafficking is not outside this”, affirms María Soledad Machuca, a prosecutor with the Specialised Unit for Crimes Against the Economic Order and Corruption in Paraguay.
Some public officials not only look the other way, they even actively participate in or benefit from sexual exploitation. “Often corrupt officials negotiate with traffickers and exploiters for payment in bribes or sexual favours in which the victims themselves are the exchange currency used to make these payments”, explains María Alejandra Mángano, a prosecutor with the Prosecutor’s Office for Trafficking and Exploitation of Persons in Argentina .
For Rosario López Wong, a coordinating prosecutor with the Specialised Prosecutors for Trafficking Crimes in Peru, one of the problems that facilitate trafficking is advanced warning about police operations: “We feel great frustration when a planned victim rescue operation is not carried out or is halted because the traffickers have been alerted and the victims have been hidden, even minors.”
Other officials give licences for cafeterias to brothels, falsify identity documents to make girls appear to be of legal age or intimidate victims so they do not report crimes, as Marcelo Colombo, a prosecutor with the Office of Human Trafficking and Exploitation in Argentina, describes: “There are public officials who threaten victims and witnesses, either so they do not denounce the acts of corruption or so they do not appear as witnesses at the trials”.
The Latin American Prosecutor‘s Offices, within the framework of the Ibero-American Association of Public Ministries (AIAMP), work to detect and combat the public corruption that conceals trafficking. The Public Ministries are aware of the importance of working together and cooperating to end this scourge. “We are strengthening the cooperation and coordination between the Specialised Units for People Trafficking and Anti-Corruption in order to carry out an effective and timely investigation,” explains Carina Sánchez, a prosecutor with the Unit for the Fight against Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation in Paraguay.
At FIIAPP, through programmes such as EUROsociAL+, EL PAcCTO and A-TIPSOM, we are working to promote cooperation between public administrations and jointly combat human trafficking. We do this by addressing the criminal chain as a whole. This implies working with both the police dimension (investigation and detention), going through the judicial route (drafting legislation and prosecuting in accordance with current laws) and finishing off with the penitentiary dimension (application of the penalties imposed).
With the # FiscalíasContralaCorrupciónylaTrata campaign, we reveal the hidden face of sexual exploitation. Although corrupt officials are only one part of an administration, detecting these ‘bad apples‘ is essential to ending trafficking. As Sergio Rodríguez, the head of the Argentine Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office, states: “There is no human trafficking without corruption“.
27 September 2018
Posteado en : Opinion
Bolivia faces the problem of human trafficking within the framework of the strategy to combat drug trafficking and related crimes supported by the project managed by the FIIAPP
30 July is World Day against Trafficking in Persons. As a firm step in the fight against this crime by the political authorities of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, 23 September has been established as the National Day against human trafficking in the country.
Aligning itself with this public commitment, the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP), in coordination with the Coordination Secretariat of the National Council to fight against illicit drug trafficking (SC-CONALTID), are carrying out the support project for the strategy to combat drug trafficking and related crimes in Bolivia, financed by the European Union and co-financed by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECID).
In order to correctly understand the enormous problem posed by trafficking in human beings, we must first know what it is. The definition of trafficking is included in the Palermo Protocol as follows: “…the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
This trade in human beings has become the new form of slavery in the 21st century, generating huge incomes for the organised mafias that operate and make profits through this crime. Trafficking in human beings is considered the second most lucrative criminal sector, behind drug trafficking, with an estimated income of between 32 and 36 billion dollars, according to the UN report on human trafficking (2016).
Some data to show the scale of this problem worldwide: approximately 21 million people are victims of this crime, 70% women and girls (51% and 20% respectively), 21% men and 8% children. Women and girls are the groups most vulnerable to this crime, so public policies to combat trafficking demand a rigorous and effective gender strategy. The victims come from a total of 137 countries, which gives us an accurate picture of the global problem that this crime poses.
The main causes of trafficking in human beings are, among others: poverty and growing inequalities; the proliferation of an economic model with a focus on value measurement in commercial terms, rather than a more social projection; the growing and continuous escalation of war conflicts, and; the existence of an increase in human displacements. All these factors have increased the vulnerability of large human groups whose risk of falling into criminal networks has increased exponentially.
Trafficking in persons is therefore considered to be a crime that violates rights such as freedom, physical, psychological and sexual integrity, dignity and life itself, reducing them in the mind to objects that can be used, exploited and/or marketed.
Bolivia: origin, transit and destination
In Bolivia there is data provided by the Ministry of Justice and Institutional Transparency, which is the body that heads the Plurinational Council in the fight against dealing and trafficking in Bolivia. This institution, together with all the Ministries, civil society and the Ombudsman, coordinates the operation of the Plurinational Policy to fight dealing and trafficking in people. In the 2016 report, a total of 829 cases were reported, of which more than 70% were women, girls and adolescents.
However, an exhaustive look at the reality of the country reveals one recurrent feature in this crime, which is its lack of visibility. It is doubtful that these data are realistic enough to describe the true dimension of this problem. Bolivia is considered a country of origin, transit and destination for trafficking in human beings. An origin because there are flows to Peru (mainly for sexual exploitation) and to Argentina (labour exploitation), among others, within what we know as foreign trafficking. But there is a very harsh reality in relation to internal trafficking, which occurs within the country and involves victims being displaced internally. Traditional productive sectors such as agriculture and mining hide a reality of victims of trafficking for sexual, commercial labour exploitation. The slave trade is a reality which the country has not managed to see the true impact of yet.
There is a perverse economic logic that describes the process of investment recovery, investment understood as capital devoted to recruiting, transferring and harbouring victims. The purpose of these processes is the exploitation of human beings, which is different from that of arms trafficking or drug trafficking, where the profit ends with the commercial transaction (purchase/sale). In the case of human trafficking, the rate of return is continuous, the services given in terms of prostitution, labour exploitation, slavery, etc. continue recurrently. In the trafficking of human beings, people become goods subject to continuous and recurrent exploitation.
Continuing with this economic logic, we must not forget that victims of trafficking do not enter the official channels of the labour market. This seriously harms them, since their work is not covered by future social benefits, which also results in a lack of income from these productive activities for the public coffers. The problem of trafficking is not only the complete vulnerability of the victims’ human rights, but also the detriment to the countries’ economic development, affecting their social services structure.
A project for a transnational problem
The strategy to combat this crime through the project operated by the FIIAPP, focuses on the 3 pillars: prevention, persecution and protection, known as the 3 P’s. A very ambitious training programme has been launched for public officials involved in the fight against this crime (police, prosecutors, magistrates, social services for victims, civil society, among others), mapping out a funnel-shaped strategy: from the national administration to departmental and municipal levels, since while public policies are established at a national level at a municipal level work is done directly with the personnel who attend the victims.
Regional and international trips have also been carried out with the aim of improving regional and international coordination in the fight against this crime, because we must not forget it is a transnational issue. The Departmental Councils are being backed in the fight against human trafficking with support in the formulation of the Departmental Anti-Trafficking Plans. In close coordination with the Public Ministry and the Bolivian Police, a trafficking research manual is being prepared that seeks to systematise and standardise the investigative processes in order to improve the investigative capacity of police and prosecutors and, among other things, reduce the risk of revictimisation.
At the FIIAPP we are convinced that we must continue supporting processes of change through support to public policies and alignment in the legal-regulatory framework of the countries we work with. The fight against human trafficking goes beyond an institutional commitment—it is a human obligation to position oneself on the side of those institutions and people who work for the victims and their reintegration into society.
Santiago Santos, coordinator of the project to support the strategy to fight against drug trafficking and related crimes in Bolivia
30 August 2018
Posteado en : Opinion
Juan Antonio Aunión, from El País, explains his experience in the journalistic reporting workshop he led in Bolivia as part of the project against drug trafficking and human trafficking
Few jobs have such a frenetic pace as that of a journalist. Day-to-day urgencies rarely leave room for reflection on our own work, to think carefully about the things we fail at, the things we do well in, and especially about what we can do to improve. That is why I appreciate my work as a professor at the UAM-El País School of Journalism, because it forces me to reflect on all this. It is also why I accepted, without giving it a second thought, the FIIAPP’s invitation to lead the International Workshop on journalistic reporting on the prevention of drug use and human trafficking, issues that are so important and so serious that they deserve even more care and self-criticism when dealing with them in the media. The workshop was held in La Paz, Bolivia, in coordination with the Coordination Secretariat of CONALTID and with the funding of the European Union and the AECID.
In that context, the most logical thing for me to do was to propose, from the beginning, a joint five-day reflection with the participants, about twenty professionals from the Bolivian press, radio and television. Precisely, the diversity of the group (not only because they came from different media, but also because some were very young, newcomers to the trade, while others were seasoned journalists with decades of experience behind them) ended up contributing enormously to the workshop. But it was also the main difficulty, solved, in any case, by the chosen format: brief presentations accompanied by many examples of reference texts, a format which allowed us to immediately put into practice all the ideas and techniques presented, along with a lot of interaction and a lot of dialogue.
This practical task consisted of writing a report about drug use or human trafficking. This enabled us to review the entire journalistic process, from the choice of topic, its development, documentation, field work, to the writing and editing (or in this case, proofreading). This way, we managed to delve deeper into fiction techniques that might enable us to present our work in a deeper and more attractive way, without ever losing sight of the strengths of any journalistic text: honesty, rigour, fact-checking each piece of information and giving the context needed to understand complex realities. That’s on top of striking the essential balance between professional distance and the sensitivity required when dealing with social issues in general, and drugs and human trafficking in particular.
Many of the problems that the students faced are the same ones Spanish professionals face in our daily work: how to approach the characters, how to present the story and make it attractive, what part of the information, obtained with great effort, to leave out to improve the end result, etc. However, others had to do with traits unique to Bolivia, which has its own working conditions and cultural environment, for example the bureaucratic written procedure necessary to request almost any official information. The answers that we all gave to these problems, at the peak of their experience and mine, were the most interesting part of the course, at least for me, and I think it also has a lot to do with the philosophy of the work that FIIAPP does in all the countries it is present in.
Apart from that, my objective for this course was to give the participants a series of tools to tell, in a slightly more attractive and familiar way, both the big stories, those large-scale events that the media relies on, as well as the small everyday stories, those that have to be covered at full speed, but which also deserve, apart from the essential rigour, all the care and affection we can give. Especially when dealing with sensitive issues such as those that have to do with drug use and human trafficking.
Juan Antonio Aunión, El País journalist specialising in social and educational issues
12 January 2018
Posteado en : Reportage
The First Journalistic Feature Contest organised by SC-CONALTID and FIIAPP seeks to make the fight against these crimes visible within the framework of the project to support Bolivian institutions
“At 27, Noelia has experienced more than anyone of her age; she is one of the five women who are interned in the Drug Dependants ward at the San Juan de Dios Psychiatric Hospital in Cochabamba, for polydrug use…”
Thus begins Moments of pleasure in exchange for a life of suffering, the winning story in the First Journalistic Feature Contest “Prevention of Drug Taking and Fight Against the Smuggling and Trafficking of Persons”. Laura Manzaneda Barrios, a journalist for The Times in Bolivia, narrates the life of a drug addict who loses custody of her children and arrives at an institution to rehabilitate herself.
According to the Latin American Observatory on Drug Policy and Human Security, 97% of the population considers drug use to be a social problem. Moreover, the fact is that the country is the epicentre of drug trafficking.
The portrayal of positive experiences in the prevention of drug use or in the fight against the trafficking and smuggling of persons is the goal of this contest organised by SC-CONALTID and FIIAPP, within the framework of the project to support the fight against drug trafficking and related crimes.
A story that seeks to provide training for Bolivian institutions in the fields of operational criminal investigation, intelligence, the control of borders and merchandise, money and asset laundering, people smuggling and trafficking.
This last problem is the subject of the second award-winning story: I woke up from the network, I dodged people trafficking, from the presenter of Red Bolivisión Víctor Hugo Rojas Chávez.
“Accepting an unknown yet attractive person as a contact was the quickest way to misery, a ticket she acquired when answering the first “hello, how are you?” in a web chat… the rest only a game of warm and flattering words in the midst of a vibrant plague of emoticons of kisses and hearts… that was the journey that led her along this path, a path of no return and at the highest price”.
The fragment reflects the principle of the many cases of what UNICEF considers “a modern form of slavery”. The main victims of human trafficking are children, adolescents and women who are seduced for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labour.
According to United Nations (UN) estimates, more than 2 million people are victims of human trafficking every year. And a study promoted by the Organization of American States (OAS) noted that Bolivia is one of the countries with the highest rate of people smuggling and trafficking in the region.
Institutional action is fundamental
The project managed by FIIAPP – funded by the European Commission and the State Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECID) – focuses on the formation of Bolivian institutions so that they can cope with the problem.
Making it visible with activities like this is the first step. But there is a need for coordinated work by public and international entities. And in the end, the involvement of these institutions is fundamental. Thus, the third prize winner, professor of Social Communication (UMSA) Ramiro Reynaldo Quintanilla Ramírez, says at the end of his story: People trafficking is a silent crime that threatens Bolivia.
“Mothers will continue to look for their daughters, victims will try to extricate themselves from the horror which surrounds them and the money will never be enough to deal with such a lucrative and dangerous crime. However, there is hope for society as long as there are institutions that care about the pain of others.”
To read the full stories, click here