Human Trafficking in Venezuela

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This research examines the injustices and dehumanization of Latina/os in Venezuela, focusing on its phenomenon of human trafficking. The nation has become a victim of its own economic, social, and political corruption. The trafficking of persons is believed to be the third-largest organized crime worldwide, encompassing many demographics. Human trafficking has plagued Venezuela for many years. This paper ultimately concludes and exposes the extent of the dilemma. The sources used for our research were found through the databases of the John Jay Lloyd Library, the U.

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S. Department of State, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). We have concentrated our findings on the ongoing problems in Venezuela, the connection of these problems to human trafficking, the countries involved, and ways that people can counteract this issue.

Human Trafficking in Venezuela

Human trafficking is a nationwide dilemma. Venezuela serves as a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Identifying victims of human trafficking is difficult due to the substantial number of undocumented immigrants who are unaccounted for. These undocumented immigrants, along with the number that fall victim to sex trafficking, are not represented in official figures.

A country’s instability is what drives their people out. They begin to migrate, and the sense of desperation for money is what leads many to enter the human trafficking rings. This paper explores the leading causes of Venezuela’s collapse, and it also exposes why it has failed to control and put an end to the rise in human trafficking. It provides suggestions that we believe will help Venezuela. Through the study of Venezuela’s corruption, it aims to educate readers on a nation that is breaking apart.

Human Trafficking, as defined by Article 3 of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking, is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of 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. Unfortunately, Venezuela is one of many leading countries that has failed to control the rise of human/sex trafficking. The country is rapidly collapsing, and this demise has led to numerous disasters such as hyperinflation, power cuts, police brutality, lack of hospitals, and a nationwide shortage of food and clean water.

The region is witnessing one of the biggest migrations in its history. As a developing country in South America, Venezuela has rich natural resources, but suffers from a government that refuses to cooperate with foreign NGOs and refuses to accept foreign aid.

Venezuela’s crisis began in 2010 under the presidency of Hugo Chavez and has continued into current president Nicolas Maduro’s term. Nicolas Maduro has refused to recognize the country’s hyperinflationary problem and has no plan to address it. Venezuela is heavily dependent on oil revenues, as oil accounts for about ninety-five percent of its earnings. Despite holding one of the largest oil reserves, after its major collapse, the country is running out of cash to pay for food and medicine. Salaries can’t keep up with hyperinflation, and living in a country where the price of food changes constantly has prompted more than 1.5 million Venezuelans to flee the country in the past four years. The United Nations estimates there are 3 million Venezuelans living abroad, including some 2.4 million spread across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Those seeking to leave the country who can’t afford black-market rates can face severe setbacks as they are left on their own to seek refuge. The country’s failure to provide its people with what they need is driving the migration in search of a better life. Venezuela approved the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking as it addressed all aspects of trafficking in persons. It was created in an effort to combat trafficking in both international and domestic cases. However, Venezuela has failed to uphold the protocol. Human trafficking in Venezuela has increased tremendously over the years, and alleged victims of trafficking from Venezuela have been identified in other countries such as Aruba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Greece, Guyana, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Spain, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago. Columbia’s Immigration has been unable to track the exact number of Venezuelans that have entered Colombia but they have definitely noticed an increase in their population. Venezuelans cross the Simon Bolivar bridge which is the entry point between Colombia and Venezuela. Venezuelans use it as a way to escape their country’s conditions and, unfortunately, criminal gangs take advantage of such misery. Two of Colombia’s criminal gangs, the Rastrojos and the Gulf Clan control the illegal crossings. They decide how many pass, as well as who passes, and what they can take with them. Many of the people enter Colombia in the hope of finding work, however, others are food or fuel traffickers who must pay the gangs duties on contraband they smuggle. As an example of such vulnerability that exists, a victim herself, Luz, has spoken about how she lost one of her three children in April of 2018 after the hospital in her Venezuelan town ran out of medication to treat her daughter’s bacterial infection. She was approached with a chance to move to Trinidad and she immediately agreed. However, she was held captive for five weeks, which damaged her emotionally and psychologically.

At one point, Luz states that she and a friend were tied up and raped side by side. “We were looking at each other, we would cry. And I would tell her, ‘Sister, be strong, you have a daughter.’ I would just keep repeating that.” Luz’s horrifying experience is a result of Venezuela’s failure to take action on one of the biggest plagues that exist in Venezuela. The country is facing serious economic, political, and social catastrophes. There are high levels of political and civil tensions occurring in Venezuela. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime argues that organized crime, such as human trafficking, would be unsuccessful without the aid of “systematic corruption”. This means that Venezuela needs to address their issue directly in relation to economic means, as well as address how political influence impacts national corruption. Corruption not only obstructs the protection of human rights in Venezuela, it also causes many human rights violations. As corruption worsens, Venezuela is acquiring one of Latin America’s worst records of human rights violations. The country has a score of 169 out of 180 in Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Index. The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) measures countries on the basis of their perceived level of corruption. The CPI focuses on the public sector and evaluates the degree of corruption among public officials and politicians. Further analysis indicates that countries with the least protection for NGOs also tend to have the worst rates of corruption. Support groups from neighboring countries, as well as non-neighbors, have taken action by providing necessities for Venezuelans seeking refuge. The Venezuela Support Group (VSG) has been founded by the Guyana Human Rights Association.

VSG announced that they will ensure that persons arriving receive information and assistance to secure valid visas to remain in Guyana and are not exploited financially or abused in other ways. They also noted that the group has requested meetings with the Minister of Citizenship in order to establish liaison arrangements with the ministry. The VSG supports the implementation of new regulations and policies that will help Venezuelans. They want to place policies that will provide Venezuelans with the most effective way to start over. They will help with assistance to contact family or other persons by making known social and welfare services which may be accessible to Venezuelans, and by contributing to information-gathering initiatives.

Human trafficking in Venezuela violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR was created after World War II, on December 10th, 1948. It was created with the purpose to set out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. It consists of a preamble followed by 30 articles that protect the fundamentals that every human being deserves. Human trafficking specifically violates Articles #4 and #5. Article 4 states, “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”(1948). Article 5 states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”(1948).

When victims are trafficked, they are sold and forcibly taken around. They are treated as objects and are not even seen as humans but exploited for the benefit and pleasure of others. No one should fall victim and be degraded to be seen and treated as an object. Victims also are forced to partake in enforced labor such as prostitution, child soldiers, and involuntary domestic servitude (U.S Dept. of State, 2008). These methods are part of modern slavery, meaning they have taken away the freedom and forcibly exploited. Through the manipulation of the perpetrators, the victims are stripped of their natural rights.

Focusing more on Venezuela, they are currently placed in the third tier.

What do these tiers really mean? The U.S. Department of State created the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which is the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-trafficking efforts and reflects the U.S. Government’s commitment to global leadership on human rights issues (2001). Through the reports, the United States provides narratives for countries involved in the particular crime of human trafficking. They constructed tiers and placed the countries appropriately in their well-suited tier. The requirements consisted of several points: a government should prohibit severe forms of trafficking in persons; any child that is a victim of any act of sex trafficking is incapable of giving meaningful consent and will be viewed as forced; the government should return a punishment that adequately reflects the heinous nature of the offense; and that the government should make efforts to eliminate any forms of sex trafficking (2000). Because Venezuela did not properly meet the criteria, they are placed in tier 3, which is not a state they should remain in. Venezuela did not successfully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

As stated before, the Venezuelan Government is not making any significant efforts and is, therefore, remaining in Tier 3 (U.S. Dept. of State, 2008). Giving a brief overview of the TIP report, there are other countries that are placed in the same tier or even lower. Starting with Tier 1, which consists of Argentina, Australia, France, Portugal, the United States of America, and more, Tier 1 is essentially the countries that meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards. Moving onto Tier 2, it consists of countries such as Afghanistan, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Turkey, and more. Tier 2 is just countries that did not meet the standards, but are making an effort to reach them. Lastly, Tier 3 has countries such as North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, and more. Tier 3 consists of countries that do not fully meet the minimum standards and do not even bother to make any significant efforts to change that.

There are resolutions that have been taken to counteract methods of human trafficking. There are relief programs that are given to victims to help them overcome within the United States. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), they stated, “Under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), victims of trafficking are eligible for the services and benefits available to refugees in the United States, such as cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid and SSI” (par. 30). The Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) is an act to combat trafficking in persons, especially into the sex trade, slavery, and involuntary servitude, to reauthorize certain Federal programs to prevent violence against women, and for other purposes (U.S. Dept of State). Immigrants are able to apply for visas, such as T-visas and U-visas.

The T-visas and U-visas are similar, but they do have noticeable differences in terms of who can apply, employment, and benefits for family members.

Starting with the U-visas, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, immigrants are available if they went under a qualifying criminal activity which consists of “Abduction, Abusive Sexual Contact, Blackmail, Domestic Violence, Extortion, False Imprisonment, Female Genital Mutilation, Felonious Assault, Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting, Hostage, Incest, Involuntary Servitude, Kidnapping, Manslaughter, Murder, Obstruction of Justice, Peonage, Perjury, Prostitution, Rape, Sexual Assault, Sexual Exploitation, Slave Trade, Stalking, Torture, Trafficking, Witness Tampering, Unlawful Criminal Restraint” (2018). Under the U-visas, it offers more of a broad spectrum and allows several victims to be eligible for the visa.

For the T-visas, the victims that are eligible to apply are those who have undergone a severe form of human trafficking (2018). The T-visa is more specific in terms of who could be eligible for it. The number of applicants that are accepted for T-visas are 5,000 per year, while the U-visas can accept up to 10,000 applicants a year (2018). After applying, the victim will inform law enforcement, providing them with additional information to prevent further incidents of human trafficking. These are solutions that are being utilized both internationally and domestically.

Individuals have little influence over these decisions, as the visas are solely based on federal agencies’ decisions, over which most people have no control. There could be workshops implemented in school curriculums or after-school programs that could raise awareness of human trafficking. Through these workshops, more people, especially adolescents, could be informed of how to support anti-human trafficking organizations.

In conclusion, Venezuela has failed to uphold the human rights of its citizens and to establish stability as a whole. Due to its failure to address major problems, Venezuela has essentially led to its own downfall. Its citizens are paying the price for the government’s ignorance and inaction. The combination of economic collapse and state repression has pushed Venezuelans to migrate and become victims of human trafficking. The lack of government support within Venezuela has led to violations of the Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, resulting in the country being placed in Tier 3.

There have been programs, such as the U-visa and T-visa and others mentioned earlier, implemented to provide aid to victims. With support and aid from both organizations and federal agencies, the battle against human trafficking could potentially be reduced, and this abhorrent practice hopefully eradicated.

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Human Trafficking in Venezuela. (2019, Aug 24). Retrieved from