Cablegate: Panama: 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report
DE RUEHZP #0382/01 0712030
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 122030Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9970
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0163
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 2539
RUEHKG/AMEMBASSY KINGSTON 0251
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
UNCLAS PANAMA 000382
DEPARTMENT FOR G/TIP, G, INL, DRL, PRM, AND WHAT/PPC
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KCRM PHUM KWMN SMIG KFRD ASEC PREF ELAB PM
SUBJECT: PANAMA: 2007 TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS REPORT
REF: 2006 STATE 202745
1. (U) Embassy Panama's response to reftel questions on
trafficking in persons (TIP) follows. Replies correspond to
paragraphs 27-30 of reftel.
A. Panama is an origin, transit, and destination country for
trafficked persons. However, Panama is generally considered
by the GOP and NGOs as more of a transit and destination
point than a source country. Reliable statistics or
estimates on the number of trafficking victims do not exist.
International organizations estimate that thousands of people
are smuggled through Panama each year, but that the number of
trafficking cases are a small fraction of that number.
According to NGOs, international organizations, and the GOP,
women were trafficked into the country for sexual purposes
and rural and indigenous children may have been trafficked
internally to work in urban areas. There were no territories
outside the government's control as per reftel's description.
Sources of information on trafficking include various GOP
ministries and entities, such as the Judicial Technical
Police's (PTJ) Sex Crimes Unit, the Ministry of Government
and Justice, and the Public Ministry; NGOs; international
organizations such as UNICEF; and labor unions and groups.
According to the GOP, Panama is working to document
trafficking routes, perpetrators, and methods. In 2006,
Panama's public forces including the police agencies worked
with UNICEF to develop a map of trafficking and smuggling
routes used within the country and identified up to 10
B. Post is not aware of any significant changes in the
trafficking situation in the country since last year's TIP
Report. However, according to the PTJ, trafficked women came
mostly from Colombia, but not from the Dominican Republic as
stated in last year's report. The PTJ reported that Chinese
organized crime was increasingly involved in running
exploitative massage houses and clubs. Typically, the
scenario involves women who willingly entered Panama to work
as prostitutes, but upon arrival club/brothel owners
confiscated their passports and prevented them from leaving
or stopping work. The PTJ also mentioned that Panamanian
women were trafficked into Jamaica for sexual exploitation.
The political will in Panama to address trafficking is
evident in the GOP's and various NGOs' concern with the
problem and their various efforts to raise awareness and
improve prevention and prosecution capabilities. However,
the GOP has yet to undertake two important steps to combat
trafficking: the discontinuation of the "alternadora" visa,
which allows sex workers to enter the country, and the
collection of funds for anti-trafficking purposes, including
one dollar from the $20 departure tax from each tourist.
C. The main limitation on the GOP's ability to address
trafficking is a lack of funding. The GOP stated that there
was no designated part of the national budget to address
trafficking. (Note: In early 2007, the GOP reported its
first budget surplus in ten years, albeit a modest one of $88
million or 0.5 percent of GDP. It is unclear whether this
might enable the GOP to devote greater funding to address
trafficking. End note.) Related limitations included the
lack of other resources such as personnel, technical support,
and infrastructure. Corruption in general was a problem in
Panama, but post had received no reports indicating that
corruption had a direct effect on resources to fight
D. The National Commission for the Prevention of Crimes of
Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CONAPREDES) is the national
entity that coordinates and monitors the country's
anti-trafficking efforts. CONAPREDES publishes
anti-trafficking information on its website, including
information on the GOP's programs and objectives and
anti-trafficking meetings and seminars. In August 2006, the
Public Ministry (which includes the Attorney General's
office) added a link to CONAPREDES to its website. The GOP
told post that it planned to publish its own anti-trafficking
assessment in 2007.
A. The GOP acknowledges that trafficking is a problem.
B. The government agencies involved in anti-trafficking
include the Ministry of Government and Justice, Ministry of
Social Development, Ministry of Education, Ministry of
Economics and Finance, the youth court system, the Attorney
General's office, the National Assembly's Commission for
Women's Issues and the Rights of Children, Youth, and Family,
the Judicial Technical Police, the Ombudsman's Office, the
National Network for Youth and Adolescents, the National Bar
Association, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the
Executive Branch. CONAPREDES has the lead on the country's
anti-trafficking efforts, and its president has an office
within the Attorney General's office.
C. There are anti-trafficking awareness and education
campaigns in Panama. As of August 23, 2006, all lottery
tickets nationwide carry an anti-trafficking photograph and
message. The lottery is very popular, and the GOP thought
this would be an effective means to reach the population at
large. Also in 2006, CONAPREDES worked with ILO-IPEC to
print over 1,000 brochures on trafficking and 1,000 guides on
victim assistance. The Ministry of Education distributed
these materials to public school teachers throughout the
country. CONAPREDES and ILO-IPEC also sponsored two
television commercials, radio commercials, and four poster
designs to raise awareness of trafficking. The posters were
distributed to all public offices. Trafficking prosecutors
visited public schools nationwide to discuss trafficking.
These campaigns target the public at large, although one
poster/television spot focused on the penalties for child
sexual exploitation. There are no reliable means to measure
the effectiveness of these campaigns.
D. CONAPREDES is working on a variety of other
anti-trafficking programs. These include a national plan to
prevent and eliminate sexual exploitation, victim assistance
programs, awareness training for media outlets, and
audiovisual programs for police training. The GOP supports
initiatives to fight child labor, including a program that
provides scholarships to keep children in school.
E. According to the GOP, there is a good relationship
between government officials, NGOs, and civil society on
trafficking issues, with open and regular communication.
However, individuals in GOP offices have told post that
communication among government entities is not always clear.
International organizations have also said that getting
information from the government is difficult.
F. According to the GOP, the Immigration and Customs offices
and the Border Police (a separate entity of the Panamanian
National Police) monitor movement patterns for indicators of
trafficking. Various government and non-government
officials, however, have indicated problems getting
information on trafficking indicators from the Immigration
G. Panama is part of the regional (Central and North
America) coordination mechanism of the Puebla Regional
Process, or Regional Conference on Migration, which works to
combat trafficking. Domestically, CONAPREDES is the national
body overseeing trafficking issues. In 2005, President
Torrijos formed the 10-member National Transparency Council
as part of his anti-corruption platform.
H. Panama has a national plan to fight trafficking, based on
Law 16 of 2004 that criminalized trafficking and formed
CONAPREDES. Government entities including the Public
Ministry and the Ministry of Social Development helped form
Law 16. The GOP consulted NGOs and church organizations in
the formation of Law 16. The national plan is available on
the CONAPREDES website (www.ministeriopublico.gob.pa).
INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION OF TRAFFICKERS
A. Panama's Law 16, enacted in March 2004, specifically
prohibits sexual trafficking, as well as sexual tourism and
child pornography. Law 16 also addressed corruption of
minors, commercial sexual exploitation of adults and
children, and pimping. Panama's penal code criminalizes
participation in an international trafficking ring (Book II,
Title IX, Chapter III, Sections 310 and 310a), consensual
human smuggling, and the deprivation of a person's liberty
(Book II, Title II, Chapter III, Sections 151 and 152). The
penal code also criminalizes the use or inducement of minors
for pornography or prohibited work (Article 215D). The GOP's
national plan against child labor, enacted in June 2006, also
toughened regulations on child labor.
B. Persons who engage in trafficking for purposes of sexual
activity can receive five to eight years in prison, or eight
to ten years in the case of a minor victim.
C. Although union leaders and labor lawyers told post they
cannot rule out the existence of forced labor in Panama, they
knew of no such cases.
D. The prescribed penalties for rape range from three to ten
years in prison and for statutory rape one to six years. The
penalties for rape can be less than penalties for trafficking
(see section B above.)
E. Prostitution in Panama is legal and regulated for persons
over the age of 18.
F. On January 10, 2007, Panama had its first trafficking
conviction. A foreign national (note: a dual U.S.-Greek
citizen), who owned a club with female dancers, was charged
with procurement and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Also in January 2007, authorities began proceedings against a
Panamanian woman who allegedly trafficked Panamanian women to
Jamaica for sexual exploitation. Otherwise the Public
Ministry prosecuted no trafficking cases. During 2006, the
PTJ's Sex Crimes Unit investigated five cases of sexual
trafficking. Post received no specific information regarding
prosecutions of labor trafficking cases, although the GOP
stated that Panama did investigate such violations. The GOP
provided information on the two prosecutions and PTJ
G. In general, victims enter Panama legally through a
tourist, transit, or "alternadora" visa and subsequently find
work in bars and clubs, where they are then prevented from
leaving. There is no available information on whether
traffickers tend to be freelance or affiliated with organized
crime, or on the involvement of government officials, banks,
tour agencies, etc. According to the GOP, the trafficking
profits in the investigated cases were directed to the
individual club owners.
H. The government investigates trafficking cases.
Investigative techniques such as electronic surveillance and
undercover and covert operations are legal and allowable with
I. According to the GOP, Panama provides anti-trafficking
training to all government officials in the applicable
entities, including prosecutors, judges, and police and
public forces. Such training is in the form of seminars,
conferences, and workshops. CONAPREDES and ILO-IPEC produced
a training video to include in the training program for the
Panamanian National Police. TIP prosecutors also attend
regional Central American training programs.
J. According to the GOP, Panama cooperates with other
governments and Interpol on trafficking issues. For fiscal
year 2007, DHS/ICE assisted the GOP with five cases.
Information on the number of other cooperative international
investigations was not available.
K. The government has not extradited any persons on
trafficking charges, although extradition for sexual
trafficking is allowed under Law 16. Extradition of
Panamanian nationals is not allowed by the Constitution, and
there are no plans to amend this.
L. Post sees no evidence of government involvement in or
tolerance of trafficking.
M. Not applicable.
N. The government has not prosecuted any foreign pedophiles.
In 2006, Panama worked with DHS/ICE to extradite 4
pedophiles. According to the GOP, the majority of
perpetrators in child sex tourism cases are from the United
States. Panamanian laws do not allow for extraterritorial
O. Panama has signed and ratified the following conventions.
--ILO Convention 182: Law 18 of June 15, 2000
--ILO Conventions 29 and 105: Law 23 of February 1, 1966 and
Law 22 of April 22, 1998
--Optional Protocol to the CRC: Law 47 of December 13, 2001
--Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in
Persons: Law 16 of March 31, 2004
PROTECTION AND ASSISTANCE TO VICTIMS
A. The government provides -- within funding limits --
legal, medical, and psychological services to victims, as
well as shelters and repatriation assistance. The Ministry
of Social Development runs a shelter and also provides funds
to the NGO Hogar Malambo to provide shelter and treatment to
victims. According to the Ministry, there were 13 victims in
its facility last year and none as of February 2007.
B. As noted above, the Ministry of Social Development
provided assistance to the NGO Hogar Malambo for victim
C. The government has developed a formal manual for police
and public forces, judges, and prosecutors on all aspects of
trafficking, including attention to victims and a referral
process. According to the GOP, there are insufficient funds
to develop a formal system for victim identification.
D. Panama respects the rights of victims and, per Law 16,
victims are not treated as criminals. Victims are detained
only to take their statements. There are no fines for
victims, nor are they prosecuted for other violations, such
as immigration, if they are the direct result of trafficking.
E. The government encourages victims to cooperate and assist
in trafficking investigations and prosecutions. Victims may
file civil suits against traffickers. No one impedes
victims' access to legal redress, although court delays are
lengthy. Victims are permitted to obtain other employment if
they have legal permission to do so or leave the country.
There is no formal restitution program but victims can
receive restitution through the court proceedings.
F. Law 16 of March 2004 mandates government protection of
sexual trafficking victims, including protection against
intimidation or reprisals. In practice, the government funds
shelters and other victim services, such as legal assistance
and medical attention. The government is limited, however,
by lack of funding. Child victims are placed in either the
Ministry of Social Development-run shelter or the Hogar
Malambo shelter, or with foster families.
G. The government, with the support of international
organizations like IOM and ILO-IPEC and other countries,
provides training on recognizing trafficking and assisting
victims. In March and April 2006, one of the three
trafficking prosecutors attended anti-trafficking training
courses in Venezuela and Costa Rica. Also in 2006, the
Public Ministry supported a two-month continuing education
college course for journalists at the University of Panama on
child victims of sexual exploitation. In August 2006, the
Attorney General and some prosecutors held a workshop for
media outlets to discuss trafficking awareness and victim
protection, including the respectful treatment of victims in
the press. In 2006, a delegation of Italian investigators
held a workshop on undercover investigation for the PTJ. In
early 2007 officials from the Ministry of Government and
Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs attended an
IOM-sponsored anti-trafficking workshop in Colombia. The
government does not provide formal training to its embassies
in foreign countries on trafficking, but does provide
information on an individual basis. CONAPREDES is developing
an anti-trafficking seminar for Panamanian diplomats.
H. The government's victim assistance programs, such as
shelters, are available for victims of any nationality,
including Panamanian nationals. In 2006, the Ministry of
Social Development shelter housed mostly Panamanian girls who
had been sexually exploited in Panama for commercial
purposes. Post has heard no reports of repatriated nationals
who are victims of trafficking.
I. The main NGOs that work with trafficking victims are
Hogar Malambo and Casa Esperanza, which work mostly with
minors. They provide shelters and comprehensive victim
services, including assistance with medial, nutritional, and
educational needs. They, and other smaller NGOs, are
supported in part by the Ministry of Social Development and
receive cooperation from local authorities. International
organizations that work with trafficking victims include
UNICEF, IOM, and CRM, the regional working group on migration
NOMINATION OF HEROES AND BEST PRACTICES
A. Post cannot identify any single individual who would
qualify as an "Anti-Trafficking Hero" in Panama for 2006.
B. As noted in last year's report, post continues to believe
that Panama's law mandating the collection of a percentage of
profits from pornographic materials and adult entertainment
videos would be a "best practice" if it could be implemented.
Similarly, the collection of one dollar from the $20
departure tax paid by each tourist for anti-trafficking would
make a significant difference in the government's resources.
An estimated 515,000 tourists will visit Panama during the
period of January-April 2007 alone: that would have been
$515,000 for CONAPREDES if the government could implement the
2. (U) Post's contact for this report is political officer
Carrie Lee, email LeeCK2@state.gov and telephone
507-207-7131. Post estimates about 72 hours were spent
preparing this report.