Cablegate: Nicaragua: Eigth Annual Trafficking in Persons

DE RUEHMU #0304/01 0721845
P 121845Z MAR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 002731
B. 07 MANAGUA 00796
C. 08 MANAGUA 2577
D. 07 MANAGUA 2594
E. 08 MANAGUA 0176

- - - -

1. (SBU) During the April 2007 to March 2008 reporting
period, the Government of Nicaragua (GON) maintained efforts
to combat trafficking in persons (TIP) in the areas of
prevention, raising awareness, and detection, but made little
progress in terms of victim assistance and the prosecution
and convictions of traffickers. No reliable data was
available to assess the magnitude of the trafficking in
persons problem in Nicaragua, but all sources consulted
concurred that the prevalence of human trafficking was
underreported and concealed. In addition, internal
trafficking involving the sexual exploitation of children was
a serious problem. Child labor continued to be widespread.
An overall lack of awareness and understanding of the
trafficking in persons phenomenon within the population
continued. Poverty, illiteracy, lack of economic
opportunity, porous borders, geographic location, and vast
areas of unpatrolled land along the Atlantic coast,
contribute to making Nicaragua the principal source of
trafficking victims in Central America.

2. (SBU) Although the country has in place a National
Coalition against Trafficking in Persons (NCATIP), which
includes various ministries and civil society organizations,
non-governmental organizations within the NCATIP voiced
regret that this Coalition was less active and accessible
than in the past. Resource constraints, the slow pace of
judicial reform, corruption in the judiciary, the delay in
the implementation of the new penal code, a lack of border
security, weak immigration controls, and insufficient
coordination of efforts were among the top obstacles impeding
progress. Significant personnel changes in government
ministries linked to the assumption of power by the new
Ortega Administration in early 2007 impeded continuity and
coordination in combating TIP. It should be noted, however,
the GON reaffirmed its commitment to address the problem and
hosted two regional conferences on the topic. The GON made
strides in providing anti-trafficking training for government
officials and the Nicaraguan National Police (NNP) and in
extending public awareness information through programs
implemented and financed by outside donors, non-governmental
organizations (NGOS), and UN organizations. According to the
Ministry of Government, all of its officials have been
trained and sensitized in the topic, including at the
departmental and district levels. (END SUMMARY)

The information provided below is keyed to Reftel A
paragraphs 27-31.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A. (SBU) Nicaragua was a source of both internal and
external trafficking, primarily for the purpose of sexual
exploitation of children, adolescents, and young women.
Although it was also a transit country, there was scant
evidence that Nicaragua was a significant destination
country. There were no reliable statistics available to
assess the magnitude of trafficked victims. According to a
2007 study by the Institute of Public Policy and Strategic
Studies (IEEPP), Nicaraguan authorities were only able to
detect 10 percent of illegal trafficking across its borders,
which includes illegal migration as well as human

MANAGUA 00000304 002 OF 013

trafficking. The reliability of any assessment of the extent
of internal trafficking was even more doubtful. As the
second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Nicaragua
suffers from severe resource constraints, weak institutions,
and a generalized disrespect for the rule of law, conditions
which favor criminals involved in human trafficking. The
Department of Chinandega on the northwest border of the
country was the most vulnerable area in the country for
external trafficking. Sources consulted included media
reports, the NCATIP (Ref B), the Ministry of Government, the
Ministry of Family, the Nicaraguan National Police (NNP)
Special Crimes Unit, the NNP's Commissariat for Women and
Children, the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, the
International Organization for Migration (OIM) and other NGOs
that form part of the Coalition including Casa Alianza, Save
the Children, Dos Generaciones, the Council for the Defense
of Children (CODENI), UNICEF, the National Movement for
Children, Girls, and Adolescent Workers (NATRAS), and the

B. (SBU) As in the previous year, the vast majority of cases
in Nicaragua involved young women and girls trafficked for
the purpose of sexual exploitation. The main groups at risk
were young uneducated women and children from poor, rural
areas; victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence; girls
and adolescents from rural areas who were offered jobs to
work in restaurants, night clubs and bars in urban areas;
and, individuals who lack a legal identification card
(cedula) required for persons over the age of 16. These
groups were trafficked to work as prostitutes in night clubs,
bars, brothels, and massage parlors. Children and women from
the ages of 13 to 21 years were the most vulnerable, but
there was evidence of children as young as 11 and women up to
the age of 35 who were victims of trafficking. Victims were
usually approached by individuals who appeared to be
prosperous, drove expensive cars, and offered lucrative jobs.
They offered false documents, money, food, clothing, gifts,
and cell phones as incentives. One NGO claimed that some
traffickers attempted to lure adolescents with offers of
scholarships to Venezuela. Traffickers also sometimes used
children to recruit other children. Female traffickers,
including former prostitutes, often attempted to first
develop a bond of trust when recruiting victims, or even used
a form of brainwashing, to convince children and young girls
that prostitution was a desirable way of life and/or to
establish a sense of dependency to prevent victims' escape.
Some pursued women who were victims of violence by pretending
to offering them assistance out of altruism.

B. Continued: (SBU) There were reports of forced child
marriages, some of which were arranged by parents of low
economic means who sold their daughters to older men. NGOs
reported an increase in temporary marriages between foreign
male tourists and female minors. According to NGOs and human
rights organizations, trafficking for labor exploitation was
a problem, but the government did not recognize this as a
serious concern as there was insufficient data to confirm its

B. Continued (U) Authorities and NGOs concurred that
traffickers ran the gamut from organized crime rings and taxi
driver networks, to family operations and individuals
including "madams" and former prostitutes. Traffickers used
night clubs, massage parlors, cheap hotels, brothels, and
restaurants to recruit and deceive victims. They transported
victims openly through border checkpoints and airports, and
illegally through backroads and blind spots along the borders
and unpatrolled maritime routes. They also used phony travel
agencies and employment agencies as front companies, and
advertised jobs in local newspapers for work in massage
parlors, beauty salons, hotels, and in the modeling, tourist,
and entertainment industries. In August 2007, the leading
left-leaning news outlet, El Nuevo Diario, decided to pull

MANAGUA 00000304 003 OF 013

advertising for massage parlors after police arrested a
21-year old woman for allegedly recruiting minors to work as
prostitutes in a massage parlor in Managua. Civil society and
religious leaders hailed the decision as contributing to the
overall effort to stop trafficking.

B. Continued (U): Child labor was a widespread problem.
Experts in the area of child labor have estimated that the
number of working children under the age of 18 was
approximately 239,000, of which 36 percent were under the age
of 14. Children worked in agriculture, forestry, fishing,
hunting, coffee plantations and cigar factories. Although a
majority of child laborers worked at the subsistence level to
support their families, 60 percent did not receive direct
compensation for their labor, working instead as part of a
family venture or for goods in kind. NGOs reported that
Nicaraguan migrants returned from temporary stays in Costa
Rica to recruit children under the false promise of work in
the beauty and modeling industry in the Costa Rica, where
they were then trafficked for sexual purposes. In some
cases, traffickers recruited undocumented Nicaraguan boys to
work on farms in Costa Rica. After several months of unpaid
labor, the boys were released but because they had no
national identification card, they were treated as illegal
migrants rather than as victims of trafficking.

B. Continued (U): El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras
remained the main destination countries for Nicaraguan
trafficking victims, largely due to the CA4 migration
agreement between Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and
Honduras. Citizens and residents of these countries are only
required to show their cedulas (national identification
cards), to cross the borders between these four countries.
Passports are not required. Victims were also trafficked to
Costa Rica, Mexico, the United States, Europe, and were
trafficked internally.

B. Continued (SBU): One major concern with the Ortega
Administration's immigration policy was its decision to grant
nationals of Libya and Iran visa-free entry. (Ref. C)
Although there was no evidence that dropping visa
requirements for Iran presented any change in the TIP
situation, the policy shift caused consternation among other
Central American countries given its implications for illegal
migration and other criminal activies.

C. (SBU) The National Coalition for Trafficking in Persons
(NCATIP) which falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry
of Government is the lead government organization responsible
for anti-trafficking efforts. The principal agencies within
the NCATIP are the National Police, including the Special
Crimes Unit of the Auxiliary Judicial Division, the
Immigration Service, the Public Ministry, and the Ministries
of Family, Education, Health, and Labor. The Women's Police
Commissariats no longer have the lead role in following
trafficking cases, but rather now focus on victim assistance
and prevention. The National Police's Auxiliary Judicial
Division is responsible for trafficking investigations. The
government's National Council for the Integral Attention and
Protection of Children and Adolescents (CONAPINA),
established under the provisions of the Code for the Rights
of Children and Adolescents, was effectively dissolved this
past year.

D. (SBU) As in previous years, a lack of resources and
budget, a generalized disrespect for the rule of law, and
corruption in the judiciary were the key limitations to the
GON's ability to address the problem. During an anti-TIP
conference convened with the Central American Parliament's
(PARLACEN) Women's Forum in August, Minister of Government
Ana Isabel Morales lamented that while Nicaragua is the
Central American country most affected by the crime of human
trafficking, the lack of consciousness among the country's

MANAGUA 00000304 004 OF 013

judges allows trafficking criminals to go free. She also
noted that in addition to weaknesses in the judicial system,
victims themselves do not always understand that they have
been victims of a crime. Cultural and class prejudices
present another obstacle--as several NGOs pointed out, sexual
exploitation and abuse of women and children is accepted as
"normal" in Nicaragua, making the detection of trafficking in
persons all the more difficult. Due to the shame associated
with being trafficked and sexually exploited, and fear of
stigmatization, victims and their families were reluctant to
file complaints with the authorities, further hampering the
government's ability to prosecute TIP cases. There was no
credible data to verify the number of trafficking cases or
victims, but all organizations consulted concurred that the
actual number of cases exceeded cases reported. Police data
was unreliable since these statistics often do not
distinguish between number of disappeared persons, trafficked
persons, and illegal migrants leading to discrepancies among
these categories. There was a lack of consistency in
classifying cases of human trafficking.

E. (SBU) The NNP affirmed that its police officers are
trained to monitor anti-TIP efforts and has incorporated
human trafficking sensitization as part of the require human
rights training for new officers. The Police and
Immigration Service implemented a social and geographic
mapping tool developed by Save the Children in 2006 to
monitor and identify trafficking routes. The NCATIP has
taken steps to coordinate actions by different agencies
mainly in the area of raising awareness, and shared its
results, such as conferences and public events, with the
media. Under the leadership of Chief of Police Aminta
Granera, the NNP has made the fight against gender-based
violence a greater priority which has led to greater
awareness of crimes against women, including sexual
exploitation and trafficking.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A. (SBU) The government did not enact any new anti-TIP
legislation since the last TIP report. However, after a
number of years of civil society effort, the NCATIP approved
in 2007 a Protocol for the Repatriation of Trafficking
Victims, signed by members of the Coalition, the Office of
the Attorney General, and other government entities. The
Constitution bans forced labor, slavery, and indentured
servitude, but the penal code does not recognize trafficking
for the purpose of forced labor as a specific crime. Laws on
sex crimes, illegal migration, and the Code for Children and
Adolescent Rights are the main sources of legislation that
prohibit trafficking in persons and internal trafficking
involving exploitation of children. Although the National
Assembly approved in November 2007 a new penal code, which
expands the scope of sex-related crimes involving the
exploitation of minors, it is still not in force. Under the
new code, the law criminalizes trafficking for the purpose of
sexual exploitation and slavery both inside and outside the
country. The new legislation will allow a much broader
interpretation of trafficking offenses than is currently in
effect, but labor trafficking is not specifically addressed.
According to the Labor Code of 1996 and the Child and
Adolescent Code of 1998, adolescents and children are
prohibited from engaging in work that endangers their health
and safety including work in night entertainment venues or
that interferes in their schooling (Ref. D).

The existing Penal Code bans trafficking for the purpose of
prostitution as follows:

-- Article 203. Any individual found guilty of trafficking
in persons--defined as someone who recruits people through
deception, force or manipulation, with or without their

MANAGUA 00000304 005 OF 013

consent, for the purpose of prostitution either inside or
outside the Republic, or who introduces other persons into
the country for the same purpose--will be subject to
punishment between 4 and 10 years. The maximum penalty is
applied when the author (trafficker) involved is either
married to, or is in an established stable union with, the
victim, or when the victim is younger than 14 years of age.

An inventory of laws concerning trafficking in persons and
sex crimes in the new Penal Code follows:

-- Article 182. Trafficking in Persons for the Purpose of
Slavery or Sexual Exploitation

Whoever, using force or violence, offers, deceives, promotes,
facilitates, induces or attracts, recruits, contracts,
transports, transfers, retains, takes in, or receives people,
with the purpose of sexual exploitation, inside or outside
national territory, even with the consent of the victims,
shall be penalized with the sentence of between 7 to 10 years
imprisonment. If the victim is younger than 18 years of age,
or disabled, or the act was committed by a relative,
guardian, spiritual guide, mentor, or an individual
permanently sharing the family home of the victim, or has a
relationship of trust with the victim, the penalty will be
between 10 and 12 years imprisonment.

Whoever sells, offers, delivers, transfers or accepts a girl,
boy or teenager for the purpose of sexual exploitation,
regardless of whether a payment or reward was made, will be
penalized with between 8 to 12 years of prison. The same
penalty will be applied to anyone who offers, possesses,
acquires, or accepts the sale of a girl, boy, or teenager
with the purpose of illegitimate adoption.

--Article 174: Sexual Harassment: Any individual who uses
pressure, a position of power or authority, promises of
preferential treatment, threats, or any other form of sexual
harassment to coerce another person to engage in sexual acts
can be found guilty of sexual harassment and sentenced to 1
to 3 years imprisonment. If the victim is younger than 18
years of age, the penalty ranges from 3 to 5 years.

-- Article 175. Sexual Exploitation, Pornography, and Sexual
Acts with Minors

Any individual found guilt of inducing, facilitating,
promoting or using a minor under the age of 16 or disabled
for sexual or erotic purposes, or forces such individual
watch or participate in such an act, will be punished with 5
to 7 years of imprisonment. If the victim is over the age of
16, but younger than 18, the penalty will be 4 to 6 years

Those who promote, finance, make, reproduce, publish, sell,
import, export, or distribute material for the purpose of
sexual exploitation involving the image or voice of a person
under the age of 18 engaged in a sexual or erotic activity,
will be considered in violation of the law. The penalty for
this crime will be 5 to 7 years of imprisonment and a fine,
equivalent to either 33 percent of the condemned's income or
the standard minimum wage, to be paid for 150 to 500 days.

Those who, for the purpose of sexual exploitation, own
pornographic or erotic material in the terms expressed in the
previous paragraph, will be punished with 1 to 2 years of

Those who carry out sexual or erotic acts with a person
between the ages of 14 and 18, of any gender, in exchange for
payment or promise of any economic benefit, will be punished
with 5 to 7 years of imprisonment.

MANAGUA 00000304 006 OF 013

-- Article 176. Specific aggravation in case of sexual
exploitation, pornography, and paid sexual acts with minors.

The penalty will be 6 to 8 years of imprisonment when the
crime is committed with the intent of profit; the author or
authors are part of an organized group to commit sexual
crimes; involves deception, violence, abuse of authority,
intimidation, or coercion; the author commits the crime using
a relationship of authority, superiority, family, dependency,
or trust with the victim, or permanently shares the home with
the victim. If two or more of these circumstances concur,
the penalty will increase to 7 to 9 years of imprisonment.

-- Article 177. Sexual tourism

Those who promote the country as a destination for sexual
tourism, individually or through tour operators, advertising
campaigns, and reproduction of images or texts utilizing
persons younger than 18 years of age, will be punished with 5
to 7 years of prison and a fine, equivalent to 33 percent of
the condemned's daily wages or the standard minimum wage, to
be paid for a period of 150 to 500 days.

-- Article 178. Procurement of Prostitution

Those who induce, promote, facilitate or favor sexual
exploitation, pornography, and the paid sexual act of a
person of any gender, or is involved in the recruitment for
said purpose, will be punished with 4 to 6 years of
imprisonment and a fine, equivalent to 33 percent of the
condemned's daily wages or the standard minimun wage, to be
paid for a period of 150 to 300 days.

--Article 179. Aggravated Procurement of Prostitution

The penalty will be between 6 and 8 years of prison and a
fine, equivalent to 33 percent of the condemned's daily wages
or the standard minimum wage, to be paid for a period of 300
to 600 days.

a) When the victim is younger than 18 years old or is
b) When there is intent of profit.
c) When there is involvement of deceit, violence, abuse of
authorities or through any means of intimidation or coercion.
d) When the author commits the crime taking advantage of a
relationship of superiority, authority, family ties,
dependency or trust with the victim, or if permanently shares
a family home with the victim.

--Article 180. Inducement of Prostitution (Pimping)

Whoever by means of threat or coercion, receives economic
commercial benefit, even if in part, from a person who
provides sex acts through payment, will be penalized with
imprisonment between 3 and 5 years. If the victim is younger
than 18 years old or is physically or mentally disabled, the
penalty will be between 5 and 7 years of prison. The same
penalty will be applied when the author of the crime is
either married to or in a common-law relationship with the

-- Article 181.

When the crime of sexual exploitation is committed against
boys, girls, and adolescents, there will be no mediation
process nor any benefit of suspension of the penalty.

B. (SBU) The prescribed penalties for trafficking people for
sexual exploitation were outlined in preceding paragraph A.
According to the Auxiliary Judicial Police, 8 men and 17
women were arrested for trafficking and sexual exploitation
offenses during the reporting period. There was no

MANAGUA 00000304 007 OF 013

information available on numbers sex traffickers who received
suspended sentences or the number who received only a fine as

C. (SBU) There is no specific law to ban labor trafficking,
but there are strict labor laws in place to protect workers,
including child laborers, from exploitation. The Ministry of
Labor is responsible for enforcing labor laws, child labor
laws, and levying fines against employers violating the Labor
Code, but lacked adequate resources to effectively enforce
the law except in the small informal sector. A
Sandinista-affiliated radio station ran regular ads providing
information on domestic worker rights, and maintained a
special call-in line encouraging domestic workers to denounce
mistreatment, abuse, and denial of compensation and benefits
by their employer or "patron." In June, the Ministry of
Labor renewed its Memorandum of Understanding with the ILO
for another five years and continued to participate in
several on-going ILO-IPEC projects, including three regional
projects. The GON continued to participate in a two-year
(2006-2008) regional program to reduce dangerous forms of
work (funded by Canada) and the third phase of a USD 6
million (funded by Spain) initiative that aims to focus on
eliminating indigenous labor, educating families about child
labor, and strengthening the Ministries of Labor and the
Family. (Ref. D)

D. (U) The law criminalizes rape and forcible sexual
assault. According to the latest reforms to the penal code,
the penalty for adult rape is 8 to 12 years in prison which
is on par with the prescribed penalties for trafficking in
persons for commercial sexual exploitation. If the rape
victim is younger than 14, the penalty increases to 12 to 15
years in prison. Aggravated rape carries a sentence of 12 to
15 years in prison. Statutory rape, defined as sexual
relations with a person between the ages of 14 and 16 by
means of violence or intimidation, carries a penalty of two
to four years imprisonment.

E. (U) Prostitution is legal for persons over the age of
14, but the law prohibits its promotion, including
procurement. The activities of the brothel owner/operator,
clients, and pimps are criminalized but the laws are not
always enforced. Prostitution was common; in Managua most
prostitutes worked on the streets, in nightclubs, and in
bars. According to Save the Children and Casa Alianza, women
and girls who worked at certain centers of prostitution were
recruited by traffickers who offered them jobs in neighboring
countries. The Movement for Self-Development, Exchange, and
Solidarity (MAIS), an Italian NGO, reported that busloads of
girls from rural areas were transported to Managua and other
urban centers to work as weekend prostitutes in night clubs,
bars, and strip clubs. A U.S. missionary who provides
counsel, recovery services, and alternative employment to
female prostitutes reported that male police officers were
among the clients of brothels.

F. (SBU) The Auxiliary Judicial Police reported a total of 8
trafficking cases involving 18 victims, all female, for the
reporting period. Police arrested a total of 8 men and 17
women for trafficking offenses and corruption on minors
during the reporting period. The police could not confirm how
many of these cases resulted in investigations or
prosecutions. The Special Crimes Unit reported evidence of a
larger number of cases as a result of applying the new
mapping tool to identify routes. According to the NCATIP,
the number of victims trafficked outside the country could
not be determined. The government prosecuted three cases
against human trafficking offenders which resulted in the
conviction of five traffickers. An overview of cases follows.

F. Continued. (U) In May, a jury convicted a 41-year old
transsexual on trafficking charges, and a judge sentenced the

MANAGUA 00000304 008 OF 013

individual to nine years and two months in prison. The
sentence also included payment of a fine equivalent to 30
percent of the trafficker's wages. Media accounts of the
case raise questions as to whether this constituted a case of
trafficking since the victim received payment for sexual
services. Chorli Jeaneth Hernandez, who had reportedly gone
to Spain to undergo a sex change operation to become a woman,
had lured her 28-year old sister-in-law to Spain in late 2006
under the pretext of employment offering lucrative
employment. During the May 2007 trial, the victim told the
jury she had been trafficked because after arriving in Spain,
Hernandez forced her to work as a prostitute, earning 50
euros (the equivalent of USD 75) per hour for "unbridled sex"
with men and women. Meanwhile in the closing statement,
Hernandez admitted to wrongdoing, but denied the trafficking
charges, insisting to the judge and prosecutor that the
sister-in-law filed these charges against her in order to
avoid repaying nearly two thousand dollars in airfare and
incidentals "she" had loaned her to cover the trip to Spain.
In another case, Maria Eugenia Blanco Reyes, a 21-year old
woman who ran a Managua massage parlor, was arrested in
August for recruiting underage girls to perform sex with
clients. She was prosecuted on charges of trafficking and
corruption of minors and was convicted to four years in
prison. In a case that occurred in Bluefields in the
Southern Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS), three women were
found guilty of trafficking young girls to work as
prostitutes and were sentenced to ten years in prison. Two
women, who had been convicted in March 2007 for trafficking
offenses in Bluefields and escaped before sentencing,
remained fugitives.

F. Continued. (U) In July, a 35 year-old Indonesian woman
working as a domestic servant in the home of Nicaraguan
nationals of Palestinian descent in Managua reported to
police and the International Organization for Migration (IOM)
that she was a victim of labor exploitation. Before leaving
her home country of Indonesia, she believed she was being
offered a job in Jordan. She received no wages and she
reportedly underwent physical and psychological abuse at the
hands of her employer. Although law enforcement authorities
removed the woman from the home, the government did not
prosecute the employer because, according to the Public
Ministry, this was not recognized as a crime under Nicaraguan
law and it could not press charges. The IOM facilitated the
woman's return to Indonesia. The employer subsequently filed
a complaint against the IOM with the police.

F. Continued. (U) In December, the NNP detained a group of
children purported to be Guatemalans at Managua International
Airport with suspect U.S. visas. (Ref. E) A Delta airline
counter check-in employee noted that the same adults had
appeared the previous day with other unaccompanied children
to board a flight

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