Cablegate: Argentina: Visiting G/Tip Ambassador Meets with Tip


DE RUEHBU #1041/01 2101310
R 281310Z JUL 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary. On June 19, Ambassador Wayne hosted a TIP
roundtable in honor of Ambassador-at-large to Monitor and Combat
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Mark Lagon to discuss Argentina's
efforts in the fight against TIP. Participants included
working-level GOA officials, NGOs, and a representative from the
Catholic Church. Participants observed that TIP is now an issue
that is on the national public agenda. However, their views on the
new anti-TIP law were mixed, with the GOA and the Church calling it
a step in the right direction, and the NGOs considering the law
insufficient, particularly in regard to the issue of victim's
consent. All noted the need for: 1) greater interagency
coordination in the fight against TIP; 2) advanced TIP training of
judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials; 3) greater
resources devoted to victims' protection and assistance. One NGO
offered a dire view on the use of sweatshop labor in Argentina, but
two participants privately told us that, although forced labor is a
problem, they considered that NGO's description as sensationalist.

On the Right Track, But Still a Long Way to Go

2. (SBU) On June 19, Ambassador Wayne hosted a TIP roundtable in
honor of Ambassador-at-large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in
Persons (TIP) Mark Lagon to discuss Argentina's efforts in the fight
against TIP. Participants included working-level GOA officials,
NGOs, and a representative of the Catholic Church. Ambassador Lagon
kicked off the discussion by explaining that the purpose of his
visit to Argentina was to encourage authorities to fight human
trafficking and seek ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation in
this effort. He said that recent passage of the anti-trafficking
law was a positive step and that now the GOA needs to focus on
implementing the law, "which is the hard part". He asked
participants to share their views on the GOA response in combating

--------------------------------------------- -------
Participants see Progress, But More Needs to be Done
--------------------------------------------- -------

3. (SBU) Participants agreed that years of public awareness
campaigns by the International Organization for Migration, the GOA,
the media, and the civil sector have finally put TIP on the national
public agenda. They said that this was a positive development, as
the problem was "hidden and ignored" for many years. Reviews of
Argentina's new TIP law, however, were mixed. GOA participants and
a Catholic Church representative noted that the law was a step in
the right direction. Others who criticized the law considered that
the only positive element of the law was that it made human
trafficking a federal crime. One participant called the law an act
of "smoke and mirrors" since the burden of proof falls on the adult
victims and not on the traffickers.

4. (SBU) They also noted the need for greater interagency
coordination and cooperation on the issue. One NGO participant
observed that "interagency coordination is nonexistent" and
complained that the GOA often turns to NGOS to provide assistance to
trafficking victims since the GOA lacks an action plan and the
resources to provide victim services itself. A Church
representative pointed out that the GOA cannot combat the problem
alone, and that it should work with NGOs to effectively address the
problem. One GOA official who works on TIP investigations expressed
frustration with the highly bureaucratic nature of seeking
international cooperation in TIP cases beyond Argentina's borders.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Judicial Sector and Law Enforcement Need Training
--------------------------------------------- ----

5. (SBU) In the area of prosecution, a GOA participant praised the
work that federal prosecutors have been doing in this area, but
criticized the actions of many federal and provincial judges. All
participants agreed that training government, judicial, and law
enforcement officials at the working level would be paramount to the
successful implementation of the anti-TIP law.

Resources for Victim Assistance Inadequate

6. (SBU) NGO participants expressed frustration that neither they,
nor the GOA, have sufficient resources to provide adequate victims'
assistance. One participant criticized the Argentine Ministry of
Justice (MOJ) for its lack of cooperation in the area of victim
protection and assistance. Another alleged that the Minister of
Justice Anibal Fernandez was making all GOA anti-trafficking efforts

go through his office, personally, and not including other
government agencies that have been helpful in this area, such as the
MOJ's own Human Rights Secretariat. Still another noted that while
the federal government is trying to define which agencies will take
the lead on anti-TIP efforts, provinces, such as Santa Fe, Tucuman,
and Neuquen are moving forward in developing mechanisms to assist
victims and prosecute traffickers. All noted the need to allocate
adequate resources for anti-trafficking efforts in order to make the
law work.

Views on Forced Labor in Argentina

7. (SBU) Turning to the issue of forced labor in Argentina, a
representative from La Alameda, an NGO and labor cooperative
comprised of former forced labor victims at great length painted a
highly pessimistic picture of sweatshop labor in Argentina. He
alleged that most urban centers in Argentina use sweatshop labor,
and that his organization has worked with the Buenos Aires City
Ombudsman's Office to file complaints against 85 brand name garment
manufacturers on TIP and forced labor charges. He asserted that
sweatshops are often used to "launder drug money and claimed that
many sweatshops are also drug kitchens with forced labor victims
sometimes serving as drug mules. He also accused the GOA of
covering up TIP crimes while pretending to fight human traffickers
at the same time. He criticized the GOA's Patria Grande plan, which
was designed to normalize the status of over a million undocumented
workers in Argentina, claiming that the plan helped traffickers
avoid penalties for employing undocumented workers during labor
inspections. (Comment: While this organization has had a strong
working relationship with the Buenos Aires City Ombudsman's Office,
two participants privately told POL FSN that some of their claims
tend toward the sensationalist. End comment.)

8. (SBU) In closing, Ambassador Lagon thanked participants for their
views and stressed the need for both countries to continue working
together as partners in the fight against modern-day slavery. He
stressed that one of his main messages worldwide is that governments
need to work with, trust, and support NGOs as assets and partners,
something that even democratic governments must do better. He
encouraged all participants to remain committed to fighting this
crime, regardless of the obstacles.

9. (U) This cable was cleared by G/TIP.


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