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Cablegate: Argentina Submission for Fifth Annual Trafficking

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 04 SECSTATE 273089

1. Overview:

A. Trafficking in persons in Argentina primarily involves
Argentines trafficked within the country's borders, mostly
from the northern provinces to the central provinces and
Buenos Aires, and from Buenos Aires to several southern
provinces. To a lesser degree, trafficking of persons also
occurs across the country's borders, principally women and
minors from and to Paraguay and Brazil. Groups most at risk
are young women and children from impoverished families and
broken homes, subject to physical and sexual abuse in the
home and often abandoned or essentially left to fend for
themselves. Some trafficking into forced labor occurs but is
undocumented. There are no reliable estimates of the number
of victims of trafficking, compounded by a general confusion
regarding what constitutes trafficking and problems
differentiating it from sexual violence, sexual abuse of
minors, prostitution and illegal immigration.

In 2004, the International Office of Migration (IOM) assisted
in the protection of and return to their countries of origin
nine women and their dependents. Also in 2004, a number of
government agencies from the region consulted with the IOM
concerning possible IOM assistance with several cases of
groups of women (from Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru), who were
victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in Argentina.
These potential cases involve approximately 20 women.

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The umbrella non-governmental organization "No a la Trata"
("No to Trafficking"), a network of numerous NGOs has
attempted to track the number of trafficking cases in the
country, monitoring press reports and cataloging reports from
its member groups. Unfortunately, the information is often
incomplete and doesn't differentiate sufficiently between
sexual abuse of minors, sexual violence and exploitation of
minors for commercial sexual exploitation. Their
information, however, shows reports of likely trafficking in
many of Argentina's provinces, with a concentration in the
northern provinces of Misiones, and the province and city of
Buenos Aires.

Since September 2004 in Puerto Iguazu, the national
government project "Luz de Infancia," has received 45 reports
of commercial sexual exploitation of a minor, and is
currently providing attention to 18 victims of commercial
sexual exploitation.

In January 2005, in the Buenos Aires provincial city of San
Martin, a cabaret owner and his wife were arrested after
three young women reported they had escaped from the cabaret
where the owner had forced them to work as prostitutes. Two
of the women were from Paraguay and said that they had been
recruited in Paraguay by the wife, promising them good wages
to work in the bar. In January in the Santa Fe Provincial
city of Rosario, a police officer and his partner were
arrested under suspicion of operating two houses as brothels
and forcing several women, including one 16-year old, to work
as prostitutes.

In late October-early November, provincial police in Misiones
and Entre Rios broke up a group of traffickers in the
Misiones town of San Vicente. One of the traffickers
arrested admitted that she had brought eight girls between
the ages of 13 and 16 from the Puerto Iguazu area to San
Vicente for commercial sexual exploitation. The girls said
they had been held captive for over a year.

B. See para. A above.

C. In 2001 through 2003, IOM worked with a large number of
cases involving trafficking for commercial sexual
exploitation of women from the Dominican Republic. This
network has apparently shut down. Argentine Immigration
officials reported a significant increase in detainments of
illegal Chinese immigrants: 408 detainees in 2004, up from
189 in 2003. Argentine officials are investigating this
increase, and report that entry into the United States is the
eventual goal. They surmise, however, that many of the
immigrants remain in Argentina. Often international
smugglers force illegal immigrants to work in slave-like
conditions in Latin American sweatshops, restaurants, or as
farm laborers to pay for their passage. There is no concrete
evidence yet that this is the case in Argentina.
D. The Buenos Aires office of the IOM, with the support of
the U.S. Embassy, has presented a regional (MERCOSUR, Bolivia
and Chile) proposal to G/TIP. The first part of the project
consists of updating available information and additional
research and investigation, which will provide a better
understanding of the problem and assist in the development of
appropriate national policies. In late December, the
National Prosecutor's Office of Assistance to Victims of
Crime was named as the national focal point for trafficking
in persons. This appointment should facilitate planning,
coordination and implementation at the national level.

E. Trafficking victims in 2004 were principally involved in
prostitution, although there were undoubtedly undocumented
cases of other forms of forced labor, e.g. domestic employees
and farm and construction workers. If the victims had travel
and/or identification documents these were often taken,
discouraging them from appealing to police or other
authorities. Documents are often forged to hide the
nationality and/or age of the victims. The victims are
often induced to borrow money to pay for the illegal
migration and are charged by traffickers or their
collaborators for room, board and clothing, such that they
become indebted upon arrival. The debt then is used as an
inducement to force the victims to work in otherwise
unacceptable conditions. Once in the internal trafficking
network, victims can be sold from trafficker to trafficker
and forced to pay off the debt incurred each time. The
victims, particularly in the case of women and girls in
prostitution, may be prevented from coming and going at will
and contact with the outside world may be strictly
controlled. Victims are often threatened with or are subject
to physical violence to induce their cooperation.

F. See para. A above. Trafficking in Argentina is
principally internal. The Foreign Ministry Office of the
Special Representative for Women's Issues reported that,
through Argentine diplomatic/consular missions, it had
handled five cases related to Argentines trafficked abroad.
Anecdotal evidence from such groups as "Luz de Infancia" in
Puerto Iguazu, indicate that women and girls are moved back
and forth in the tri-border region of
Paraguay-Argentina-Brazil for prostitution. The victims tend
to come from the ample populations-at-risk (impoverished,
victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse or abandonment)
in this region. Recruitment is not difficult, with
inducements of money, jobs, or just escape from desperate
circumstances. Family members or acquaintances are often
involved in the recruitment or inducement. If not actually
implicated in the trafficking, families are often unlikely to
report the activity or seek assistance.

G. There is increasing political will to combat trafficking
at both the national and provincial levels. In 2003,
Argentina proposed the inclusion of trafficking in persons in
the MERCOSUR agenda, and, in June 2003, the MERCOSUR, Chilean
and Bolivian presidents committed to include the theme in
their national agendas and to work cooperatively on the
issue. In 2004, the GOA organized and participated in a
number of bilateral or regional workshops, conferences and
seminars on trafficking. These included a bilateral workshop
with the Dominican Republic, separate workshops and seminars
with the support and participation of the Government of
Sweden, and a number of national and regional events in
coordination with the IOM and the Organization of American
States' Inter-American Commission of Women (OAS/CIM).

The Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security with
funding from the International Labor Organization initiated a
program in Puerto Iguazu, "Luz de Infancia," aimed at the
prevention and eradication of the commercial sexual
exploitation of minors. In the northern Province of
Misiones, the provincial government, under the direction of
the Ministry of Social Welfare, Women and Youth has
determined to establish an inter-agency working group,
including provincial and national security forces, to
coordinate, develop and implement activities related to
combating trafficking and providing assistance to victims.

In late December, the National Prosecutor's Office of
Assistance to Victims of Crime was named as the national
focal point for trafficking in persons. This appointment
should facilitate planning, coordination and implementation
at the national level. This office helps victims of all
kinds of crimes, including trafficking. The security forces,
such as Gendarmeria (Border Police) and the Secretariat of
Migration generally do a good job of keeping tabs on the
movement of people in and out of Argentina.

H. There were no allegations of national government
officials involvement in trafficking. Individual provincial
police officers and officials implicated in trafficking have
been investigated and prosecuted.

I. The government, which suffered a serious economic, social
and economic crisis in 2001-2003, has faced severe fiscal
constraints since 2000. Most police are funded by provincial
governments, where expenditures have also been limited in
recent years. Police are not well paid and police
corruption, particularly graft related to prostitution,
illegal gaming and auto theft is believed to be common in
some forces. The National Prosecutor's Office for Assistance
to the Victims of Crime, which does an effective job of
providing assistance to victims of TIP within its
jurisdiction, the city of Buenos Aires, was named as the
national focal point for TIP coordination. In principle,
there are counterpart offices working in most of the
provinces, though it is not clear they have sufficient
resources to be as effective as possible, both in protecting
and assisting victims and prosecutors.

Because of the degree of independence of provincial
authorities, national government officials are limited in
their ability to implement nationwide law enforcement
policies other than through training and modifications of
laws. Individual provinces provide varying degrees of victim
assistance through a variety of different government
agencies. In general, resources are insufficient to provide
comprehensive care and protection for victims and assistance
to prosecutors.

J. The government has not systematically monitored
anti-trafficking efforts. One of the first activities of the
new national focal point for TIP will be to try and develop a
system for tracking TIP activity and monitoring anti-TIP
efforts. The IOM, with support from the Department of State,
will work with the Office of Assistance to Victims of Crime
to strengthen the capabilities of government officials
involved in counter-trafficking, with a special focus on
judges, prosecutors and security forces. The government
freely shares information regarding its assessment of its
anti-trafficking efforts.

K. Prostitution is legal for women over 18 years old and is
not regulated, but it is illegal to run a brothel or
otherwise act as an agency or agent for a prostitute. In the
federal capital, there is a program whereby prostitutes may
register in order to receive free medical attention, but
there is no other regulation. However, it is illegal to
practice prostitution under the age of 18 years.


A. The government acknowledges that trafficking in persons
is a problem, although information on the scope of the
problem is lacking.

B. The General Prosecutor's Office of Assistance to Victims
of Crime was named in December as the national focal point
for TIP issues. The Foreign Ministry's Special
Representative for International Women's Issues has created a
multi-agency working group to coordinate activities related
to trafficking. The agencies involved include the
Secretariat of Migrations and the Ministry of Justice among

others. One of the first activities of this working group
was to prepare and disseminate guidance to Argentine consular
offices for recognizing and assisting Argentine TIP victims.
Other government agencies with at least nominal involvement
in TIP issues include the Ministry of Labor, Employment and
Social Security and the Ministry of Interior, with
responsibility for domestic security forces.
C. There has been no organized government anti-trafficking
campaign. However, in 2004, the GOA organized or
participated in a number of bilateral or regional workshops,
conferences and seminars on trafficking. These included a
bilateral workshop with the Dominican Republic, separate
workshops and seminars with the support and participation of
the Swedish government, and a number of national and regional
events in coordination with the IOM and the OAS/CIM. It has
invited NGOs, international organizations, government
officials, including security services, and foreign missions
to these events. The Ministry of Labor's program in Puerto
Iguazu ("Luz de Infancia") against commercial sexual
exploitation of minors has a strong public
information/education component. The Foreign Ministry has
included TIP sensitization in its training of consular
officers. Separately, the City of Buenos Aires has a network
of social agencies that provide assistance in identifying and
assisting victims of child sexual exploitation. This network
has established a hotline to receive reports, printed and
distributed an informational poster, and undertaken
prevention efforts in secondary schools as well as relevant
public health institutions.

D. Argentina is progressive with respect to female
participation in the workplace and in political life. For
example, there is an official quota requiring that 30% of
certain elected officials must be female. The government has
also actively promoted children's enrollment in school
despite the economic crisis, including by waiving fees for
acquisition of national identity documents for children and
by conditioning unemployment subsidy benefits on enrollment
of recipients' dependents in school.

E. Despite strict limitations on expenditures, the
government has the resources to support prevention programs.

F. The government has developed a positive relationship with
NGOs and other relevant organizations and civil society. A
virtual network of women's advocates, "No a la Trata" ("No to
Trafficking") throughout the country has formed to combat
TIP, and the government is willing to coordinate with this
group, particularly on awareness raising and prevention

G. The government does a good job of monitoring its borders,
stamping passports for both exits from and entries to the
country. It also keeps track of all entries and exits in a
separate system. To our knowledge, the government has not
used this information to assess potential trafficking

H. See para. B above. There is an Anti-Corruption Office
within the Justice Ministry which works to implement
commitments under the Inter-American Convention Against
Corruption, but it does not serve as a task force.

I. See para. C above.

J. The government has no national plan of action to address
trafficking in persons. This effort has been delayed pending
naming of the Office of Assistance to Victims of Crimes as
the national focal point, which finally occurred in late

K. The Office of Assistance to Victims of Crime, together
with other agencies, will have the lead for coordinating
anti-trafficking programs.


A. Argentina does not have a specific, comprehensive
anti-trafficking law; however, a number of sections of the
federal penal code can be used to address trafficking.
Additionally, the new migration law, passed in late 2003,
mentions "trafficking" as a crime against the migration
order, and imposes more severe punishment if the victim is a
child, or if the crime is connected to terrorist activities,
narcotics trafficking, money laundering, or prostitution.
Punishment is also more severe when a public official is
involved in the crime. In the past, traffickers have been
prosecuted for "reducing to servitude" victims as well as for
sexual exploitation of minors, for soliciting for
prostitution, and for document fraud. A bill providing
comprehensive legislation for assistance and protection of
victims of trafficking has been introduced in the congress
and is pending consideration by the relevant congressional

B. Under the 2003 migration law, penalties for traffickers
range from one to twenty years, depending on the nature of
the violation and age of the victim. If the victim is a
minor, penalties range from five to fifteen years. If the
trafficking is related to prostitution, penalties range from
eight to twenty years. The federal penal code provides a
minimum penalty of four years and maximum of fifteen years
for trafficking minors for sexual exploitation.

C. Penalties for rape range from 6 months to fifteen years,
depending on the circumstances. See para. B above for
comparison to penalties for sex trafficking.

D. There is no unified method for tracking
trafficking-related cases. In November, Miguel Angel
Cienfuegos, head of a group involved in trafficking of women
and girls for commercial sexual exploitation, was sentenced
to twelve years in prison. Investigations into the alleged
trafficking-related disappearances of Fernanda Aguirre and
Maria de los Angeles Veron, in Entre Rios and Tucuman
provinces respectively, have not yielded convictions to date,
although a number of individuals are in detention. The
national government does not collect nationwide statistics on
trafficking-related crimes. The Ministry of Justice is
trying to keep track of relevant information from judicial
and provincial authorities, but the distinctions between
trafficking and other crimes, such as prostitution, sexual
violence and abuse, are poorly understood and this
complicates attempts to compile information on trafficking.

E. Information available indicates that relatively small
crime groups are behind most of the cases. Oftentimes,
traffickers induce the victims with offers of employment,
either in bars or as domestic employees. There is no
indication of government involvement, other than local police
and local governmental authorities who in some cases
reputedly are involved in protection of prostitution.
Judicial authorities in the province of Tucuman are
reportedly investigating a possible link between trafficking
in persons and narco-traffickers in that province.

F. The government does investigate trafficking cases but the
lack of a clear understanding among police, prosecutors and
other authorities of what constitutes trafficking blurs the
lines between prostitution, migrant smuggling, sexual abuse
and sexual violence. The law does provide for relevant
authorities to authorize electronic surveillance, but
generally judges reject the use of paid informants or
testimony in exchange for reduced sentences.

G. The government is beginning to provide some training for
officials. The Foreign Ministry does provide training for
its consular officers on how to recognize and respond to
trafficking cases involving Argentine victims abroad. The
Foreign Ministry, together with NGOs, the IOM and the Swedish
government, sponsored a workshop and seminar aimed at
government authorities, security personnel, NGOs, the media
and civil society. More training is scheduled for 2005. The
IOM, with support from the Department of State, will
implement a project in early 2005 on capacity building for
government and judicial officials involved in
counter-trafficking, with particular focus on prosecutors and
security officials.

H. The government has indicated that it cooperated with the
government of the Dominican Republic in looking into the
trafficked women from the Dominican Republic to Argentina,
but this has not involved any prosecutions to date.

I. The government will extradite people for trafficking
charges, but has not been asked to do so up to now to our

J. & K. There is no evidence of government involvement or
tolerance for trafficking. Individuals and local police
suspected of involvement in trafficking have been arrested
and are expected to be tried.

L. The government is aware that some sex tourism has begun
to be promoted on the internet and has worked with tourism
authorities to alert them to the problem. We are unaware of
any arrests, prosecution or extradition of foreign

M. International Instruments:

-- ILO Convention 182: Ratified 5 February 2001.
Implementing legislation was enacted 20 July 2000.

-- ILO convention 29 and 105: Ratified 14 March 1950 and 18
January 1960 respectively.

-- Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the
Child, on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child
Pornography: Ratified 10 September 2002. Implementing
legislation was enacted 22 August 2003.

-- The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking
in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the
UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime: Ratified
19 November 2002.


A-H. IOM provides some assistance for victims. The Office
for Assistance to Victims of Crime, which is part of the
Prosecutor General's Office, also can provide a wide variety
of assistance to victims (e.g. access to legal counseling,
psychological treatment, referrals to other sources of
relevant assistance, and repatriation) and is coordinating
with IOM to provide training on TIP issues. The National
Council for Children, Teenagers, and the Family is in the
process of implementing a crisis hotline to receive and refer
trafficking cases. This is likely to be limited in scope,
however, particularly in some of the more problematic
provinces due to lack of municipal offices.

The Foreign Ministry provides training to its consular
officers, and the Ministry's Office of the Special
Representative for Women's Issues reported it is coordinating
with some one hundred municipal offices on "gender issues,"
to include TIP. There are also a number of national and
local government agencies, e.g. the National Council for
Women, the Office of the Prosecutor General, the Secretariat
of Social Development, and the Women's Office in the city of
Buenos Aires, that provide some sort of assistance to victims
or public awareness of TIP issues. The NGO "Fundacion
Mujeres en Igualdad" and the Public Bar Association, amongst
others, created a network of civic groups to combat TIP.
This network promotes public awareness, organizes seminars,
has analyzed domestic and international legislation, and is
creating a database to track TIP incidents in the country.

Victims are not normally detained, jailed, or forcibly
deported if they are known to be victims of TIP. However,
possible victims arrested for prostitution-related crimes may
be arrested, jailed and deported. Victims assisted by the
Prosecutor General's Office of Assistance to the Victims of
Crime are encouraged to support prosecutions and are referred
to sources of relevant assistance, including repatriation.

I. IOM provides some assistance for victims. Few NGOs work
directly with TIP victims. The Hermanas Oblatas and the
Hermanas Adoratrices work with women at risk, including
occasionally TIP victims and may provide them with emergency
shelter, counseling, job training, child care and other such
assistance. The Association of Meretrice Women (AMMAR)
provides health assistance, food donations and legal advocacy
to women in prostitution. The City of Buenos Aires provides
food and health assistance to women, including potentially
TIP victims, through the local chapter of AMMAR.

4. POINT OF CONTACT: David Alarid, 54-11-5777-4858, fax:

FS04 - 20
FS02 - 140
Total- 160

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