Cablegate: Venezuela's 2010 Tip Report Submission

DE RUEHCV #0231/01 0562049
O R 252049Z FEB 10



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 10 CARACAS 187; 09 CARACAS 442

(SBU) Per reftel, post submits the following information for
inclusion in the 2010 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report for
Venezuela. Political Officer Douglas Fisk is Embassy's point of
contact. Telephone: 58-212-907-8052; fax 58-212-907-8033; Email: Forty hours were dedicated to the completion of
this report.


1 - The Country's TIP Situation


A. (SBU) Reliable information on trafficking in persons in
Venezuela is extremely limited. There are no official statistics
on the magnitude of TIP related problems in Venezuela, and no
significant data on the extent and nature of the problem is
available. The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
(GBRV) is generally reluctant to share information regarding TIP
with the USG. An Italian based NGO (CESVI) has proposed plans to
undertake independent documentation on the scope of human
trafficking in Venezuela. Reliable sources of information are the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United
Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the International Organization for
Migration (IOM), the Catholic Relief Charity Caritas, and the
Women's Association for Well-Being and Reciprocal Assistance

B. (SBU) According to international organizations (IOs) and
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Venezuela is a source,
transit, and destination country for women, men, and children
trafficked for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation.
Women and children from Brazil, China, Colombia, the Dominican
Republic, Ecuador, and Peru are trafficked to and through Venezuela
and subjected to commercial and sexual exploitation or forced
labor. Venezuelans are trafficked internally, to countries within
the region, and to Europe. Venezuela is a transit country for
illegal migrants from other countries in the region, particularly
Peru and Colombia and for Asian nations; some of whom are believed
to be trafficking victims. Victims typically arrive in Venezuela
en route to Caribbean resort areas (Curacao and Trinidad & Tobago)
and Mexico. As reported in the 2009 TIP report, NGO sources claim
victims are transported by small boats from the coastal areas in
Falcon state and the Paria peninsula to the Caribbean islands of
Curacao and Trinidad, respectively. The Women's Association for
Well-Being and Reciprocal Assistance (AMBAR), a local
anti-trafficking NGO, reports assisting 15 victims of trafficking
from January-December 2009. Of the 15 victims, 13 were girls, two
were boys, and all were minors under the age of 18.

C. (SBU) Victims of trafficking are primarily from abroad or
from the interior of the country who are sold into prostitution
rings or placed into situations of forced labor. Post has no
reliable information regarding the conditions in to which victims
are trafficked. However, victim assistance NGOs report that victims
are usually abused and conditions are typically poor, whether the
victims are trafficked internationally or internally.

CARACAS 00000231 002 OF 009

D. (SBU) According to IOs and NGO contacts, women and
children living in economically depressed regions are believed to
be more vulnerable to both sexual exploitation and forced labor
than men.

E. (SBU) Organized crime groups are widely believed to be
involved in trafficking women and children to and through
Venezuela. Venezuelan victims are trafficked primarily from the
interior of the country and later sold into prostitution rings or
placed into forced labor; some children are forced to work as
beggars. Traffickers then transport their victims to urban
centers, including Caracas and Maracaibo, and resort destinations,
such as Margarita Island or Anzoategui state. In some cases
traffickers place ads for models in regional newspapers and then
lure respondents under false pretense of employment. In poor
agricultural and fishing areas and in indigenous communities,
parents are sometimes offered money to send their children to work
in ostensibly legitimate businesses in Venezuela's major cities or
resort towns. Sometimes these offers turn out to be false and the
victims are sold into the commercial sex trade or forced to work as
beggars. More recently, internal trafficking appears to be on the
rise in some remote, resource-rich areas in the Orinoco River
Basin, where victims are reportedly exploited by mining operations.
In the border regions of the country, where political violence and
FARC infiltration is common, trafficking is also reported to occur.

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

2 - The Government's Anti-TIP Efforts

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

A. (SBU) Lower-ranking officials within the Government of the
Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (GBRV) have acknowledged in the
past that trafficking in persons is a problem, but senior officials
within the GBRV do not generally discuss TIP as a national priority
or problem. A National Assembly Deputy (who is a member of the
Permanent Committee on Family, Women, and Youth) acknowledged in
January that trafficking in persons is a problem. The
parliamentarian told media that "combating trafficking in persons
is a commitment of the current government" and that "we want to
make a national law that will really make a difference."

B. (SBU) Several government agencies are involved in
anti-trafficking efforts. Within the Ministry of Popular Power for
Interior and Justice (MPPIJ), the Crime and Prevention Directorate
(CPD) has primary responsibility for coordinating all anti-crime
efforts in the country. The CPD's Criminology Investigative
Division has jurisdiction for trafficking in persons. Within the
MPPIJ, The Scientific, Penal, and Criminalistic Investigative Corps
(CICPC) also has responsibility for trafficking cases that come to
its attention through a government hotline, or though other
offices that identify trafficking elements in larger cases. The
Government's National Women's Institute (INAMUJER) serves as a
liaison between victims, NGOs, and government law enforcement
agencies. In 2008 the government begun installing several new
courts to address cases involving violence against women, however
the courts have not been established in every state in the country
and little is known about their effectiveness. The final scope of
the new "women's courts" and the extent of their involvement in

CARACAS 00000231 003 OF 009

anti-TIP efforts has yet to be determined.

C. (SBU) The lack of a central coordinating body, such as a
national coordinator, hampered Venezuela's ability to keep and
share statistics and/or information regarding TIP. Corruption is a
problem throughout Venezuelan society, resulting in the potential
for traffickers to pay bribes, easily secure identity documents,
and/or cross checkpoints with minimal scrutiny.

D. (SBU) Post does not have reliable information to assess
the extent to which the government systematically monitors its
anti-trafficking efforts. NGOs and IOs report that the Government
does not readily make available information on its anti-trafficking

E. (SBU) The Government of Venezuela routinely gathers data
and provides documentation to establish the identity of local
populations, to include birth registration, citizenship, and
nationality. Sources at the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF)
reported, however, that thousands of children born to undocumented
aliens were not registered at birth. Sources working with refugees
in the border region likewise report that refugees (and people
having possible claims to dual Colombian/Venezuelan citizenship)
often struggle to obtain needed credentials and documentation to
prove their citizenship.

F. (SBU) Information regarding arrests and ongoing
prosecution of traffickers is available on an ad-hoc basis through
the Public Ministry's website. Lack of coordination between
government agencies further hampers Venezuela's ability to gather
required TIP data. The appointment of a national coordinator would
be one way to work around this gap.

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

3 - Investigation and Prosecution of Traffickers

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

A. (SBU) Article 16 of the Organic Law Against Organized
Crime, passed in 2005, makes trans-border trafficking punishable
with imprisonment for 10 to 18 years. Provisions to the 2004
Naturalization and Immigration Law could also be applied against
transnational trafficking. It stipulates that exploiting illegal
labor, falsely promising employment to encourage immigration to
another country, or encouraging illegal immigration or
smuggling/to/through/from Venezuela is punishable by four to eight
years in prison. If immigrant smuggling is done for profit, or is
accompanied by violence or intimidation, the sentence increases to
eight to ten years in prison. If a victim's life or health is
endangered, then the range of punishment increases an additional 50
percent. The law also punishes any public servant who encourages,
through acts or omissions, the fraudulent entry or exit of a
person, with four to eight years in prison. Laws against forced
disappearance and kidnapping, punishable by two to six years
imprisonment, can be used to prosecute traffickers. In the case of
children, the Organic Law for the Protection of Children and
Adolescents (LOPNA) stipulates that offenders be fined one to 10

CARACAS 00000231 004 OF 009

months salary for trafficking in children. Stipulated punishment
for the prostitution or corruption of minors is as little as three
months in jail; repeat offenders may face three to 18 months
imprisonment. Laws against trafficking-related crimes generally
were not enforced and many officials failed to distinguish the
difference between traffickers and migrant smugglers.

(SBU) In March 2007, the Government of Venezuela passed the
Organic Law on a Woman's Right to a Violence-Free Life, which was
designed to complement existing legislation. Specifically, it
outlines criminal punishment for 19 forms of violence against
women, including forced prostitution, sexual slavery, smuggling and
trafficking. (Note: This law, as currently written, does not
apply to the trafficking of adult males or boys. End Note.)
Regarding forced prostitution, Article 47 of the law punishes
offenders with 15 to 20 years in prison for the use of physical
force, the threat of violence, or psychological coercion to force a
victim to perform a sexual act for a third person. Under Article
47, the same penalty applies to an offender convicted of sexual
slavery, although a third party does not need to be involved.
Smuggling, facilitating the illegal entry or exit of women and
young girls though false employment, coercion, or force for
monetary benefit, is punishable by 10 to 15 years in prison.
Trafficking, the use of force, fraud, or coercion to recruit,
harbor, transport, receive, or obtain a person for the purpose of
irregular adoptions, and the sale of organs, is punishable with 15
to 20 years in prison.

B. / C. (SBU) The Organized Crime Law makes trafficking in
persons and smuggling for labor and sexual exploitation punishable
by a sentence of 10 to 15 years if the victim is an adult or 10 to
18 years if the victim is a child or adolescent. In addition, the
LOPNA makes trafficking in children punishable by fines of one to
ten months salary. The Organic Law on a Women's Right to a
Violence Free Life has penalties ranging from 10-20 years in
prison. (See paragraph A above for a more detailed description of
penalties.) The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor,
including by children, and establishes sentences of one to three
years incarceration for forced child labor.

D. (SBU) Under the Organic Law to Prevent Violence Against
Women and the Family, passed in 1998, forcible sexual assault or
rape is punishable by eight to 14 years in prison. The March 2007
Organic Law on a Women's Right to a Violence-Free Life increased
the punishment to 10 to 15 years in prison.

E. (SBU) The following information and statistics on law
enforcement efforts was shared with Embassy Caracas' Political
section on November 25, 2009: 11 TIP detentions have occurred in
the 2008-2009 time frame, with a total of 15 investigations for
suspected TIP. In 2007, 9 TIP related detentions occurred. In a
second exchange of information on December 3, Post was informed
that the following cases were currently being investigated; 1 case
received from Madrid, Spain (dated 02/05/2009); a case received
from Trinidad and Tobago (dated (03/12/2009); a case originating in
Merida, Venezuela (dated 03/19/2009); and a second case received
from Trinidad and Tobago (dated 10/13/2009).

(SBU) On March 18, 2009, the Public Ministry's website noted
charges were filed against two individuals, Nedibo Parra (the owner

CARACAS 00000231 005 OF 009

of a shrimp farm) and Luz Estela Ojeda (the general manager), for
alleged participation in labor trafficking and labor exploitation
of Colombians workers. The website reported the 56 victims had no
Venezuelan identity documents and only had documentation from
Colombia. The alleged traffickers were operating their business
(Pisicar) in the San Francisco municipality of Zulia State. An
investigation is currently ongoing.

(SBU) On July 10, 2009, the Public Ministry's website noted the
sentencing of Inocencia Mantilla Silva to 6 years and 6 months in
prison for the sexual exploitation of a 15 year old female victim
in the Iribarren municipality of Lara State. The victim was
discovered working in a brothel by military members who reportedly
rescued her.

(SBU) On January 18, 2010, the Public Ministry's website noted the
sentencing of Jorge Eliecer Castro Davila to 17 years and 6 months
in prison for trafficking offenses committed in October 2008. The
trafficker was reportedly being held at the Maracaibo jail and was
involved in the trafficking of women to Spain where they were
forced to work as prostitutes. The website also reported six
arrests in Spain.

(SBU) On February 22, 2010, seven Cuban doctors and one nurse
filed a lawsuit in a Miami courtroom against Venezuela, Cuba, and
the Venezuelan state run oil company (PDVSA) for forcing them to
work against their will. The medical workers claimed they were
forced into servitude and paid low wages to help repay Cuba's oil
debts to Venezuela. For additional information regarding
allegations of Cuban physicians, see 09 Caracas 442 and 10 Caracas

F. (SBU) Post is not aware of specific training sessions for
law enforcement and immigration officials, however was assured in
email communications on November 25 by the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs that governmental officials had received training in
preventing the crime. No specific details were shared with Post
about particular training sessions, dates, or the scope of training

G. (SBU) Post has no reliable information regarding
cooperative international investigations involving trafficking.
Information provided to G/TIP by the Government of Venezuela on
March 27, 2009, and to post on December 3, 2009, indicates
international cooperation has occurred with Spain, Romania, and
Trinidad & Tobago in combating and investigating TIP.

H. (SBU) Post has no information regarding whether the
Government of Venezuela received any request for the extradition of
traffickers. Venezuelan law prohibits the extradition of
Venezuelan nationals.

I/J. (SBU) There is no information available about Government
officials who may have facilitated, were complicit in, or condoned

CARACAS 00000231 006 OF 009

K. (SBU) This section does not apply to Venezuela because it
does not contribute troops to

international peacekeeping efforts.

L. (SBU) The country does not have an identified problem of
child sex tourists coming to Venezuela. Prostitution is legal in
Venezuela and does occur in large urban cities such as Caracas, as
well as in resort areas such as Margarita Island.

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

4 - Protection and Assistance to Victims

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

A. (SBU) The Government of Venezuela offers some protection
for victims and witnesses. The Government of Venezuela operates a
large network of "social missions" as "state tools" to improve the
social and economic lives of vulnerable groups such as the poor,
women, children, and teenagers. To date a Mission dedicated solely
for TIP victims has not been created, however victims of
trafficking in persons, (as do all low income Venezuelans), have
full access to these missions and free or reduced cost public
services provided by them. Post does not have funding information
for each mission, however they are usually funded with state
revenues and resources from the federal government.

B. (SBU) The Government of Venezuela does not operate any
shelters dedicated solely for trafficking victims. NGOs provide
the majority of victim assistance services in Venezuela. The
Ministry of Health provided some limited funding to the NGO AMBAR
to assist with TIP prevention activities, psychological services
for victims and educational campaigns. However, the majority of
NGOs in Venezuela receive little to no government funding for
victim care facilities.

C. (SBU) Government-provided psychological and medical
examinations are available for trafficking victims. Both the
Ministry of Popular Power for Interior and Justice (MPPIJ) and the
Child Protection Council have trained psychologists and physicians
who provide these examinations free of charge, however,
comprehensive victim services providing necessary follow-up medical
assistance, job training and reintegration assistance are extremely
limited. Local media reports and the Public Ministry's website
indicate that when underage children are discovered to be working
in brothels, they are typically placed into child protective

D. (SBU) UNHCR noted it has successfully worked with the
Government of Venezuela to file asylum requests and relief from
deportation for victims (from Colombia) who feared reprisals from
traffickers or criminal organizations if they returned to their
country of origin.

CARACAS 00000231 007 OF 009

E. (SBU) Government shelters for battered women and at-risk
youth have limited space and inadequate services to meet the needs
of trafficking victims. The Government of Venezuela does not
operate shelters dedicated solely for trafficking victims.
Longer-term shelter or housing benefits specifically for victims of
TIP does not exist.

F. (SBU) International organizations and NGOs state that the
government generally respected the rights of victims who have been
detained, arrested, or placed in protective custody. Victims are
typically referred to the Scientific, Penal, and Criminalistic
Investigative Corps (CICPC), the government's National Women's
Institute (INAMUJER), or local organizations for legal and
psychological service. The government also operates a national
hotline through which it can receive trafficking complaints,
although some NGOs and service providers complain it frequently
doesn't work or isn't answered.

G. (SBU) On March 27, 2009, the Government reported it had
repatriated a total of 5 victims from Trinidad and Tobago (sexual
exploitation), 1 victim from Spain (sexual exploitation), and 1
victim from Romania (labor exploitation). The information was
confirmed by the government on November 25, 2009. No new
information regarding victim identification has been provided to
the Embassy during the reporting cycle.

(SBU) The Women's Association for Well-Being and Reciprocal
Assistance (AMBAR), a local anti-trafficking NGO, reported
assisting a total of 15 victims of trafficking in persons between
January and December 2009. Of the 15 victims, 13 were girls and
two were boys. All the victims were minors under the age of 18.
The female victims were age 10 (1 victim), age 12 (1 victim), age
13 (3 victims), age 15 (2 victims), age 16 (2 victims), and age 17
(4 victims). The male victims were age 9 (1 victim) and age 13 (1

H. (SBU) Post knows of no formal system for proactively
identifying victims of trafficking among high-risk persons.
According to anti-trafficking NGOs, the government does not have a
mechanism for screening for trafficking victims among persons
involved in the regulated commercial sex trade.

I. (SBU) IOs and NGOs state that the government generally
respected the rights of trafficking victims. Most are referred to
the Scientific, Penal, and Criminalistic Investigative Corps
(CICPC), the government's National Women's Institute (INAMUJER), or
local organizations for legal and psychological service. Post has
not heard of incidents of trafficking victims being jailed, fined,
or prosecuted.

J. (SBU) Post does not have reliable information to assess
whether the government encourages victims to assist in the
investigation and prosecution of trafficking. The Government of
Venezuela does not share information with Post regarding any
ongoing investigations or prosecutions.

CARACAS 00000231 008 OF 009

(SBU) As mentioned in section 3(e), on January 18, 2010, the
Public Ministry's open website noted the sentencing of Jorge
Eliecer Castro Davila to 17 years and 6 months in prison for
trafficking offenses committed in October 2008. The trafficker was
reportedly being held at the Maracaibo jail and was involved in the
trafficking of women to Spain where they were forced to work as
prostitutes. The website also reported six arrests in Spain.
According to the website, upon her return to Venezuela, the victim
assisted law enforcement officers in the prosecution of this
Venezuelan-based trafficker.

K. (SBU NGOs and IOs report that when they offer anti-TIP
training workshops and programs, government officials do attend.

L. (SBU) Repatriated victims can make use of any government
social services, but no specific assistance to repatriated TIP
victims is provided.

M. (SBU) The Women's Association for Well Being and Reciprocal
Assistance (AMBAR) provided trafficking victims with legal
assistance, psychological services, and job training opportunities.
In addition, dependent children participated in AMBAR's daycare and
preschool program. The shelter and resource center primarily
focused its victim assistance efforts in impoverished neighborhoods
in the capital city of Caracas. AMBAR plans to open a second
shelter in the remote city of Caicara del Orinoco, in hopes of
reaching victims removed for the urban center of Caracas. The
International Organization of Migration (IOM) worked to promote
international cooperation on migration issues, to include
trafficking. It continued to work with government officials, NGOs,
and victim's assistance organizations by providing some training
opportunities and workshops on TIP-related issues. UNHCR continued
to cooperate with the Government of Venezuela on a range of issues,
ranging from refugees to trafficking in persons. NGOs were
generally complimentary of efforts by the Ministry of Health to
provide psychological services for victims and promote educational
campaigns on preventing TIP.


5 - Prevention


A. (SBU) The Government of Venezuela did work towards raising
public awareness about the dangers of human trafficking by airing
public service announcements and distributing posters and pamphlets
against commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. The
government also operated a victim's assistance hotline.

B. (SBU) Post is unable to assess the extent of the
Government of Venezuela's efforts to monitor immigration and
emigration patterns for evidence of trafficking because of a lack
of information sharing. International organizations report that
the government is continuing to screen for potential TIP victims at
border checkpoints, airports, and ports of entry. As in the 2009
TIP report, NGOs claim that victims are transported by small boats,

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thereby avoiding immigration checkpoints, from the coastal areas in
Falcon state and the Paria peninsula to the Caribbean islands of
Aruba, Curacao, and Trinidad & Tobago respectively.

C. (SBU) Officials from the Government of Venezuela shared
only limited TIP-related information with the Embassy in 2008 or
2009. IOs and NGOs report that government communication and
coordination between various agencies is ad-hoc at best. The
Government's relationship with International Organizations and
local NGOs varied widely. IOM, for example, enjoys a positive
working relationship with the government stemming from training
seminars IOM provides. The government also cooperated with UNHCR
on TIP issues when a victim files for refugee status fearing
reprisals from traffickers. Local NGOs have had mixed success
working with the government. While many NGOs express frustration
with the government lack of funding opportunities, AMBAR has had
some degree of success in working with the government.

D. (SBU) In 2006 the Government of Venezuela created a
working group to draft a national plan of action to combat
trafficking in persons. Over four years later it has not completed
the plan and the working group is defunct. The working group was
headed by the MPPIJ and included the CICPC, SEBIN (intelligence
police), and the Ministries of Popular Power for Tourism,
Infrastructure, and Foreign Relations. NGOs participated in the
planning session and presented proposals. NGO representatives and
members of IOs continue to express their hope that the plan will
eventually move forward.

E./ F. (SBU) Prostitution in Venezuela is legal and regulated. To
Post's knowledge, during the reporting period the government has
not undertaken measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex
acts. The Government continued to distribute posters and pamphlets
against commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, and child sex

G. (SBU) Venezuela is not among the countries that has
contributed over 100 troops to international peacekeeping efforts.


6 - Partnerships


A. (SBU) Post is not aware of any large scale efforts to
cooperate with other governments on TIP.

B. (SBU) Post is unaware of any international assistance the
Government of Venezuela provides to other countries to address TIP.

C. Post has no information to indicate that child soldiering
occurs in Venezuela.

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