BOLIVIA: Tier 2 Watch List
Bolivia is principally a source country for men, women, and children exploited in sex trafficking and forced labor within the country and abroad. To a more limited extent, women from neighboring countries, including Brazil and Paraguay, have been identified in sex trafficking in Bolivia. Rural and poor Bolivians, most of whom are indigenous, are particularly vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking. LGBT youth are also particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking. Bolivian women and girls are found in sex trafficking within Bolivia and in neighboring countries such as Argentina, Peru, and Chile. Within the country, Bolivian men, women, and children are found in forced labor in domestic service, mining, ranching, and agriculture. Press report cases of children forced to commit crimes, such as robbery and drug production, and others exploited in forced begging. A significant number of Bolivians are found in forced labor in Argentina, Brazil, and other countries in sweatshops, agriculture, domestic service, and the informal sector. Authorities and an international organization report some foreign nationals engage in child sex tourism, and some migrants transiting to neighboring countries are vulnerable to human trafficking. Some law enforcement officers reportedly frequent brothels, which may serve as a disincentive for sex trafficking victims to report their exploitation.
The Government of Bolivia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Authorities reported convicting 12 traffickers and issued a public policy on human trafficking and smuggling. Despite these efforts, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Bolivia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. Bolivian authorities did not allocate adequate funding for specialized victim services as required under the 2012 anti-trafficking law. Government funding for specialized services for adult and labor trafficking victims was nonexistent. Poor data collection made it difficult to assess government efforts to identify and assist trafficking victims and to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases. Authorities did not adequately distinguish between human trafficking and human smuggling.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BOLIVIA:
Increase resources designated for specialized assistance for trafficking victims across the country, including for victims of forced labor; strengthen efforts to prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish traffickers and fraudulent labor recruiters; implement formal procedures for officials to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and refer victims to care services; increase resources for prosecutors and police and direct dedicated human trafficking units to focus on human trafficking as opposed to other crimes, such as missing persons; implement systematic, victim-centered anti-trafficking training for government officials, including police, prosecutors, judges, and social workers; intensify law enforcement efforts against the forced labor of adults and children, including domestic servitude, and the forced prostitution of adults; improve data collection on anti-trafficking efforts, adequately distinguishing human trafficking from other crimes and reporting length of traffickers’ sentences; provide returning Bolivian trafficking victims reintegration services; and designate one government entity to be in charge of anti-trafficking efforts.
Government efforts to hold traffickers criminally accountable remained weak. Law 263 of 2012 prohibits all forms of trafficking and establishes penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law diverges from the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, however, by penalizing non-trafficking crimes, such as illegal adoption and the removal or sale of organs, as human trafficking. Some officials conflated human trafficking with the movement of children within the country or to other countries without proper documentation. Some police and prosecutors investigated trafficking cases as non-trafficking crimes, such as pimping; this was sometimes due to a belief that trafficking cases were difficult to prove in court.
The government did not provide reliable or comprehensive data on the number of trafficking investigations or prosecutions initiated in 2014. Authorities reported convicting 12 traffickers and acquitting five individuals of trafficking in 2014 but did not report sentence length, specify the form of trafficking, or provide court documentation to confirm convictions. Press reports indicated one Bolivian trafficker was sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment for abducting and forcing a Moroccan child resident of Spain to work in coca cultivation and at markets in Bolivia, in addition to sexually abusing the child. In comparison, in 2013 the government prosecuted and convicted two traffickers. The government operated anti-trafficking and anti-smuggling police units. These units investigated other crimes such as missing persons and domestic violence, limiting officers’ ability to focus on human trafficking cases. Some police conflated trafficking with other issues, such as missing persons. Frequent rotation of law enforcement officials and insufficient resources hampered anti-trafficking efforts. Police relied heavily on civil society organizations’ donations to conduct law enforcement operations, and research published in 2014 found anti-trafficking law enforcement operations in recent years were almost exclusively limited to brothel inspections and identification of child sex trafficking victims. The office for prosecution of human trafficking and other crimes coordinated national prosecution efforts. The government provided some anti-trafficking training to police and members of the military. Some officials reported traffickers could bribe prosecutors to avoid being charged. There was no information available regarding a 2013 report from the ombudsman’s office that two police officers allegedly forced female inmates into prostitution. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking.
The government made inadequate victim protection efforts. Authorities approved but did not implement an early detection protocol for police and social service providers to identify trafficking and smuggling cases. Officials lacked formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as people in prostitution or child laborers. Authorities did not report the number of trafficking victims identified or referred to care services in 2014. In comparison, prosecutors reported identifying 253 trafficking victims in 2013. Based on press accounts, experts, and government data, most victims identified were girls in sex trafficking. Efforts to identify forced labor victims or adult trafficking victims were more limited. The Ministry of Labor (MOL) had nine inspectors to investigate child and forced labor but did not report how many labor trafficking victims they identified, if any, in 2014.
Specialized victim services were lacking in most of the country. NGOs provided the majority of specialized care without government funds. Police and prosecutors referred victims to services and shelters on an ad hoc basis. The government did not report the total number of victims assisted in 2014 or the kinds of services these victims received. Law 263 required regional governments to create specialized care centers for trafficking victims, but the government did not fund specialized shelters for trafficking victims in 2014. Police were often unable to secure safe accommodation for trafficking victims identified in raids and reportedly used personal funds at times to assist victims. The government provided insufficient funds to existing government shelters for other populations, such as victims of child sexual abuse and children in conflict with the law, which provided only basic services. Specialized services for adult women or male victims were virtually nonexistent. Some departmental governments operated special victims units, which focused on providing legal and psychological services to victims of gender-based violence but did not report how many trafficking victims these units assisted in 2014. Officials reported the state airline repatriated some Bolivian trafficking victims from neighboring countries, but authorities did not report how many of these victims, if any, were given reintegration services upon return. Many victims chose not to participate in trafficking investigations and prosecutions out of fear of reprisal from traffickers and lack of faith in the judicial system. Bolivian law allowed victims to seek civil damages, but there were no reports of trafficking victims doing so in 2014. There were no reports the government penalized trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. The government could provide foreign victims with humanitarian visas to remain in Bolivia temporarily, but it did not report how many visas were issued in 2014.
The government made uneven prevention efforts. The national council against trafficking and smuggling released an anti-trafficking and smuggling policy in January 2015. A national action plan created with NGO input in 2013 remained in draft form. Two separate government entities were responsible for coordinating anti-trafficking efforts, and experts noted a lack of interagency coordination, in part due to overlapping mandates. All departments had anti-trafficking councils of varying effectiveness and activity and were responsible by law for implementing anti-trafficking efforts; however, no departments had approved anti-trafficking plans or budgets. Authorities conducted some anti-trafficking awareness events. Law 263 requires the MOL to create a national registry of employment agencies—often involved in trafficking cases—to monitor for trafficking activity. However, authorities did not establish this mechanism in 2014, and experts noted many employment agencies operated informally and were difficult to regulate. There were no reported investigations, prosecutions, or convictions for child sex tourism in 2014. The government did not report efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. It did not report providing anti-trafficking training to its troops before they deployed on international peacekeeping missions. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.