VENEZUELA: Tier 3
Venezuela is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Venezuelan women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking and child sex tourism within the country, including some lured from poor interior regions to urban and tourist centers. NGOs continue to report Venezuelan women are subjected to forced prostitution in Caribbean island countries, particularly Aruba, Curaçao, and Trinidad and Tobago. Venezuelan children are exploited within the country, frequently by their families, in domestic servitude. Venezuelan officials and international organizations have reported identifying sex and labor trafficking victims from South American, Caribbean, Asian, and African countries in Venezuela. Ecuadorians, Filipinos, and other foreign nationals are subjected to domestic servitude by other foreign nationals living in Venezuela. Venezuelan officials reported an increase of sex trafficking in the informal mining sector. Media reports indicate some of the estimated 30,000 Cuban citizens, particularly doctors, working on behalf of their government in Venezuela on social programs may experience treatment indicative of forced labor. Some of these Cubans attribute such treatment to their own government, including labor trafficking indicators such as chronic underpayment of wages, mandatory long hours, and threats of retaliatory actions against the citizens and their families if they leave the program.
The Government of Venezuela does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The government released minimal information on its efforts. Authorities investigated at least one sex trafficking case and indicted at least one trafficker, but reported no prosecutions or convictions. The lack of reliable data on government anti-trafficking efforts made these efforts difficult to assess. The government did not report identifying or assisting trafficking victims. The extent of efforts to investigate internal forced labor, protect child sex trafficking victims, or improve interagency coordination to address trafficking was unclear.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR VENEZUELA:
Draft and enact comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation prohibiting all forms of trafficking; provide specialized services for all trafficking victims, working in partnership with civil society organizations and other service providers; strengthen and document efforts to investigate and prosecute cases of sex trafficking and forced labor, and convict and punish traffickers; develop and publish an updated anti-trafficking action plan and allocate resources to implement it; enhance interagency cooperation by forming a permanent anti-trafficking working group; implement formal procedures and training for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as persons in prostitution, and for referring victims for care; and improve data collection on government anti-trafficking efforts and make this data publicly available.
The government decreased efforts to hold traffickers criminally accountable, although the lack of comprehensive public data on investigations, prosecutions, and convictions made overall law enforcement efforts against human trafficking difficult to assess. Venezuelan law prohibits some forms of human trafficking, specifically trafficking of women and girls, through a 2007 law on women’s rights that prescribes punishments of 15 to 30 years’ imprisonment. Contrary to the international definition, the law requires force, fraud, or coercion in its definition of sex trafficking of girls. It also prohibits human trafficking by organized criminal groups through its law on organized crime, which prescribes 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment for human trafficking carried out by a member of an organized criminal group of three or more individuals. However, the organized crime law fails to prohibit trafficking by any individual not affiliated with an organized criminal group and fails to prohibit trafficking men. The penalties for these trafficking crimes are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the year, the legislature did not pass a draft anti-trafficking law, first introduced in 2010.
Venezuelan authorities did not report the total number of trafficking cases investigated or individuals prosecuted or convicted for human trafficking in 2015. According to government websites and media reports, officials pursued at least two sex trafficking investigations under trafficking laws during the year. According to press reports, the government indicted at least one sex trafficker; there were no reported prosecutions or convictions. In comparison, the government reported three trafficking convictions in 2014 with sentences ranging from eight to 18 years’ imprisonment. The government reported the Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace’s organized crime office (ONDOFT) trained 1,800 security personnel in 12 states during 2015 to identify and assist trafficking victims. Authorities did not report cooperating with foreign governments on trafficking investigations during the year. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
Authorities provided limited information about trafficking victim identification and assistance in 2015, but decreased victim protection efforts. ONDOFT operated a 24-hour hotline to receive reports of suspected trafficking cases. As in previous years, the government did not specify the kinds of assistance provided to victims in 2015. The government did not report on the existence of formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations or referring victims to services. Victim referrals to different government entities, including ONDOFT and the women’s ministry, occurred on an ad hoc basis.
The availability of victim services remained limited. There were no specialized shelters for trafficking victims in the country. Victims could reportedly access government centers for victims of domestic violence or at-risk youth, although services for male victims were minimal. NGOs provided some specialized services to victims of sex trafficking and forced child labor. The government reportedly made psychological and medical examinations available to trafficking victims, but additional victim services—such as follow-up medical aid, legal assistance with filing a complaint, job training, and reintegration assistance—remained lacking. There was no publicly available information on whether the government provided assistance to repatriated Venezuelan trafficking victims during the reporting period or encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers. There were no publicly available reports of victims being jailed or penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, and NGOs and international organizations reported this did not generally occur. An international organization continued to work with the government to file requests for asylum and relief from deportation for victims from Colombia who feared reprisals from traffickers or criminal organizations if they returned to Colombia, though it is unclear if any victims did so in 2015.
The government made minimal efforts to prevent human trafficking in 2015. No permanent anti-trafficking interagency body existed, and the government did not have a current anti-trafficking plan or strategy. Authorities continued some awareness efforts aimed at sexual violence broadly, including a public service announcement about sexual exploitation and the distribution of anti-trafficking posters and pamphlets, most of which focused on sex trafficking of women and girls. There were no publicly available reports of new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions for child sex tourism offenses in 2015. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. The government did not report any specific activities to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the year.