Bolivians are Victims of Human Trafficking Ring in Brazil

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For the second time in less than a week, a group of Bolivians living in slave-like conditions has been rescued by police in São Paulo, highlighting both Brazil’s status as a major forced labor destination and the apparently growing problem of human trafficking in Bolivia.

On October 16, Brazilian police rescued 20 Bolivians who were allegedly victims of forced labor and were living in conditions similar to slavery, reported El Deber. The Bolivians — 11 adults and 9 children — were working in a textile factory in Cidade Ademar, one of the poorest neighborhoods in São Paulo. 

Two Bolivians were arrested in the police operation, and may be tried in Bolivia on charges of human trafficking, reported EFE.

The arrests came just days after police freed 13 Bolivians who were living and working under similar conditions in a textile factory, also in São Paulo, reported EFE. Police arrested the owner of the factory, a Bolivian, who is suspected of overseeing the operation.

In both cases, the operations occurred after Bolivians who had escaped from the factories informed authorities of the situation.

InSight Crime Analysis

The rescue of 33 Bolivians from slave-like conditions in São Paulo in one week — all under Bolivian supervision — puts the spotlight on Bolivian human trafficking, a crime that sees Bolivians victimized both domestically and internationally. Reports of human trafficking in Bolivia rose 10-fold between 2005 and 2013, although this spike may be due to previous underreporting of the crime. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Bolivia

Colonel Adolfo Cardenas, the head of Bolivia’s Special Task Force Against High Crime (FELCC), told InSight Crime in a May interview that Bolivians involved in criminal organizations were generally in charge of the networks that exploited Bolivian human trafficking victims. 

While he said sex trafficking was a more common crime in Bolivia than human trafficking for labor, Bolivian victims are sent to Argentina and Brazil for domestic jobs and to work in the textile industry. In August, 19 Bolivians and 12 Haitians were rescued from slave-like conditions in a São Paulo clothing factory, while a forced labor network was dismantled in Argentina in April 2013, allegedly run by Bolivians. 

Brazil has Latin America’s largest economy — of which the thriving textile industry forms an important part — making it an appealing destination for both undocumented migrants and human traffickers. As many as 40,000 people are believed to work in forced labor conditions in the country. 

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