Brothel Discoveries Shed Light on US End of LatAm Sex Trade

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Authorities in Providence, Rhode Island have dismantled four residential brothels this year, shedding light on the receiving end of Latin America’s lucrative sex trade, which receives comparatively little attention.

Police in the small northeastern US city say Mexican and Guatemalan women are trafficked from New York City on a weekly basis to residential brothels, where they are prostituted for around $30 per sex act, reported Providence Journal.  

These sex trafficking rings operate by giving customers fake business cards directing them to clandestine brothels run out of apartments, where victims see an average of 20 to 25 clients a day. Due to their small size, residential location, and closed networks, these types of brothels can be difficult for authorities to track, according to Leah Meyer, a specialist at the non-profit anti-human trafficking organization the Polaris Project.

The victims are often paying off a debt to the traffickers and face constant threats of violence and abuse. Many are also undocumented migrants who fear being reported to authorities, said Meyer.

According to statistics from the Polaris Project’s National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), in the United States as a whole the majority of sex trafficking victims come from Mexico, Central America and South America. Between December 2007 and September 2013, most of the victims who called the NHTRC, or whose cases were reported to this organization, were female and a third were underage.

InSight Crime Analysis

Reports of sex trafficking rings in Providence provide insight into life at the end of Latin America’s sex trafficking routes and highlight some of the common tactics used by traffickers.

The story of one Mexican migrant who was promised more money to work as a prostitute than what she was making at her previous job and never saw a dime echoes that of countless victims in Latin America who are lured by false promises, while traffickers often use cruel threats to force their victims to stay.

SEE ALSO: Slavery in the Americas

While in the past the trade was run largely by smaller networks, in recent years, organized criminal groups have increased their role in the sex trade as they look to diversify their revenue streams. A 2011 Washington Post article highlighted the role of the Zetas in this criminal activity, while the NHTRC has reported some trafficking networks in the United States have ties to Latin American gangs like MS13, which has a presence on the US east coast. 

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