Guatemala Creates Investigative Body to Fight Human Trafficking

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Guatemala is creating specially-trained investigators, judges and a prosecutor to target human trafficking in the country, which is estimated to see 15,000 cases a year.

In a meeting of Inter-Institutional Commission Against Human Trafficking, Vice President Roxana Baldetti (pictured) announced that the government is setting up two judges and a prosecutor general specialized human trafficking cases, Prensa Libre reported.

The executive branch has transferred some 5 million quetzales ($640,000) to the Supreme Court to pay for these officials, who are about to be inaugurated, reported Siglo 21.

Baldetti explained that the purpose of creating the new judges was to strengthen penalties for human trafficking, saying that the Public Ministry has strengthened its work against the crime, but that this still hadn’t manifested itself in the sentences handed down.

One hundred and twenty new police investigators are currently undergoing training and will join the Public Ministry in September — half to specialize in human trafficking cases, and half in cases of sexual violence, announced Baldetti.

InSight Crime Analysis

The most recent US State Department report on human trafficking said that Guatemalans were trafficked both within the country and abroad, particularly to the United States and Mexico. They are used for forced labor, domestic servitude, or commercial sexual exploitation. Women and children from other Latin American countries were also trafficked to Guatemala to work in the sex trade. Siglo 21 quoted the director of NGO Fundacion Sobrevivientes as saying that the country has 15,000 cases of human trafficking a year.

Organized criminal groups were involved in some of Guatemala’s trafficking cases, according to the State Department.

Guatemalan Prosecutor Alexander Colop said that the country had detected six groups dedicated to recruiting people for sexual exploitation, both in Guatemala and across Central America.

The government’s injection of funds to pay for specially trained investigators and prosecutors could be a boost to the fight against these networks — the State Department report noted that investigative units in the country were underfunded, while judges and law enforcement were often poorly informed about the issue.

The will to tackle this seems to have been lacking in the past; as Baldetti pointed out, the Inter-Institutional Commission Against Human Trafficking had not met before, although it was set up in 2009.

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