Officials have dismantled a sex trafficking ring in central Mexico which reportedly smuggled teenage girls to the US, where they were forced to work as prostitutes.
Yesterday, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (PGR) publicized the arrest of four individuals who stand accused of running a sex trafficking venture for the past decade. According to PGR deputy Jose Cuitlahuac Salinas, the network was run by members of a family based in the central, poverty-stricken state of Tlaxcala, where they lured girls aged 15 to 18 under false romantic pretenses and eventually smuggled them into the US. Once there, the girls were coerced into working as prostitutes in New York.
Cuitlahuac told local press that the investigation into the case began in January 2011, in response to concerns raised by the US Embassy in Mexico. While the full extent of the network is unknown, it is believed that at least seven other members are based in the US.
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The arrests are an encouraging sign of Mexico taking action against the illegal sex trade, where the number of human trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convinctions remain low. A 2011 report by Mexico City’s Human Rights Commission (CDHDF) estimated that 10,000 women were victims of human trafficking in the capital city alone, but documented only 40 official investigations into the crime, with a mere three convictions there in 2010.
Last summer President Felipe Calderon approved a set of laws aimed at making it easier to prosecute human trafficking, and also urged congress to pass a nationwide law that would impose stricter penalties for the crime. As congresswoman Rosi Orozco told the Washington Post in July, “If narcotics traffickers are caught they go to high-security prisons, but with the trafficking of women, they have found absolute impunity.” The law was recently approved by two legislative committees, and is expected to come to a vote sometime this year.