Trafficking people: How Venezuelans are becoming victims of sexual exploitation in Brazil

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BOA VISTA, Brazil – This Tuesday, when the World Day to Combat Trafficking in Persons is celebrated, Brazil does not have much to celebrate, being the destination of a growing flow of Venezuelan women brought here for the purpose of sexual exploitation. After all, what does the country need to do to combat this problem more effectively?

With a deep economic crisis that has been affecting the country for years, Venezuela has seen a sharp migratory flow of its citizens to several neighboring countries. In situations of misery and despair, many of these migrants end up in a series of difficulties of different kinds throughout this endeavor, and sometimes the dream of a better life elsewhere turns out to be the worst of nightmares.

Among Venezuelan women trying to escape problems in their homeland, a significant portion of them are often enticed by criminal networks that, taking advantage of their fragile situation, recruit them for sexual exploitation in countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia. and Brazil. Deluded by promises of work or food security, they become easy targets for these opportunistic outlaws. Only in Roraima, the Brazilian state that serves as the main gateway for Venezuelan immigrants, cases like these have increased 30% since the beginning of this year, according to the Civil Police.

Érica Kaefer, project coordinator of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) representation for Brazil, explains that both international instruments and Brazilian law provide for different types of activities related to human trafficking.that can be classified as a crime, from forced labor to organ removal. In common, they all go through the recruitment, transport, transfer, shelter or receipt of persons by various means – such as threat or fraud – for exploitation purposes. According to the expert, it is quite common, when thinking about this type of violation, to imagine recruiters as individuals belonging to a large mafia or international organization. But the truth is that in most instances there are people very close to the victims involved, including family members.

In the case of Brazil, Kaefer points out that this issue of trafficking in persons is a serious problem with regard to transnational crimes as well as internal crimes.

“When you think of trafficking, you always think of international trafficking in persons, but trafficking can also be within the same country. It is even a reality in the context of Brazil,” she said.

According to the IOM representative, the prevalence of international trafficking in persons is very difficult to measure due to underreporting and insufficient data, but it can be said to occur in all regions and all countries of the world. However, certain associated factors can contribute significantly to a higher or lower intensity of this type of practice.

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“Countries that are facing extreme poverty, inequality, violence, gender inequality or even crises, forced migration, environmental disasters can further accentuate the vulnerability of those people, whether they are migrants or not.”

João Carlos Jarochinski Silva, associate professor and coordinator of the International Relations course at the Federal University of Roraima (UFRR) and deputy coordinator of the Graduate Program in Society and Borders, believes that this vulnerability currently found among Venezuelans has been a determining factor for the increase in the number of victims of this nationality in Brazilian soil. He explains that there is a large proportion of Venezuelan immigrants who are not part of the official reception system provided by the Brazilian government, making it difficult for the authorities to identify certain problems that these people may be experiencing. Other than that, there are questions of a practical nature too, according to him, that contribute in parallel.

“There is a little difficulty in applying our prevention protocols when you have a significant increase within this dynamic. You end up having a series of specific demands, quantitative data and even the change of employees … Because much of the performance you have if developed along the border is for a limited time. The person goes there, spends a season and then returns home. So it makes it difficult to understand more closely how this criminal network works. if by the way, it is a network that unfortunately has been operating in the Amazon for a long time,” Jarochinski said, explaining that this trafficking has the purpose of exploiting these women both in Brazil and in other countries.

The expert states that there are two types of grooming used by criminals in these cases of trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation : one that already occurs within the country of origin, Venezuela, in this case, and another that occurs in the destination country, the Brazil, through the so-called cats, who are enticing with access to the “social fabric of these immigrants.”

“It is very common in this kind of activity, unfortunately, a first approach to someone you trust, or at least someone you know has confidence, to establish a dialogue. Because it is not an easy dialogue,” he said. “They are often people of their own social life, who sometimes have the same situation of vulnerability, that do this grooming service, different from the networks that take advantage. These, yes, often already linked to large international criminal groups.”

To the UFRR professor, given the crisis situation experienced by the neighboring country, the idea of ​​effective cooperation between Brazil and Venezuela against this type of crime seems unlikely. This is because, in the present circumstances, Caracas “would not be able to implement any kind of agreement on this issue of prevention,” forcing the Brazilian authorities to act, basically, alone.

“What we can do, within the actions we have, especially there in the documentary area, which is where everyone will have to go, is that you have a very significant level of information for people to identify,” said João Carlos Jarochinski, also advocating intelligence work and training for the police and the military so that agents and soldiers can also identify situations in which it is possible to glimpse a possible case of human trafficking.

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