Bust Frees Venezuelan Migrant Women from Human Trafficking Ring in Spain

Sexual exploitation and violent attacks against emigrating Venezuelan women are sharply on the rise.

By Paul Dobson
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Reports suggest that Venezuelan women are increasingly subject to violence and conditions of semi-slavery upon emigrating. (Diario Las Americas)
Reports suggest that Venezuelan women are increasingly subject to violence and conditions of semi-slavery upon emigrating. (Diario Las Americas)

Merida, June 28, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – A series of arrests has resulted in the liberation of thirteen women from a human trafficking and sexual exploitation network in the Spanish city of Salamanca, the country’s Civil Guard reported yesterday. Most of the women are Venezuelan, and the case is the latest in an increasing number of violent crimes perpetrated against the Latin American country’s female migrants.

The bust culminated over six months of investigations on the part of Interpol and both Spanish and Venezuelan authorities. Six citizens of various nationalities were arrested, including the Venezuelan-based leader of the network who is now awaiting extradition.

Those implicated are also accused of organised crime and money laundering. Their seized assets are valued at more than €2.1 million and include 214 bank accounts, 105 financial portfolios, 27 vehicles, more than €10,000 in fake bills and numerous firearms.

According to the Spanish Civil Guard, the group’s leaders lured the women to Spain under false pretences and subsequently forced them into prostitution. News network EFE reports that they were kept in conditions of “semi-slavery” with their passports confiscated.

Recently, there has been a steep rise in human trafficking - in particular for sexual exploitation – of migrating Venezuelan women, who are famous for fulfilling the commercial profile of beauty which is promoted by the Global North.

Criminal networks take advantage of the precarious conditions in which Venezuelan women often migrate, offering to pay their airfares and provide them with work opportunities, before trapping them in horrendous illegal situations which are nigh impossible to escape from.

“In two years the number of cases of victims of modern slavery, specifically human trafficking, has risen 300%,” alleged Beatriz Borges, director of the Venezuelan ONG Centro de Justicia y Paz in March.

Last year Venezuelan authorities arrested two Asians and one Venezuelan in Caracas airport on charges of human trafficking, and closed a Venezuelan ONG accused of trafficking 120 children to Peru.

Likewise, a ring which trafficked Venezuelan women in Barcelona, Spain was broken up in February this year, and nine Venezuelans were among 17 women freed from a network in Panama in March. In Peru, four Venezuelans were liberated from traffickers in May.

UN data shows that human trafficking, which they claim yields US $32 billion annually, is the world’s second most lucrative illegal business after drug trafficking. Seventy percent of the victims are women.

This year has also seen a sharp increase in cases of femicide against Venezuelan migrant women.

Following the March murder of Venezuelan Laura Navarrete in London, UK, the number of gender-based murders against Venezuelan migrant women reportedly reached twelve this year, well up on the six recorded during the whole of 2017. Since, there have been at least two more femicides reported, both in Mexico in April.

Spanish watchdog Feminicidio.net has reported that 44 femicides of all nationalities have occurred in the Iberian country during the first six months of the year, whilst the Spanish government has publically recognised 14,000 “potential victims” of human trafficking.

“[The Spanish government] claim to direct a great deal of money to combating human trafficking. It isn’t true,” claimed Rosa Cendon, a journalist from the German news portal DW, speaking after the dismantling of the Barcelona trafficking ring.

The increase in attacks abroad against Venezuelan women coincides with the sharp rise the country is experiencing in migration, particularly to popular destinations such as Panama, Peru, Colombia, and Spain. Sizeable numbers of Venezuelans have migrated to escape the country’s aggravated economic crisis, often with short term plans which include returning to Venezuela with greater consumer power.

“Across the world, migration is a determining risk factor for the occurrence of human trafficking… [such crimes] have risen due to the vulnerability of Venezuelans in the actual context of migration,” Borges explained.

Last year, Venezuelan authorities rejected a US State Department report claiming that the Caribbean country was not “fulfilling the minimal standards for the elimination of human trafficking.” Caracas rebutted that the report lacked “internationally recognised technical rigour” and was emitted by a country which “continues to be amongst the countries with the highest number of human trafficking cases in the world.”

At the time, the Caracas government reaffirmed its commitment to the UN’s World Action Plan to combat human trafficking as well as to honouring its 2014 agreement with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees regarding the issue.