Mérida, June 19th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - The Venezuelan Foreign Relations Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday accusing the United States government of arbitrarily wielding its annual Trafficking in Persons Report as a political tool to injure its enemies and reward its allies.
"The false accusations against our country over the course of recent years in this report on the trafficking of persons have served as a justification for a brutal aggression against our people and our government," the Ministry stated. "These reports are nothing other than a tool for imperial politics and aggression toward the countries in the world that develop independent policies."
The Ministry also called it hypocritical for the U.S. to criticize the human rights records of other countries when its own record has been so dismal. "It is scandalous that a country where immigrants are repressed and exploited, especially Latin Americans, their families are separated and border walls are built, and where torture has been practiced and terrorists are protected, pretends to prop itself up as a judge of human rights in the world," stated the Ministry.
In the brief statement, the Ministry demanded an end to "unilateral certifications that, far from helping to promote human rights, seek to hide the double standards that are practiced in the United States and to create obstacles for the establishment of relationships of equality and respect that should prevail between our countries."
The 2009 report released by the U.S. State Department this week categorizes more than 170 countries into three tiers according to how effectively the U.S. government judges them to be combating human trafficking. Last year, Venezuela was taken off the lowest tier, Tier 3, where it had been placed along with Cuba and Iran, and placed on the Tier 2 "Watch List," where it remained this year.
"The Government of Venezuela does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so," says the report. However, "the [Venezuelan] government did not show evidence of progress in convicting and sentencing trafficking offenders and providing adequate assistance to victims; therefore, Venezuela is placed on Tier 2 Watch List."
The report recognizes poverty, unemployment, and the breakdown of community as factors which lead to human trafficking, but in its evaluation of Venezuela it does not mention the halving of poverty, the reduction of unemployment, the expansion of free primary health care and access to basic foods, and the promotion of community cohesion through community councils as a result of the Chávez government's policies.
The report praises Venezuela's 2007 Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence, the 2005 Law Against Organized Crime, and the Child Protection Act, which open legal avenues for prosecuting traffickers. It also says the government opened investigations of human trafficking cases and cooperated with INTERPOL on transnational trafficking cases and increased screening at airports.
The report's main criticism of Venezuela is that these laws are weakly enforced. It highlights a lack of victims' protection services and efficiency in Venezuela's justice system, and a lack of shelters and rehabilitation for victims. It encourages the government to appoint a national coordinator of anti-trafficking measures.
Under the administration of President George W. Bush, the U.S. used its Human Trafficking Report to financially and politically attack Venezuela. Two months before a crucial presidential recall referendum in 2004, the U.S. moved Venezuela from Tier 2 to Tier 3 and threatened to block an Inter-American Development Bank loan to Venezuela as a consequence, a threat it later acted upon after Chavez won the election.
This year, the United States is not among the countries ranked in the report. However, the U.S. Justice Department released a corresponding report on trafficking in the U.S. In contrast to the previous administration, Secretary of State Clinton acknowledged the U.S.'s role in the problem, saying, "Trafficking is a crime that involves every nation on earth, and that includes our own."