The scourge of sex trafficking

The BBC News has on its web site a disturbing article about sex trafficking in El Salvador.
San Salvador is a noisy, busy city overlooked by a spectacular volcano. The streets are crowded with bars, in many sex is for sale.

I accompanied Sgt Jose Noe Ayala on a drive around the city to see the places where police have discovered trafficked women and children. In one of the upmarket areas of the city, he pointed out a non-descript building, this was where Milagros was held.

"We rescued four girls that day," he tells me. "Three were teenagers under the age of 18, all Salvadorians. And then there was Milagros, from Nicaragua."
You can read about the rest of Milagros' story in this article.

The US State Department 2007 report on human trafficking described the situation in El Salvador in this way:
El Salvador is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Salvadorans are trafficked to Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States. Salvadoran women and girls are also trafficked internally from rural to urban areas of the country. The majority of foreign victims trafficked to El Salvador are women and children from Nicaragua and Honduras trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation.

The Government of El Salvador does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government took steps to improve victim assistance, and demonstrated more vigorous and better coordinated law enforcement efforts against traffickers. In the coming year, the government should intensify its efforts to convict and punish traffickers for their crimes. It also should provide more victim assistance and promote greater awareness of the trafficking problem, especially among judges and law enforcement personnel.


The Government of El Salvador made strong efforts to prosecute traffickers during the reporting period, but did not secure many convictions over the past year. Article 367B of the Salvadoran Penal Code prohibits all forms of human trafficking and provides for penalties of up to eight years' imprisonment, which are commensurate with those prescribed for rape and other serious offenses. Sentences may be increased by one-third in aggravated circumstances, such as when the victim is a child. The government prosecuted 67 individuals for trafficking in 2006, a nearly four-fold increase from the number prosecuted during the previous year. Prosecutors obtained four convictions with sentences ranging from three to eight years' imprisonment. The police conducted undercover trafficking investigations and secured search warrants to raid brothels and other establishments. In 2006, 74 victims, mostly children, were rescued from trafficking situations. The government should dedicate more resources to such operations. The government should also intensify its efforts to assist and prepare trafficking victims for trial and increase training for judges and other criminal-justice officials on human trafficking. No credible reports of government complicity with trafficking were received during the reporting period.


Anonymous said…
Crime in the commercial areas of El Salvador would decrease if more business owners invested in surveillance systems. My company, EBS (Electronic Bug Sweeps) is working with business owners to install video surveillance systems which can be used to monitor activity in local businesses. The economy of El Salvador cannot grow of merchants are afraid of doing business there. Check out our site at ship to all part of El Salvador from Florida, USA. My family is from El Salvador (La Union and San Martin) and I really care about making things better.
El-Visitador said…
«The government should dedicate more resources to such operations»

Sorry, no such resources were found.

All taxes extracted from the people were destined to higher priority items, such as CONCULTURA, ANDA, MARN, MITUR, ISDEMU, CEPA, CEL, etc.

Law enforcement is clearly not a priority for ARENA (or for most people, for that matter).

Instead, they want to preserve their little socialist hobbies, such as CONCULTURA or their ever-so-productive Ministry of Environment.
Anonymous said…
Hola el visitador, so you and i must be thinking that vote for Funes is not going to make the things any better , what candidate is there with a fresh idea and love to our country El Salvador i really want to know, some are quitting for "no reason".
Anonymous said…
Is legitimate art and culture, such as that promoted by CONCULTURA, not preferable to you than the drug smuggling/sales, black market gun commerce, human trafficking, assassinations for hire, theft, and assaults on law enforcement officials and other crimes of MS-13? I know that the allure of a vigilante police state is irrisistible to law & order adherents of all stripes (just look at Hugo Chávez' Big Brother political machine and Daniel Ortega's proposed People's Power Councils), but is there no stomach left for a competing alternative to an arms race between government and private thugs as the way to secure the peace?
El-Visitador said…
«what candidate is there with a fresh idea»

Alas! No-one that I see. But hope springs eternal.

«an arms race between government and private thugs»

Though we may not like it, this has proven to be the solution in places like the U.S., where cities like NYC have more than twice as many cops per inhabitant than El Salvador.

Some people remember how the 70's were a time of despair for NYC. Since then, though laws, though judges, disciplined cops and plenty of criminals behind bars made NYC one of the safest cities in the world. The safest, even, by some reckonings.

Yes, thugs can be defeated. You just need to use resources wisely.
When I was in San Salvador I saw signs in the airport that said something like "you must be able to prove the child with you is yours." Does anyone remember the exact wording of that sign? I'm writing about sex trafficking and want to get it right.

Thanks in advance.