[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

BOLIVIA (TIER 2)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Bolivia is principally a source country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. A large number of Bolivians are trafficked to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Spain, and the United States for forced labor in sweatshops, factories, and agriculture. In a case discovered in May 2008, more than 200 Bolivian workers were trafficked to Russia for forced labor in the construction industry. Within the country, young Bolivian women and girls are trafficked from rural to urban areas for commercial sexual exploitation. Members of indigenous communities are particularly at risk of forced labor within the country, especially on ranches, sugar cane, and Brazilian nut plantations. Bolivian children are trafficked internally for forced labor in mining, agriculture, and as domestic servants. Some reports indicate that parents have sold or hired out their children into farm labor exploitation near border areas with Peru. Weak controls along Bolivia’s extensive borders make the country an easy transit point for undocumented migrants, some of whom may be trafficked.

The Government of Bolivia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant anti-trafficking progress last year by increasing law enforcement actions against trafficking offenders and maintaining prevention campaigns. The government continues to lag, however, in ensuring that victims have access to adequate protective services.

Recommendations for Bolivia: Continue to intensify anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, particularly relating to allegations of forced labor of adults and children; increase victim services across the country; amend anti-trafficking laws to provide greater legal protections for victims; develop formal procedures for identifying victims among potential trafficking populations; and increase public awareness about the dangers of human trafficking, particularly among young Bolivians seeking work abroad.

The Government of Bolivia made strong efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes last year. The government prohibits all forms of human trafficking through Law 3325, an anti-trafficking law enacted in 2006, which prescribes penalties of eight to 12 years’ imprisonment. The law contains aggravated penalties for trafficking offenses involving minors; organized criminal groups; and public employees responsible for protecting children. The law’s prescribed penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes such as rape. The Bolivian national police investigated 229 cases involving human trafficking in 2008, which is a 49 percent increase over the preceding year. Of these, 178 were forwarded for criminal prosecution; 114 remain in investigative status at the prosecutor’s office; 47 are in different stages within the criminal courts; 10 have gone to trial and are pending final court adjudication; and seven have resulted in guilty verdicts, with two defendants being sentenced to three and seven years respectively. Such results demonstrate increased efforts from 2007, when the government secured five convictions against trafficking offenders. The majority of the government’s anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts focused on the commercial sexual exploitation of children, though several cases dealt with allegations of forced labor. In a noteworthy case involving the trafficking of 255 Bolivian workers to Russia, eight officials of a Bolivian company involved in their recruitment, along with three Russian nationals, have been charged with trafficking for labor exploitation. The government operated four specialized anti-trafficking police units in La Paz, El Alto, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba. Bolivian police stepped up brothel raids which resulted in the rescue of 215 children exploited in prostitution. This represents an increase in the number of victims rescued when compared to 2007 and a threefold increase since 2006. In September 2008, the government passed legislation to create a national database on human trafficking crime statistics, as well as a clearinghouse for information on missing children, some of whom may be trafficked. The new law also directs the national police to form specialized anti-trafficking units in each department of the country. No criminal investigations or prosecutions of public officials allegedly involved with trafficking-related activity were initiated last year, though some officials reportedly took bribes to facilitate the illegal movement of persons, including suspected human trafficking.

The Bolivian government sustained modest efforts to protect trafficking victims over the last year. Temporary and long-term services for victims remain unavailable, however, in many parts of the country, especially outside larger cities such as La Paz and Santa Cruz, which have small municipal shelters capable of caring for trafficking victims on a short-term basis. The government has no dedicated programs to assist the large numbers of Bolivians trafficked abroad and later repatriated to the country. The government generally encourages victims to assist with the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. However, some trafficking victims reportedly have been jailed or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The government lacks effective procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations such as prostituted women in brothels, and does not provide foreign trafficking victims with legal alternatives to deportation to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

The government sustained prevention and public awareness efforts by conducting anti-trafficking education campaigns directed primarily at school children, reaching approximately 3,000 students. The government also worked closely with NGOs, international organizations, and other governments, including the United States, on prevention activities. No efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts were reported during the year. Bolivian troops deployed with peacekeeping operations abroad receive human rights training, including information relating to the unlawful commercial sexual exploitation of minors.