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Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                             

Republic of Bolivia

Bolivia is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America. Following a disastrous economic crisis during the early 1980s, reforms spurred private investment, stimulated economic growth, and cut poverty rates in the 1990s. The period 2003-05 was characterized by political instability, racial tensions, and violent protests against plans - subsequently abandoned - to export Bolivia's newly discovered natural gas reserves to large northern hemisphere markets.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Bolivia

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..   - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009   Check out a later country report here or a full TIP Report here



CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Bolivia.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to verify their authenticity or to validate their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include possible precursors of trafficking such as poverty. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims


International Office for Migration
2 236 90 44
Country code: 591-



Bolivia, U.S. cracking down on human trafficking

Donna Boe, Idaho State Legislator, Journal Politics, Idaho State Journal, General, September 23, 2006

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

Bolivia, like the United States, has a human trafficking problem and is  searching for solutions. So says Casimira Rodriquez Romero, the newly appointed Bolivian Minister of Justice, in an interview with me in August.

According to Rodriquez, two major forms of human trafficking exist in Bolivia. Because people are desperate for jobs, they flock to Argentina, Brazil, Spain and North America where some find jobs, and others end up as indentured servants or worse. There is also a tragic problem of disappearance of children, and the government is establishing ways to locate these children and to find out what happened to them.

Trafficked in China, originally from Bolivia

Oliver Poole. “Young Mother’s Dream of Fast Fortune Ended in Nightmare” South China Morning Post (11 March 1997)

[accessed 23 January 2011]

TESTIMONY OF PATRICIA - From her home in an impoverished village in rural Bolivia, the prospect of quick riches as an escort girl proved impossible to resist for 23-year-old Patricia Suarez.  A neighbor working for a Hong Kong gang suggested the trip, promising the young mother an escape from part-time work as a domestic servant that paid only US $50 (HK $387) a week.  Desperate for money, the former university student left her two-month old baby with her mother and six brothers and sisters—unaware that she was heading for a nightmare trapped in a sleazy underworld.


*** ARCHIVES ***

Bolivia Struggles to Help Its Human Trafficking Victims

Max Radwin, InSight Crime, 26 February 2020

[accessed 27 Feb 2020]

Last year, authorities registered 299 cases of human trafficking, a drop from the 465 in 2018, according to the report.

A disproportionate number of victims are poor, indigenous and live in rural areas. Most of them were lured into sex trafficking or forced labor in the mining, agricultural and livestock sectors, the report said. Sex trafficking—especially of women and young girls—is common on a domestic scale but can sometimes extend to an international network with Chile, Brazil and countries overseas.

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Bolivia

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 13 May 2021]


Men, women, and children were victims of sex trafficking and forced labor in domestic service, mining, ranching, and agriculture. Indigenous populations were especially vulnerable to forced labor in the agriculture sector and to deceptive employment opportunities that may amount to forced labor in neighboring countries.


The ministry collaborated with the IDB to implement a program that identifies and employs unemployed parents who have children in the workforce. A ministry official stated that while there were varying reasons why children as young as 10 chose to work, one main reason was because their parents could not find steady employment. This program sought to secure jobs for underemployed parents on the condition their children stop working. The ministry also provided the parents’ salaries for the first three months to avoid burdening the businesses that provided employment.

Among the worst forms of child labor were instances of children working in brick production, hospital cleaning, domestic labor, transportation, and vending at night. In the agricultural sector, forced child labor was present in the production of Brazil nuts/chestnuts and sugarcane. Children were also subjected to hazardous work activities in the mining industry, as well as sex trafficking and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 23 April 2020]


Bolivia is a source country for the trafficking of men, women, and children for forced labor and prostitution, and the country faced increased international criticism over permissive legislation regarding child labor in 2018: in December of that year, Morales signed a measure to change the minimum working age to 14 years old.

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2018

[accessed 17 April 2019]

[accessed 23 April 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 171]

Children produce and harvest sugarcane and Brazil nuts in the departments of Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz, and Tarija. (1; 5; 7; 13) Indigenous children are particularly vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor. (27; 28; 29) Some indigenous Guaraní families live in debt bondage and work on ranches, including in raising cattle, in the Chaco region of Bolivia. (30; 5; 13) In Tarija, the sugarcane and Brazil nut harvest seasons attract over 3,000 internal migrants, increasing the vulnerability of these workers—many of them children—to forced labor and human trafficking. In 2017, 25 members of the Guarani community, including eight children, were rescued from forced labor in Tarija. (8)

The cultural practice known as padrinazgo, which involves rural families sending their children to urban areas to live with individuals to better access education, social services, and food, often leads to forced labor, including in domestic service and third party businesses. Girls, age 14 on average, were found to be engaged in commercial sexual exploitation in El Alto. (8) Bolivian children are also smuggled to other countries, where they are vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. The government does not have a system in place to track data on forced child labor, commercial sexual exploitation of children, or engagement of children in illicit activities. (8).

Japan Sex Industry Ensnares Latin Women

Associated Press AP, Lima, Peru, 4-29-05

[accessed 23 January 2011]

At least 1,700 women from Latin America and the Caribbean are lured each year into sexual slavery in Japan's huge illicit sex industry, according to a new report.  A team of researchers hired by the Organization of American States found that most of the women come from Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico and Peru.

U.S. Says Belize, Cuba, Venezuela Not Fighting Human Trafficking

U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Information Programs, 5 June 2006

[accessed 5 September 2014]

HUMAN TRAFFICKING “TIER 2 WATCH LIST” - Even though Bolivia moved up from its Tier 3 listing in the 2005 report, the country was placed on the Tier 2 watch list for its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in the areas of trafficking prosecutions and victim protection.

Human trafficking's dirty profits and huge costs

Inter-American Development Bank, Nov 2, 2006

[accessed 23 January 2011]

[accessed 21 January 2018]

CASES IN LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN - In Bolivia, the intermediaries who traffic in illegal adoptions charge up to $30,000 per child. The Bolivian National Police have found only 18 percent of the children and youth who disappeared in 2005 and 2006 (IOM/OAS, 2004).

Annual Report Of Activities By The Anti-Trafficking In Persons Section Of The Organization Of American States - April 2005 To March 2006 [DOC]

Organization of American States, Inter-American Commission of Women, 27 March 2006

[accessed 5 September 2014]

BOLIVIA - The Prevention of Trafficking of Women and Children Project was carried out in Bolivia, during October, in conjunction with the International Organization for Migration. This project involved a prevention campaign carried by the mass media, including television and radio, for which public service announcements were produced in the Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, and Guarani languages.

Between October 17 and 21, a series of seminars, focusing on different topics, were held in the cities of Trinidad, La Paz, and Cochabamba. La Paz hosted a seminar on “Training for Journalists from the Bolivian Media in Trafficking in Persons: Reporting and Spreading the News while Upholding Victims’ Rights,” at which communicators, journalists, and owners of media outlets (written press, radio, and television) involved with the topic or who had produced important work relating to it, were given training relating to trafficking in human lives. In Cochabamba the seminar focused on preventing the trafficking of children and adolescents from the most representative sectors of Bolivian society, and involved youth and children’s organizations and leaders at the local, departmental, and national levels. Finally, the seminar “Training for Government and Civil Society Authorities in Combating trafficking in Persons, Particularly Women” was held in the city of Trinidad. This seminar assisted departmental authorities from Beni, Pando, and Santa Cruz, along with representative sectors of civil society and women leaders.

Due to Efforts against Trafficking in Persons Bolivia Removed from Tier 2 Watch List

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, June 16, 2009

[accessed 5 September 2014]

Over the past year, despite limited resources, Bolivia increased law enforcement and prosecution. In a landmark case in Cochabamba, the regional Attorney’s Office secured the convictions of two traffickers for enslaving an 11-year-old child. Moreover, special anti-trafficking police and prosecutors opened 36 trafficking prosecutions across the country in 2006.

Also, Bolivia made efforts to prevent this crime by means of awareness seminars held throughout the country and increased protection services for the victims.

The Grounds for Bolivia’s New Military Bases

Alex Sánchez, Research Fellow, Council on Hemispheric Affairs COHA, 18 Oct 2006

[accessed 23 January 2011]

BOLIVIA’S PLANS FROM A DOMESTIC PERSPECTIVE - An argument in favor of the bases is that Bolivia does have a major problem with drug trafficking and contra-band activities, making constructed military bases in the rainforest a national security necessity. A BBC September 13 report noted that in the extreme northeastern part of Bolivia, in Pando, at Fort Manoa, only one sergeant and nine privates are guarding the border with Brazil. The Bolivian police is also dispersed and scarce, with only an average of three policemen at each of the country’s 110 border points. These facts have facilitated criminal activity such as human trafficking, particularly between Bolivia and Paraguay. At the presentation of Bolivia’s National Security Council’s report to the Chamber of Deputies on June 22, Defense Minister Walker San Miguel asserted that “We have a sparse population along the borders, and consequently we are a country tremendously vulnerable to peaceful invasion by citizens of other bordering countries.”

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 28 January 2005

[accessed 23 January 2011]

[63]. The Committee is concerned about the extent of sexual exploitation and trafficking of children for this or other purposes, in particular economic exploitation, in the State party and about the lack of effective programs to address this problem.

The Protection Project - Bolivia [DOC]

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University

[accessed 2009]

FORMS OF TRAFFICKING - Women and children are trafficked from Bolivia for the purposes of forced prostitution and forced labor. Trafficking is believed to exist for the purpose of organ sales and illegal adoption as well.

Women and children are trafficked to Argentina, Brazil, and Chile to work as domestic servants. Some women are trafficked from Bolivia to Argentina, where they are forced to work in textile factories, or to northern Chile, where they are made to work in agriculture.  Women are trafficked from Bolivia to Brazil to work in textile factories, in homes, in the agricultural sector, and in factories.  Bolivian women have been trafficked to Spain with promises of work, but instead they have been forced into prostitution.  Bolivian children are reportedly trafficked to Spain for illegal adoption.

In July 2000, Bolivian nationals trafficked 24 Bolivian girls to Argentina for the purpose of prostitution. The recruiter (the mother of the brothel owner) recruited children from outdoor markets in the rural areas of Bolivia. She told them and their parents that the girls could work as criaditas, or little maids, in Argentina. The parents authorized the children to leave under the pretense that they were going on vacation, so that they could get tourist visas. Tickets and visas were purchased through a travel agency. The recruiter; the brothel owner’s husband, who had transported the children; the owner of the travel agency; and the brothel owner were charged with forcing minors into prostitution.

Human Rights Overview

Human Rights Watch

[accessed 23 January 2011]


Freedom House Country Report

2018 Edition

[accessed 23 April 2020]


Child labor and forced labor are ongoing problems. A law approved in 2014 allows children aged 12 to 14 to enter work contracts as long as they do not work for longer than six hours a day. Children as young as 10 are permitted to work in independent jobs such as shoe shining as long as they are under parental supervision.

Bolivia is a source country for the trafficking of men, women, and children for forced labor and prostitution. The government has been slow to address the problem, though in recent years it has allocated greater resources toward investigations and public awareness campaigns.

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 23 January 2011]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Some children are known to work as indentured domestic laborers and prostitutes.  Children are reportedly trafficked internally to urban or border areas for commercial sexual exploitation.  It is also reported that children and adolescents are trafficked internally within Bolivia and to Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Spain for the purpose of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation.  Women and adolescents from the indigenous areas of the high plains are at the greatest risk of being trafficked.

2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 20 April 2018

[accessed 17 March 2019]

[accessed 24 June 2019]


There was a lack of enforcement of the law banning forced labor. Ministry of Labor officials noted that inadequate resources prevented more-thorough enforcement and restricted the ability of authorities to provide services to victims of forced labor. The ministry held various workshops to educate vulnerable workers of their rights, levied penalties against offending employers, and referred cases of suspected forced labor and human smuggling to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution. Penalties against employers found violating forced labor laws were insufficient to deter violations, in part because they were generally not enforced.

Men, women, and children were victims of forced labor in domestic service, mining, ranching, and agriculture as well as sex trafficking.


Among the worst forms of child labor, children worked in the sugarcane harvest, the Brazil nut harvest, brick production, hospital cleaning, domestic labor, transportation, agriculture, and vending at night. Children were also subjected to commercial sexual exploitation. A 2013 study estimated 3,000 to 4,000 children and adolescents worked in the Brazil nut harvest in Beni Department; indigenous groups confirmed a majority of these children were indigenous. Researchers also found that some children worked in Brazil nut processing factories, including at night.

There were reports that children were victims of forced labor in mining, agriculture, and as domestic servants. The media reported that minors under age 14 worked in brick manufacturing in El Alto and Oruro, and their parents sometimes contracted them to customers who needed help transporting the bricks.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 7 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – Faced with extreme poverty, many citizens were economic migrants, and some were victimized by traffickers as they moved from rural areas to cities and then abroad. Women and children, particularly from indigenous ethnic groups in the Altiplano region, were at greater risk of being trafficked. Children were trafficked within the country to work in prostitution, mines, domestic servitude, and agriculture, particularly harvesting sugar cane and Brazil nuts. Weak controls along its extensive five borders made the country an easy transit point for illegal migrants, some of whom may have been trafficked. Commercial sexual exploitation of children also remained a problem.

While there were reports that some adolescents were sold into forced labor, it appeared that most victims initially were willing economic migrants who were duped or later coerced into accepting jobs that turned out to be forced labor.

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