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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 Guatemala

Guatemala is the most populous of the Central American countries with a GDP per capita roughly one-half that of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. The agricultural sector accounts for about one-tenth of GDP, two-fifths of exports, and half of the labor force. Coffee, sugar, and bananas are the main products, with sugar exports benefiting from increased global demand for ethanol.

The distribution of income remains highly unequal with more than half of the population below the national poverty line. Other ongoing challenges include increasing government revenues, negotiating further assistance from international donors, curtailing drug trafficking and rampant crime, and narrowing the trade deficit.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Description: Description: Guatemala

Guatemala is a source, transit, and destination country for Guatemalans and Central Americans trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Human trafficking is a significant and growing problem in the country, particularly the exploitation of children in prostitution. - 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 Guatemala.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify 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 precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. 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

National Civil Police
Country code: 502-



Legal Program Advisor for Casa Alianza, Guatemela, Murdered

Intercountry Adoption ICA, 6 September 2005

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 5 September 2011]

[scroll down to 6 September 2005]

The wave of violence and impunity that plagues Guatemala has taken yet another victim. Last Friday, September 2, at approximately 9:30 in the morning, an unidentified man shot and killed the fifty six-year old lawyer Harold Rafael Perez Gallardo, who had been serving as the Adviser to the Legal Program of Casa Alianza Guatemala for the past six years.  Perez Gallardo was advising Casa Alianza on several pending cases regarding irregular adoptions, murders, sexual exploitations and trafficking, and other instances of human rights violations against children.


*** ARCHIVES ***

Human trafficking a problem both in Central America and Central U.S.

Jeff Bahr, The Grand Island Independent, 10 Sept 2019

[accessed 10 September 2019]

In Guatemala, 73 percent of the victims are women, “but men are also victims, mostly of labor exploitation and forced labor,” Vicente said. Children and teens are the most vulnerable populations — vulnerable to both sexual and labor exploitation. But recently, officials have been seeing other kinds of trafficking, such as the recruitment of minors to perform criminal activities.

Human Trafficking and the Children of Central America

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski, faculty member, Criminal Justice, American Military University -- In Public Safety, 21 August 2019

[accessed 21 August 2019]


There is a definite difference between human smuggling and human trafficking. Human smuggling is transportation based where a smuggler is paid thousands of dollars to guide children – who may or may not be accompanied by family members from Central America to the United States via the Mexico-United States border. However, many families with migrant children do not have thousands of dollars to spend on the trip, which often creates a gateway to human trafficking.

Human trafficking involves the exploitation of migrant families and their children who are unable to pay the costs of being smuggled to the United States. They may be susceptible to the three cornerstones of human trafficking, which are the sex trade, forced labor, or domestic servitude to pay off their debt for being smuggled to the United States.

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Guatemala

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

[accessed 8 June 2021]


The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government failed to enforce the law effectively. Reports persisted of men and women subjected to forced labor in agriculture and domestic service.


The NGO Conrad Project Association of the Cross estimated the workforce included approximately one million children ages five to 17. Most child labor occurred in rural indigenous areas of extreme poverty. The informal and agricultural sectors regularly employed children younger than 14, usually in small family enterprises, including in the production of broccoli, coffee, corn, fireworks, gravel, and sugar. Indigenous children also worked in street sales and as shoe shiners and bricklayer assistants. An estimated 39,000 children, primarily indigenous girls, worked as domestic servants and were often vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse and sex trafficking. Traffickers exploited children in forced begging, street vending, and as street performers, particularly in Guatemala City and along the border with Mexico. Traffickers particularly targeted indigenous individuals, including children, for forced labor, including in tortilla-making shops. Criminal organizations, including gangs, exploited girls in sex trafficking and coerced young males in urban areas to sell or transport drugs or commit extortion.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 29 April 2020]


The indigenous community’s access to economic opportunities and socioeconomic mobility remain limited, with more than 70 percent of the indigenous population living in poverty. Guatemala has one of the highest rates of child labor in the Americas, with over 800,000 children working in the country. Criminal gangs often force children and young men to join their organizations or perform work for them.

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 28 April 2020]

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

[page 464]

Children as young as 5 years old work in coffee fields picking coffee beans and mixing and applying pesticides. (39; 40) In agriculture, working conditions for children involve using machetes and other dangerous tools. (22) Children, both Guatemalanborn and from other countries, are also engaged in commercial sexual exploitation, including in sex tourism. (41; 34) Traffickers are increasingly using social media to recruit children. (34).

How Clearwater helped destroy an international sex slave ring

Jonathan Abel, St. Petersburg Times, March 15, 2009

[accessed 8 February 2011]

[accessed 5 February 2019]

She came from Guatemala, a woman in her early 20s smuggled into the United States for what she thought was a housekeeping job.   The journey from her small town to the Texas border took 26 days. From there she was whisked to a safe house near Houston, then brought to Tampa and moved once more to a house in Jacksonville.   There, an enforcer for the human trafficking operation told the woman her debt had jumped from $5,000 to $30,000.   The enforcer demonstrated how to use a condom by rolling it over a beer bottle. He said she'd have to pay back the debt as a prostitute, according to authorities.   She turned 25 tricks the next day and nearly every day for eight or nine months.   This tortured existence — the daily life of a human trafficking victim — ended May 22, 2007, when authorities intervened.

US couple almost adopted stolen Guatemalan baby

Juan Carlos Llorca, Associated Press AP, July 31, 2008

[accessed 8 February 2011],4670,GuatemalaStolenBabies,00.html

[accessed 29 January 2018]

For 14 months, Ana Escobar studied the tiny fingers of every passing baby, searching for a girl with pinkies that curved gracefully outward, just like those of her missing daughter.  Then one day she saw her, in the arms of a foster mother helping process her adoption by an Indiana couple: A straight-haired toddler who appeared to be a stranger, except for her unmistakable fingers.  "I was in shock. I could not move. I could not do anything," Escobar told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.  DNA tests eventually proved what Escobar already knew: The girl was her daughter, taken at gunpoint in March 2007, when she was just 6 months old.

Authorities issued arrest warrants for a doctor, two lawyers and two others in Esther's case. Authorities suspect they could find more than a dozen other stolen babies in their review of 2,286 pending U.S. adoptions.  Even some completed adoptions are being questioned: At least two are under investigation to determine if the children -- now growing up as American citizens -- were stolen, said Jaime Tecu, a former prosecutor who is leading the Guatemalan National Adoption Council's review.

Guatemala adoption agency lawyers on trial in 'human trafficking' case

Lisl Brunner, Jurist Legal News and Research Services, March 25, 2008

[accessed 31 August 2014]

Prosecutors discovered that at least five of the children's mothers had provided false identities when offering their children for adoption, raising doubts as to whether the children may have been kidnapped.

Child Trafficking Soar in Guatemala

Prensa Latina News Agency, Jul 23, 2007

[accessed 8 February 2011]

Maria Eugenia Villareal, member of the NGO, said girls aged eight to fourteen are sold as sex slaves or used in risky sectors like garbage collection and classification, peddling and construction.

Most victims -from Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador- are misled with promises to travel to the US yet they are taken to different Mexican cities, including the capital.

Attorney Alex Colop calls serious problem the absence of laws with severe sanctions for such practices since the perpetrators walk free on bail or pay a fine.  In addition, the children do not press charges fearing threats from the exploiters or to loose their income source.

Rotary hears account of human trafficking horrors

Andrea M. Galabinski, Marco Island Sun Times, 02/15/2007

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

[accessed 5 September 2011]

"When we were in Guatemala, a woman tried to sell her baby to my wife for $1," said Rotarian Marly Rydson. "We were in port on a cruise there, and when my wife got back to the ship she was very shaken."  "That's because they are so desperate," said the founder/president of Miracle in Action, Penny Rambacher.

Mission woman found guilty of human trafficking

Associated Press AP, Edinburg, May 6, 2006

[accessed 15 July 2013]

Prosecutors say Ellilian Ramos paid a smuggler $250 to bring the two women across the Rio Grande in November 2004. The women, cousins Maria de Jesus Batres and Floridalma Sales Flores, were forced to work at Ramos' home without pay, authorities said.

Batres and Sales say the couple promised to pay them $125 a week after smuggling costs were worked off. Instead, Ellilian Ramos didn't pay them and threatened to call immigration authorities if they tried to leave.

The women said they also worked for the Ramos' family members and at Papacito's Day Care, which is owned by Ellilian Ramos' sister. Both women escaped through a window on Jan. 11, 2005, with help from two women they met at the business.

Guatemalan Attorney Uses Tricks and Deceit to Take Children from Mothers

Intercountry Adoption ICA, 14 November 2005

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

[accessed 5 September 2011]

In spite of the fact that Casa Alianza has filed numerous complaints over the past years regarding illicit international adoptions, and despite its efforts to put national and international pressure on the Guatemalan government to institute laws that properly regulate adoptions, the illicit adoption trade continues to thrive. Unscrupulous attorneys are the central players in this trade, and they have converted what should be a noble institution, into a dirty business.

The "legitimate" child-trafficking rings who sell Guatemala's young and quiet dissenting voices

Elizabeth Mistry, Sunday Herald (Scotland), 01-25-2004 -- Source:

[accessed 8 February 2011]

Around 3000 Guatemalan children are adopted by families from overseas every year. Almost all go the US and Canada. In 2002, the last year for which there are figures available, 15 came to the UK. With no firm legislation governing adoption, prospective parents have to find their way through a murky system of agents and lawyers, who charge an average of between £11,000 and £22,000 per child. Conservative estimates value the Guatemalan baby business at around £32 million per year.  The courts use poverty as a reason not to return children to their biological parents but just because a mother or father is poor it doesn’t mean they love their children any the less, Harris told the Sunday Herald between court appearances.

Protect Guatemalan Human Rights Defenders from Attacks and Threats

Human Rights Defenders, Sept 29, 2004

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

In recent weeks, the offices of two Guatemalan nongovernmental organizations were broken into, and files containing sensitive case information were stolen. Oftentimes, Guatemalan human rights organizations that document violations and implicate those responsible for such violations fall victim themselves to acts of intimidation and violence such as burglaries, robberies, kidnappings, death threats, and even murder.

The Children of Guatemala

BBC World Service, 28 October, 2000

[accessed 8 February 2011]

‘My name is Elivia and I am 32 years old. It was a very painful time for me. I wasn’t looking to give up my baby. I just wanted work and a Guatemalan couple offered me a job in their house. I was kidnapped. They kept me locked up in the house until I was ready to give birth. I was given drugs to make the birth quicker and then the baby was pulled out of my stomach. I didn’t see it, I didn’t know whether it was a boy or a girl. Then the couple told me I was too poor to be a mother and they were going to put my baby up for adoption.’

Country News - Guatemala


[accessed 15 July 2013]

Adoptions from Guatemala have been suspended for Canadians since September 2001 and will remain so until the Guatemalan government implements effective adoption safeguards. The Canadian Embassy advised that illegal and unethical practices still exist and issues of child trafficking continue to arise.

Adoptions from Guatemala remain open for other countries, such as France, U.K. and U.S. In March 2007 the U.S. State Department said it no longer recommends that Americans adopt children from Guatemala, and adoptions with Guatemala will not be permitted unless better legislation is passed. A new law is expected by the end of 2007.

A State Department notice dated June 13, 2007, said that it continues to caution American prospective parents that the U.S. government cannot recommend adoption from Guatemala. Several adoption service providers are under investigation in the U.S. Criminal charges have been brought against adoption facilitator Mary Bonn and the adoption agencies Reaching Arms International and Waiting Angels. The State Department applauds the Congress of Guatemala passing legislation on May 22, 2007 approving the Hague Convention. The bill clarifies the legal status of the Convention within Guatemala, which had been questioned previously in Guatemalan courts. When the Convention enters into force for the United States in early 2008, the U.S. government will not be able to approve adoptions from Guatemala if Guatemala's adoption process does not provide the protections for children and families required by the Convention. Some of the steps Guatemala must take to meet its obligations under the Convention are in the PDF chart "U.S. Law, the Hague Adoption Convention, and Guatemala", dated May 16, 2007.

Adoptions under fire in Guatemala

Letta Tayler, Newsday, Guatemala City, October 26, 2003

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

[accessed 5 September 2011]

But the day after Mendoza delivered Luís Enrique in May, she said,  the couple locked her inside a Guatemala City clinic, wrenched her newborn son from her arms, and forced her to sign papers giving him up for adoption.

Child Trafficking in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua [PDF]

Terre des Hommes / CUDECA, 2000

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

[accessed 5 September 2011]

CHILD TRAFFICKING AND MISSING CHILDREN OR YOUNG PERSONS IN THE PUBLIC CONSCIOUSNESS - Trafficking in children and the problem of missing children and young persons impresses itself on the public consciousness only to a very limited extent in these three Central American states. The entire theme complex is not perceived as a problem either in public administration nor in Government institutions or among the populace. On the contrary it is either suppressed or ignored. And this in spite of the fact that the existence of child trafficking is basically very well known.

Prepared Statement of Attorney General John Ashcroft at T Visa/Human Trafficking Press Conference January 24, 2002

Attorney General John Ashcroft at T Visa/Human Trafficking Press Conference, January 24, 2002

[accessed 25 January 2016]

Three years ago, 19-year-old Maria Choz began a terrifying ordeal. Jose Tecum kidnaped Maria from her parents' home in Guatemala, smuggled her to his house in Florida, and imprisoned her in a spare bedroom. By night, Maria was forced into sexual servitude. By day, she was forced to labor with a tomato picking crew, bringing her wages to Tecum at the end of her grueling shifts. Maria was robbed of her dignity and imprisoned by a man who put his greed and obsession ahead of her most basic human right to freedom.

NGOs: gladiators of freedom

Corradini, Louise & López, Asbel, The UNESCO Courier, June 2001 [Vol. 54 Issue 6, p40]

[accessed 30 August 2012]

The worst kind of child exploitation is sexual. Maria, a 12-year-old Honduran girl, was kidnapped in her country, sold in Guatemala and taken from there to Mexico, where she was bought by the owner of a bar who forced her to become a prostitute, servicing 20 men a day.

Anti-Trafficking Successes in the Southern District of Texas [PDF]

U.S. Department Of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Anti-Trafficking News Bulletin, Volume 1, Nos. 8 & 9, August/September 2004

[accessed 8 February 2011]

[page 4]

OPERATION FALLEN ANGEL - In June 2000, a thirty-one year old Chinese woman fell from a second story hotel room in Houston and broke her back. Local authorities sought assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The federal agents soon discovered that the woman was a victim of human trafficking. The woman fell while attempting to escape from her captors, one of whom was sexually assaulting her. Before arriving in Houston, the woman spent over a year in Guatemala where she was held as a sexual slave before being moved to Houston where her captors planned to sell her to other traffickers.

Migrant Center Reports Increase In Trafficking Of Children 4/12/00

Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, Update #8/00, April 30, 2000

[accessed 8 February 2011]

Mario Verzeletti, Coordinator of the Center for Attention to Migrants, reported that in the last few months, there has been an increase in the trafficking of Guatemalan children sold in Europe and the United States. According to reports cited by the center, "coyotes" (people who smuggle others across the border for a fee) sell children for more than U.S. $25,000. He added that women are trafficked in Guatemala as well. Many women are subjected to slave-like living conditions where they are held in order to have babies that will then be sold for adoption abroad.

UN Special Rapporteur visits Guatemala

UNESCO, Communication Division -- Source :Casa Alianza Press release of 16/07/99

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

[accessed 5 September 2011]

Casa Alianza has been involved in the fight against the trafficking of children in Guatemala through international adoptions for the past three years. To date the organization has helped five mothers recuperate their babies. In September 1997, the Attorney General's Office and Casa Alianza exposed the illegal trafficking of babies in Guatemala and presented 15 criminal accusations against lawyers involved.

Guatemala [PDF]

Report On The Worst Forms Of Child Labour Compiled By The Global March Against Child Labour

[accessed 30 August 2012]

CHILD TRAFFICKING - The sale of children is of particular concern in Guatemala. The sale and/or trafficking of children mainly occurs for the purpose of intercountry adoption, but there are also reports of the trafficking of children into Guatemala for the purpose of prostitution.


Coalition Against Trafficking in Women CATW

[accessed 8 February 2011]

TRAFFICKING - Eight El Salvadoran girls were rescued in a raid on a nightclub in Guatemala City. They had been trafficked under false pretenses and sexually exploited. Three pimps were arrested.

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

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 8 June 2001

[accessed 8 February 2011]

[34] The Committee notes with deep concern that there was no follow-up to its recommendations to introduce measures to monitor and supervise the system of adoption effectively and to consider ratifying the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption of 1993. Concern is expressed at the extremely high rates of inter-country adoptions, at adoption procedures not requiring authorization by competent authorities, at the absence of follow-up and, in particular, at reported information on sale and trafficking in children for inter-country adoptions. It is also noted that several drafts of adoption laws have been pending in Congress but never adopted.

[50] With regard to its recommendation on child labor, the Committee takes note of the measures taken by the State party such as the signing in 1996 of a memorandum of understanding with ILO for the adoption of the International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC). However, it expresses its deep concern at the large number of children who are still exploited economically, in particular those under 14 years of age.

Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation - Guatemala

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women CATW

[accessed 8 February 2011]

CASE - A yearlong legal battle has been won by a Guatemalan woman whose baby was a victim of illegal trafficking in infants. The mother, named Elivia, was tricked into signing all of the documents necessary, under lax Guatemalan laws, for a private adoption. In order to control her during her pregnancy, the lawyer handling the illegal adoption held back Elivia’s furniture and belongings and gave her 100 Quetzales ($15) a week for expenses. Elivia was even taken, against her will, to a house in San Pedro Epocapa, Chimaltenango. After the birth Elivia was prevented from seeing her baby by nurses, who had been informed that Pablo had been adopted. It was then that she realized she had been fooled and began to fight to get her baby back. Guatemalan law permits a mother to stop the process at any time during a private adoption, but very often the lawyers involved do not inform the mothers, many of whom are illiterate, of this.


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 9 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – Trafficking was particularly a problem in the capital and in towns along the borders with Mexico and El Salvador. Child migrants who did not cross the border into Mexico often remained in the country and resorted to or were forced into prostitution. Many women and children also were brought into the country from El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras by organized rings that forced them into prostitution. The primary target population for sexual exploitation was minor boys and girls or young women from poor families. Traffickers often approached individuals with promises of economic rewards, jobs in cafeterias or beauty parlors, or employment in other countries. The means of promotion included flyers, newspaper advertisements, and verbal or personal recommendations.

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 8 February 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 - Guatemala is considered a source, transit, and destination country for trafficked children. There is also evidence of internal trafficking.  Children from poor families in Guatemala tend to be drawn into trafficking for purposes of prostitution through advertisements for lucrative foreign jobs or through personal recruitment.

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