Argentine police reported dismantling a Bolivian-run human trafficking network in Buenos Aires, freeing 45 Bolivians from forced labor in textile workshops. 

Police raided the Villa Soldati neighborhood of Buenos Aires on April 9, shutting down five textile workshops in which the group of Bolivians — including nine minors — were “enslaved,” according to a police statement. In addition, police found 64 sewing machines and around $7,000 in cash, reported news agency EFE.

Authorities believe that a Bolivian couple who formed part of the network’s leadership recruited Bolivians with the promise of good jobs, stealing their identity documents upon arrival to Argentina.

The rescue operation was the result of an investigation that began at the end of 2012.

InSight Crime Analysis

Argentina is an important destination for human trafficking victims, many of whom come from Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru. Authorities reported rescuing more than 700 victims in the first eight months of 2012, approximately half of them from outside Argentina. A Bolivian official claimed in 2011 that up to 15,000 Bolivian children were sold and sent to Argentina each year.

The numbers indicate that Bolivia’s human trafficking problem is increasing. Some 258 cases were reported in the first 11 months of 2012, compared with 190 in the whole of 2011. According to Peruvian authorities, around half of the underage females trafficked to a Peruvian mining town for commercial sexual exploitation were of Bolivian origin.

Despite the growing problem, Bolivia has achieved only two human trafficking convictions in six years, despite hundreds of cases being reported to authorities.