Argentine authorities have rescued more than 700 people from human trafficking networks since the start of 2012, according to a report released by the country’s Ministry of Justice.
Most of the trafficking victims, principally women and children, had been sexually exploited and forced into labor, the report by the Office for Rescue and Care of Victims of Trafficking stated. Of the 712 people recovered during more than 300 raids across the country, 85 were below the age of 18. Nearly 370 hailed from outside Argentina.
Many of the victims were financially desperate and had been lured by false advertisements for nanny or modeling positions, said Zaida Gatti, the coordinator of rescue efforts, reported El Universal newspaper. Others had been kidnapped, Gatti said.
Since Argentina passed the Law for the Prevention and Punishment of Sexual Exploitation and Victims Assistance in April 2008, its first anti-trafficking legislation, authorities have rescued 3,465 trafficking victims.
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High profile media cases like that of “Marita” Veron, who was kidnapped in 2002 and has never been found, have drawn international attention to the sex trade in Argentina, where the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates some half a million women are trapped in human trafficking networks.
Those networks are often small, loosely connected outfits, according to Cordoba state’s police commissioner, Claudia Flores. The trafficking rings, both local and international, have recruiters at street level: taxi drivers, street vendors, and even neighbors may target victims for either recruitment or kidnapping, according to a 2010 report by Infosur.
Victims from outside Argentina tend to come from Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. The large majority of people charged in connection to human trafficking have been Argentine, according to report released this year by the anti-trafficking prosecutor’s office (UFASE).
In its 2012 Human Trafficking report, the U.S. State Department said Argentina did not meet its minimum standards for anti-trafficking efforts, but said the country had made significant strides in that direction. By late 2011, prosecutors had obtained convictions for 19 labor and sex trafficking offenders in Argentina, a small but steady increase from 2008, when Infosur reported just three convictions.