Bolivia's authorities have dismantled a human trafficking ring transporting people from Bangladesh to Brazil, highlighting the Andean nation's importance as a transshipment point and the links between South Asia and Latin American trafficking networks.
According to Bolivian Interior Minister Carlos Romero, authorities arrested three Bolivians and two Bangladeshis after police found 31 Bangladeshi nationals hidden in a house outside the southeastern city of Santa Cruz, reported El Dia.
According to Pagina Siete, the victims had arrived two weeks earlier on separate flights, each after midnight. Four vehicles from two transport companies were used to ferry them to the house where they were discovered.
Romero said the criminals were preparing to sell the victims into "irregular and illegal" employment in Brazil. The minister also highlighted how Bolivia’s location makes it a transit hub for human trafficking.
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The discovery of Bangladeshis is just the latest case of would-be forced labor in Brazil, where as many as 40,000 people are reported to live under conditions of modern day slavery.
Earlier this year, Brazilian authorities uncovered another network of Bangladeshis who lured their countrymen into forced labor with promises of high-paying jobs. The current case is another sign that networks in Latin America are increasingly moving trafficking victims and migrants from South Asia, in addition to East Asia, where this connection is better established.
For its part, Brazil has made efforts to combat the phenomenon, inaugurating a three-year multimillion dollar plan to combat slavery in February and announcing the release of nearly 3,000 slaves in May.
While Bolivia is a major source country for human trafficking victims, the recently uncovered operation also illustrates the country's importance as a transshipment point for organized crime. Santa Cruz is a keystone of the drug route and a rising organized crime presence has been reported in the city.