Authorities in Honduras have dismantled a network that prostituted underage girls, in a case where the security forces not only protected the criminal operations, but were also clients.
On October 14, the Special Prosecutor's Office for Children arrested Xiomara Patricia Olivera Paguada, who is accused of recruiting women and girls in Juticalpa -- in eastern Honduras -- by calling and offering them high-paying jobs, reported La Tribuna. The victims were then forced into prostitution. One of Olivera's alleged victims was her own sister's stepdaughter, a 15-year-old girl who claims she was forced to have sexual relations with at least 10 police and two members of the military.
Two of these alleged clients were Class 1 National Police Agent Eddy Rolando Caballero Merlo and Army Colonel Angel Andres Flores Amador, who have both been detained. According to Nora Urbina, the head of the prosecutor's office, Olivera's primary clients were members of the security forces, reported El Heraldo.
InSight Crime Analysis
While the number of young women affected in the current case is still unknown, it underscores an ongoing problem with the commercial sexual exploitation of minors in Honduras. The participation of security force officials is of particular concern; if corrupt police and army members are actively supporting child prostitution, it will make the crime that much harder to combat.
The US State Department's 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report (pdf) states that Honduran women and girls are sexually exploited both within the country and in Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico and the United States, and that law enforcement efforts to prosecute this crime remain weak. Forced prostitution is a major problem in regards to human trafficking: 60 percent of victims aided by Honduras' main protection program in 2010 said they were sexually exploited for commercial purposes.
At a national level, the bulk of sex crimes against children reported by Honduras' National Criminal Investigation Unit (DNIC) between 2010 and 2012 were abuses including rape, lustful acts and indecent assault. However, there were also 20 cases of sexual exploitation and 33 cases of pimping reported, according to children's shelter Casa Alianza (pdf). Perpetrators of sex crimes range from family members and neighbors, to mara gangs, to police.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Trafficking
Both Honduras and neighboring El Salvador have taken legal measures to combat human trafficking (which encompasses trafficking for both sexual exploitation and forced labor). In 2012, Honduras enacted an anti-trafficking law that sets a 10-15 year penalty for the crime. Meanwhile, El Salvador has approved legislation that will more than double the maximum prison sentence for human trafficking, from eight to 20 years.