Authorities in Peru have dismantled a network that sexually exploited 300 women in a remote mining region of the country, highlighting the connections between the mining sector and the domestic sex trade.
According to Colonel Mariano Cespedes, head of the country's anti-trafficking unit, the victims came from the central Peruvian city of Huanuco. Cespedes said the woman responded to false adverts for jobs in Madre de Dios, a hotspot for informal gold mining in the southern Amazon region, reported the Associated Press (AP). Upon arrival in the region, the women were forced by the gang into prostitution.
Seven suspects were arrested in various parts of Peru, with the alleged leader, Clara Quispe, captured in Cusco. Known as the "Queen of the Delta," Quispe is believed to have been earning $60,000 a month from the trade, and had amassed a fortune of $2 million over three years.
InSight Crime Analysis
Madre de Dios is a major destination for trafficking victims, both for forced labor and sexual exploitation. As many as 1,600 adolescents and adults work as prostitutes there, according to one NGO, while another NGO has estimated that over 4,500 women are exploited there and that three quarters are minors. In one 2011 case, authorities rescued over 200 women from brothels in the region, which is home to a largely male mining population and has a negligible state presence.
The role of the mining sector in fuelling Peru's illegal sex trade was also highlighted by a newspaper investigation earlier this year, which found that up to 4,000 minors were being sexually exploited in La Rinconada, in the Puno region, also near the Bolivian border.
In September, Peruvian officials reported that 42 percent of the 2,000 human trafficking victims rescued in the past two years were minors. Victims often come from impoverished areas of the country, and are usually trafficked to regions within Peru. The tactic of luring victims with false promises of a job is common throughout the region.