HomeNewsHuman Trafficking Victims Grow as Mexico Government Strategy Falters
NEWS

Human Trafficking Victims Grow as Mexico Government Strategy Falters

HUMAN TRAFFICKING / 5 AUG 2022 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

The number of reported human trafficking victims is on the rise in Mexico, as government officials struggle to devise new strategies to enhance victim identification and prevent increased exploitation exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

On July 30, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Mexico launched the Corazón Azul 2022 campaign, which aims to increase visibility and raise awareness of the many contexts in which human trafficking can occur in order to improve preventative measures and timely reporting.

“Our commitment as a country should not be reduced to certain types of trafficking victims; it must turn to prevention, not only of the crime, but of its structural causes,” said Félix Santana, the technical secretary of the Intersecretarial Commission against Human Trafficking within Mexico’s Interior Ministry (Secretaría de Gobernación - SEGOB).

The announcement came on the heels of newly released data from the Executive Secretariat for Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública - SESNSP) showing Mexican authorities identified at least 494 victims of human trafficking across the country between January and June of this year.

SEE ALSO: How Human Trafficking Worsened in Mexico During COVID-19

This represented a 22 percent uptick from the 406 victims recorded during the first half of 2021. If the current trend holds, officials will see nearly 1,000 victims of human trafficking by the end of the year, the most since 2015, according to an InSight Crime analysis of SESNSP data.

However, the true number of victims far exceeds those reported. Civil society groups like Consejo Ciudadano estimate that just one of every 100 human trafficking cases in Mexico is reported. Victims may not speak out for a number of reasons, including a lack of available resources, to avoid being stigmatized, or because they have been manipulated not to see themselves as victims.

The US State Department’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report found that, for the eighth year in a row, the Mexican government “does not fully meet the minimum standards” to combat and eliminate human trafficking but is “making significant efforts” to do so.

Those with the highest risk of being trafficked in Mexico, according to the State Department, included unaccompanied children, Indigenous persons, asylum seekers and migrants, members of the LGBTQI+ community, and informal sector workers, among other vulnerable populations.

Rather than at the hands of Mexican organized crime groups, “the majority of trafficking cases occur among family, intimate partners, acquaintances on social media, or through employment-related traps,” the report stated.

InSight Crime Analysis

Human trafficking crimes take place all across Mexico and can transcend borders, but a number of states along the US-Mexico border have long served as human trafficking hotspots.

Through the first six months of 2022, the states of Baja California, Chihuahua, and Nuevo León accounted for one quarter (122) of all human trafficking victims identified and a little less than 25 percent (95) of the 411 investigations opened by authorities.

Over the last year and a half, these three states were also among the top 10 states where Consejo Ciudadano’s National Human Trafficking Hotline received the most calls to report human trafficking.

(Graphic courtesy of Consejo Ciudadano)

This data helps paint part of the picture. In Baja California and Chihuahua, the border cities of Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez are known hubs for sexual and labor exploitation, while the manufacturing center of Monterrey in Nuevo León is a long-time operational base for human traffickers.

Given the economic makeup and transitory nature of these cities on migratory routes traversing Mexico, internal and foreign migrants are frequently lured there and victimized. Victims are entrapped by their exploiters in a number of ways, but since the onset of COVID-19, deceptive recruitment tactics have increasingly turned to social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Trafficking

Those targeted are presented with attractive job offers that pay well but lack specific details on what the job entails. Stated promises of personal and professional development act as “a mask for exploitative conditions,” according to Consejo Ciudadano. Victims may be pushed into working longer hours for less pay or forced into prostitution after accepting a job offer as a waitresses or as part of a fake modeling contract.

The most reported form of exploitation is sexual, but trafficking experts told InSight Crime that doesn’t make it the most prevalent type of trafficking. Labor exploitation in the agricultural, construction, and manufacturing industries in Mexico is also widespread, but much less reported. With a growing number of people living in poverty and other precarious conditions, there are many desperate workers vulnerable to exploitation.

Whereas predatory groups like the Zetas once operated their own prostitution rings, today human trafficking does not represent a central revenue source for Mexico's major organized crime groups. The industry is largely dominated by independent family clans that carefully select those they prey on.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BELTRAN LEYVA ORG / 1 SEP 2014

The leaders of some of Mexico's principal drug cartels recently staged a narco-summit to reconfigure the criminal landscape, according to…

HOMICIDES / 4 MAR 2022

Makeshift bombs and grenade launchers are now being used in battles between cartels and Mexico’s security forces in an alarming…

MEXICO / 15 FEB 2013

A Facebook page tracking security updates in the northern state of Tamaulipas has been threatened by an unidentified criminal or…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Oceans Pillaged in Central America and the Caribbean

5 AUG 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the first installment of a nine-part investigation uncovering the hidden depths of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Latin America. The first installment covered Central America and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela’s Tren de Aragua Becomes Truly Transnational

29 JUL 2022

This week, InSight Crime published a deep dive into the total control that Venezuelan mega-gang, Tren de Aragua, has over the lives of those it smuggles between Venezuela and Chile…

THE ORGANIZATION

Turkish Traffickers Delivering Latin American Cocaine to Persian Gulf

15 JUL 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the second half of an investigation piecing together the emerging role of Turkish cocaine traffickers in supplying Russia and the Persian Gulf, which are among…

THE ORGANIZATION

Turkey as a Lynchpin in European Cocaine Pipeline

8 JUL 2022

InSight Crime is extending its investigation into the cocaine pipeline to Europe, and tracking the growing connections between Latin American drug traffickers and European criminal organizations. This led us to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Memo Fantasma Coverage Gets Worldwide Attention

1 JUL 2022

Guillermo Acevedo, the former Colombian drug lord and paramilitary commander better known as Memo Fantasma, may soon be allowed to leave prison. Since first revealing the identity of Memo Fantasma…