HomeNewsHow Human Trafficking Worsened in Mexico During COVID-19
NEWS

How Human Trafficking Worsened in Mexico During COVID-19

COVID AND CRIME / 19 AUG 2021 BY CAROLINA BARRIOS AND PARKER ASMANN EN

The number of human trafficking victims in Mexico is growing, as traffickers target vulnerable people hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mexican authorities identified at least 550 victims of human trafficking in 2020, a 43 percent increase from the 383 victims recorded in 2016, according to data from the Executive Secretariat for Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública - SESNSP) and cited in a report by Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP), a non-governmental group working in Latin America and the Caribbean. HIP publishes its report on human trafficking every four years.

One of the main forms of trafficking described was the sexual exploitation of women and girls. Men and boys, meanwhile, were forced to labor in the mining and construction sectors, while females were also pressed into domestic service. Children between the ages of five and 12 were victims of sexual abuse and pornography, as well as being forced to beg on behalf of others.

The people most vulnerable to trafficking included members of the LGBTQ community, young girls, the disabled, single women with children, Indigenous people and migrants, including those displaced internally or transiting the region, according to the report.

Mexico has one of the highest rates of human trafficking in the world. Between 2015 and 2021, more than 2,800 people were reported to be victims. And if the cases recorded through the first four months of this year continue apace, Mexico will log more than 650 victims in 2021, more than any of the last six years, according to the report.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

The figures are almost certainly an undercount. Many cases go unreported for a variety of reasons, including a lack of confidence in authorities and fear of being killed for speaking out. Violence against women in Mexico has increased substantially alongside human trafficking in recent years, with a record 977 women killed in 2020. 

Mexico’s central region was the most affected by human trafficking, according to the report, but the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca were also among those with the highest trafficking rates. The report also highlighted the Puebla-Tlaxcala corridor, Mexico City and the Gulf state of Veracruz as being human trafficking hotspots.

Last year, victims of human trafficking were recorded in 126 municipalities and in 25 of Mexico’s 31 states, up from 18 states in 2017.

“Human trafficking has become even more complex with the current health crisis,” the report's authors concluded. The authors also noted that the growing presence of organized crime groups, ties between officials and criminal actors, rampant impunity and a lack of government attention have all created “greater conditions for human trafficking to increase.”

InSight Crime Analysis

Crime groups involved in human trafficking are taking advantage of pandemic conditions in Mexico in two ways.

First, the pandemic, which has pushed millions across Mexico into poverty, has “exacerbated many individuals' existing vulnerabilities to trafficking” and “increased the number of individuals vulnerable to exploitation,” according to the US State Department’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.

Second, Mexico has foundered in targeting traffickers.

“During COVID-19, there’s been a decline in interest and attention to human trafficking, which has allowed human trafficking groups to reorganize and operate with more freedom and less scrutiny from law enforcement,” Guadalupe Correa-Correa, an expert on human trafficking and organized crime in Mexico, told InSight Crime.

Migrant women and children traversing Mexico to reach the United States are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking.

Mexicans, meanwhile, fall prey to traffickers close to home. A 2019 analysis of human trafficking by the country’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos - CNDH) found that between 2012 and 2017, 84 percent of human trafficking victims were Mexican nationals, and more than half were trafficked in the same state they lived in.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Trafficking

To compound the issue, the Mexican government has – since 2014 – repeatedly “failed to fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking," according to US officials.

The HIP report added that there “does not appear to be a meeting point for treating the problem,” as human trafficking receives little attention on the national agenda. The absence of public policies only further generates confusion for civil society groups and others working to confront the problem, the report concluded.

“When you have a comprehensive strategy, you’re coordinating with different ministries, prosecutors and investigators, as well as with non-governmental organizations,” said Correa-Correa. “But in Mexico, there is no coordination because there’s no government strategy or victim-centered approach to combatting the issue.”

What's more, government officials have colluded with the leaders of trafficking groups or even taken part in trafficking crimes themselves. Corrupt immigration officials have falsified documents for criminal networks and accepted bribes to facilitate the trafficking of victims into Mexico, according to the CNDH report.

The State Department found that the Mexican government “did not prosecute or convict any officials for complicity in trafficking crimes” in 2020.

Even when trafficking rings are targeted, the leaders at the top of these networks often go untouched, while low-level members – who may also be trafficking victims themselves – frequently end up in prison, Correa-Correa said.

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

METHAMPHETAMINE / 30 MAY 2011

Mexico's authorities have dismantled a large methamphetamine production facility in the southern state of Chiapas, capable of making 150 kilos…

MERIDA INITIATIVE / 16 SEP 2011

U.S. Representative Connie Mack has branded the U.S. security aid package for Mexico, the Merida Initiative, a failure and called…

MEXICO / 31 MAR 2015

Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto has credited his administration’s security strategy for the country’s improved safety, while also asserting that…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…