Costa Rica gets a better grade in U.S. human trafficking report

From the front page of the slick U.S. State Department trafficking report

The country received a slightly higher grade this year in the U.S. State Department’s human trafficking report. But once again the report fails to note that prostitution is not a criminal offense here and that men also are engaged in commercial sex.

Costa Rica was listed in the tier 2 category of the report, which means that the government does not fully comply with the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act  minimum standards but is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with those standards. Last year the country was listed in the tier 2 watch list, which means, among other factors, that 
there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons.

The report not only covers prostitution but also forced child and adult labor, debt bondage, involuntary domestic labor and child sex trafficking. Also mentioned are child soldiers elsewhere.

The report for Costa Rica was based on input from the U.S. Embassy staff here, local government officials and non-profit organizations. The report said in its preface:

Costa Rica is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Costa Rican women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country, and residents of the north and central Pacific coast zones are particularly vulnerable to internal trafficking. Women and girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and other Latin American countries have been identified in Costa Rica as victims of sex trafficking and domestic servitude. Child sex tourism is a serious problem, particularly in the provinces of Guanacaste, Limón, Puntarenas, and San José. Child sex tourists arrive mostly from the United States and Europe. Costa Rica is a destination from other Central American countries and from Asian countries for men subjected to conditions of forced labor, particularly in the agriculture, construction, and fishing sectors.

The body of the report does not provide sufficient evidence to support these claims.

However, the report also notes that there were no reported investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists during the year-long reporting period.

“During the year, the government achieved its first conviction under its 2009 trafficking law, increased anti-trafficking training for government officials, granted several foreign victims temporary residency status with permission to work, and strengthened prevention efforts,” said the report.

Since the report last year, police reported identifying 39 possible trafficking victims, 31 of whom were Costa Rican, said the report. Authorities also reported assisting 75 child victims of commercial sexual exploitation and 60 child victims of labor exploitation, and it is likely that many of these were trafficking victims, it added.

The report noted that Costa Rican lawmakers have just drafted a new anti-trafficking bill that still is in the legislature. A.M. Costa Rica has criticized the measure because it lacks the requirement of force or trickery that is essential in anti-trafficking laws and definitions by the United Nations.

In reference to the notorious Quepos case, the report noted that authorities initiated the investigation of a mayor for possible trafficking crimes but did not report any prosecutions or convictions of public officials complicit in human trafficking during the year. The Quepos mayor and an aide were using a municipal vehicle to recruit underage prostitutes in low-income areas.

The report does not mention the arrests of several persons who were caught bringing Nicaraguan immigrants from the border into central Costa Rica.

Worldwide, the report said 33 countries comply fully with U.S. standards. Some 42 are on a watch list because of various deficiencies. The State Department said that there were 27 million people in situations of forced labor, servitude or prostitution. The report is a slick presentation fills with grim tales from elsewhere in the world. There are heart rending photos. A copy is HERE!

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