Child sex tourism claim again dominates U.S. report

The U.S. annual human trafficking report again characterizes Costa Rica as a hotbed of child sex tourism.

“Child sex tourism is a serious problem, particularly in the provinces of Guanacaste, Limón, Puntarenas, and San José,” said the country report that is part of the federal government’s annual effort. But, despite this rampant illegal activity, the report notes that there were no convictions in 2012.

The local report is the product of U.S. Embassy workers here with input from non-government organizations. The entire document was released Wednesday in Washington, and John Kerry, the secretary of State, said the United States has a moral obligation to meet the challenge of ending human trafficking.  He called the practice an assault on freedom and basic human dignity. The report declared China and Russia among the worst countries in fighting human trafficking, a designation that could lead to sanctions against both nations.

The local report tried to explain why there were no child sex tourism arrests: “Authorities did not report convicting any sex trafficking offenders under the anti-trafficking law during the reporting period, and while authorities reported using other statutes, such as those penalizing rape, to convict sex trafficking offenders during the year, they could not report how many offenders were convicted under these statutes.”

Authorities also reported assisting 85 child victims of commercial sexual exploitation, the report said. The State Department considers anyone under 18 years as a child for purposes of the report.

As in previous years, embassy staffers failed to note that adult prostitution is not prosecuted in Costa Rica. Consequently, the context of the trafficking report is distorted. A.M. Costa Rica has repeatedly brought this omission to the attention of embassy staffers, but the final report appears to be distorted on purpose to be consistent with the ideology of the State Department and the non-profit organizations that assisted in the preparation.

For example, the report said that “in partnership with U.S. authorities, Costa Rican police deported four American citizens in 2012 for their involvement in child sex tourism.” The individuals were not identified, leaving open the question of whether those deported were fugitives from sex crimes in the United States. Sexual activity with underage individuals overseas is a felony in the United States, and is prosecuted there vigorously. But there is no indication that the persons who were deported faced any U.S. charges.

The report correctly notes that a new law passed in October will cost expats and tourists $1 more when they leave the country. The money is supposed to go into a fund to fight trafficking.

The report suggests establishment of a shelter specifically for trafficking victims or through funding non-profit organizations to provide services.

The report also notes that trafficking for forced labor is a problem:

“Men and children from other Central American countries and from Asian countries, including China, are subjected to conditions of forced labor in Costa Rica, particularly in the agriculture, construction, fishing, and commercial sectors. Indigenous Panamanians are also reportedly vulnerable to forced labor.”

News files show that arrests for sexual activity with minors usually occurs within a family with a stepfather or grandfather having an extended relationship with a child. Tourists who visit the country are continually warned that contact with underage individuals could result in long jail terms.

One of the big cases of sexual exploitation that took place in 2012 was not even mentioned in the report. Some 25 dancers at the Atlantic night club in La Uruca reported that they were brought to the country and forced into prostitution. Night club operators kept their passports to prevent them from leaving, investigators said at the time. This was labor exploitation in addition to sexual exploitation.

Two of three persons detained in that case received sentences of eight years in prison, the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería reported last week.

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