Once again the U.S. State Department issued a human trafficking report on Costa Rica that failed to mention that adult prostitution is not penalized here.
This has been a repeated omission from the annual report, which skews the understanding of the complexity of the situation. The report also does not show that State Department staffers left their office to actually talk to anyone in the sex trafficking or prostitution business. The report seems to rely on statistics from the government and broad statements that are based on no evidence.
A.M. Costa Rica staffers have brought these errors and omissions to the attention of workers at the local U.S. Embassy in past years. Staffers decline to identify who may have actually prepared the report.
The Costa Rican country narrative was included in the annual report that ranks 188 governments across the world on how they combat human trafficking.
Costa Rica was relegated to what the State Department calls a tier two watch list. The country was off the watch list in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Says the report:
“Costa Rican women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country, with those living in the north and central Pacific coast zones being particularly vulnerable. Authorities have identified adults using children to transport or sell drugs; some of these children may be trafficking victims. There are a significant number of transgender Costa Ricans in the commercial sex industry who are vulnerable to sex trafficking.”
The report also calls child sex tourism a serious problem with child sex tourists arriving mostly from the United States and Europe. In fact, prostitution by underage individuals appears to be a cultural problem with some teens turning to that life at the urgings of parents. An even greater problem is molesting and continual sexual activity in households involving underage individuals and an older relative.
The downgrading of the country appears to be, as the report says, because law enforcement efforts declined, and the government did not convict any traffickers, child sex tourists, or individuals who purchased commercial sex acts from child trafficking victims.
The writer of the Costa Rican report had to dig deeply to cite a 2012 case of the former Quepos mayor who was detained in late 2011 and early 2012 on allegations that he was recruiting girls and women for the purpose of prostitution. That case involved a bar in Mata Palo.
For some reason the writer declined to mention police raids Sept. 17, 2014, in which 70 women working as prostitutes in three locations were encountered and five persons detained. A 17 year old was working in one of the locations.
The writer also overlooked a raid June 4, 2014, at the Bar y Hotel el Viajero in Guápiles where a 50-year-old man was detained for pimping. Of the 17 women there when agents entered, 10 were Dominican and one was Nicaraguan.
They would seem to fit the trafficking category although they probably arrived in Costa Rica of their own volition.
The report also covers forced labor and notes that three persons were acquitted in the case of a fishing boat containing Asian workers that turned up in Costa Rican waters.
The report also notes that those who exit the county at the two international airports pay $1 as part of their exit tax to fight human trafficking. In addition there was a $156,000 payment by the government to a non-profit that aids victims of sexual violence, said the report.
In Washington Monday the State Department says widespread human trafficking is helping fuel vast fortunes on the world economy, leaving millions of people exploited by unscrupulous labor overseers and sex traders in virtually every country of the world.
In its annual human rights report, the State Department called the exploitation modern slavery, brutalizing girls and women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe, if they are even paid at all for their work.
Speaking shortly after the release of the report, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said: “Traffickers are both ruthless and relentless….Traffickers prey on the most vulnerable.” He said human trafficking and modern slavery were worth $150 billion a year.