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Column 062215 Brewer

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Proliferation of Sex and Human Trafficking in the Americas

By Jerry Brewer

Just how involved and engaged are governments in the Western Hemisphere in interdicting human trafficking for sexual purposes, and is it an issue that requires critical focus among other world problems?

Human trafficking alone is reported to be the third largest illicit industry in Latin America, following drug and arms trafficking.

Trafficking in humans includes, but is not limited to, those trafficked for forced labor, prostitution, other elements of sexual exploitation, the harvesting of human organs, and related acts of human servitude.

Sex trafficking, for sexual exploitation, is an enormously high profit industry when it comes to pornography, online sex, stripping, commercial sex work, sex shows, as well as marriage for the purpose of sexual servitude.

In contrast, the term "people smuggling" shares a difference from the term human trafficking that has been described as voluntary, covert transport from one location or country to another. In most situations, there may not be any deception involved in this agreement. Freedom for the smuggled parties to continue on their way according to the agreed upon terms and destination is usually permitted.

The US Department of Justice reports that "eight in ten human trafficking cases involve the sex industry; the others involve labor trafficking." Annually, human trafficking worldwide is estimated to be around US$40 billion at a minimum.

Human trafficking represented an estimated $31.6 billion of international trade per annum in 2010. The economics of the illicit sex industry and underground sex market just in the U.S. reveals each of eight U.S. cities generates between $40 million to almost $300 million a year.

It should be no surprise to anyone that transnational organized criminal organizations find human trafficking to be extremely lucrative and one of their fastest growing activities for massive revenue.

The United Nations as far back as 2008 estimated nearly 2.5 million people from 127 different countries were being trafficked into 137 countries around the world.

And, even as far back as 2006 the numbers of those trafficked for sexual exploitation numbered approximately 800,000, according to U.S. Government sponsored research. This figure did not include "millions trafficked within their own countries." Approximately 80 percent of transnational victims are women and girls, and up to 50 percent are minors. Moreover, these numbers do not include "millions of both males and females globally who are trafficked within their own national borders – the majority for forced or bonded labor."

For clarification, a person working in the sex industry can be identified as a victim of human trafficking if they are trapped in servitude for the purposes of prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation. For the purposes of sexual exploitation, traffickers work to supply the demand for prostitution, other forms of sexual practices and "entertainment."

In Latin America, as well as many other parts of the world, problems associated with poverty contribute significantly to sexual exploitation.  Lack of policing infrastructure, as well as corruption in government and weak legislation, contribute enormously to the problems.

Drug trafficking is a major element of the hedonistic demand that spawns the illegal traffic in sex slavery. It is a societal demand for products and services that generate or enhance the pleasure of the individual that is also rapidly growing in South America.

Argentina is now the second largest domestic market for cocaine. And, that demand has brought a secondary ruin to that country because it is now a focal point for recruiting people into the illicit sex trade. 

Argentina is a major source and destination point for men, women and children in the forced labor and sex trade, according to the U.S. State Department. The report states that victims forced into the sex trade are recruited in northern provinces along the Chilean border and then transported to wealthy provinces in central and southern Argentina. Sex traffickers are snatching women and children from Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay for sex trade work in Argentina.

Argentina, though, is but one stopping point for individuals forced into the sex trade. It’s from Argentina that captive women and children are shipped to countries like Chile, Brazil, Mexico, the U.S., and Western Europe. Argentina has become the main trading port for the sexual exploitation of individuals.

A startling and perverse fact is that criminal networks increasingly engage in the kidnapping of people, especially children and teens, who are then taken to locations with medical equipment where they are murdered and their organs harvested for the illegal organ trade. 

Research indicates that illegal organ trade is on the rise, with a recent report by Global Financial Integrity estimating that the illegal organ trade generates profits between $600 million and $1.2 billion per year – with a span over many countries that include Mexico, Central and South America.

The majority of countries in the Western Hemisphere are now in compliance with UN standards on anti-human trafficking laws, however in recent years just 10 percent of all suspects investigated for human trafficking charges in the Americas were actually convicted.


Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at

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