USDOS – US Department of State (Author)
PARAGUAY: Tier 2
The Government of Paraguay does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Paraguay remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increased efforts by vigorously investigating cases under the 2012 comprehensive anti-trafficking law and continuing its cooperation with foreign governments. Despite these efforts, the government provided limited protective services to female adult and child victims and no services for male victims. The government did not provide adequate funding for anti-trafficking efforts and did not begin any new public awareness efforts.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PARAGUAY
Develop formal procedures for the proactive identification of trafficking victims and establish a referral mechanism to ensure victims receive care services; intensify efforts to investigate, prosecute and convict traffickers and complicit officials, including for forced labor; provide adequate funding to the anti-trafficking secretariat to enhance comprehensive services and shelter for victims of sex and labor trafficking, including male victims; increase training for police, labor inspectors, judges, prosecutors, and social workers; approve the 2014-2018 national action plan; fund awareness campaigns; and improve data collection and research on human trafficking.
The government maintained prosecution efforts. The Comprehensive Anti-Trafficking Law 4788 of 2012 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to eight years imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, law 4788/12 establishes the use of force, fraud, and coercion as aggravating factors rather than essential elements of the crime. Articles 129b and 129c of law 3440/08 criminalize international trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor, respectively. Law 3440/08 also criminalizes pandering, profiting from prostitution, and child pornography, and prescribes penalties of up to eight years imprisonment.
The Anti-Trafficking Unit (ATU) is the lead agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting traffickers. In 2016, the ATU initiated 77 investigations under law 4788/12, compared with 68 in 2015 and 80 in 2014. Authorities reported 71 prosecutions for trafficking crimes—15 for forced labor and 56 for sex trafficking under Law 4788/12, an increase from 17 prosecutions in 2015 and 10 in 2014. In 2016, authorities reported 25 convictions for trafficking in persons, (18 for sex trafficking and seven for labor trafficking) and five for pimping, compared with nine convictions for trafficking in persons and five for pimping in 2015. Sentences ranged from seven months suspended to 10 years, with an average criminal sentence of two years. In 2016, the ATU cooperated with Argentina, Chile, France, Germany, EUROPOL, and Interpol in approximately 50 international investigations. In November 2016, the ATU and representatives of indigenous organizations raided a ranch in the Chaco region after receiving reports of the forced labor of indigenous adults and children in a rudimentary charcoal factory; one person was detained during the operation; the case was pending at the end of the reporting period. The ATU conducted 10 anti-trafficking trainings reaching 400 government officials, including judges, prosecutors, and police officers. Although the government did not report investigating any cases of official complicity, several observers reported some local police chiefs received bribes from massage parlors and brothels under their jurisdiction to allow the exploitation of trafficking victims.
The government decreased protection efforts. The government provided a total of approximately 5.3 billion guaranies ($920,940) for the efforts of the ATU, the Ministry of Women Affairs (MWA), and the Secretariat for Children and Adolescents (SNNA). Authorities reported the budget provided was insufficient and the government relied heavily on international partners for financial support. The ATU had three teams to support and assist trafficking victims; these teams provided psychological, social, and legal assistance. The overall quality of care for victims was insufficient due to limited resources and the lack of qualified personnel. In 2016, the government identified 82 trafficking victims. Of the identified victims, 47 received assistance, 32 received medical and psychological care (41 in 2015), and 12 victims who received shelter (24 in 2015). SNNA reported providing shelter for three child victims in 2016, compared with 50 in 2015. The 35 victims identified in the Chaco ranch case did not receive any assistance. Although the government did not have written procedures to guide officials on the proactive identification of trafficking victims, the municipality of Asuncion proactively screened for potential victims at the bus terminal in the capital city, which was the principal hub for domestic and international land transportation. There were two shelters in the country, both located in Asuncion, dedicated to helping female trafficking victims. One was managed by the MWA and the other co-managed by SNNA and an NGO.
Authorities encouraged victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers by offering protection through a witness protection program. However, because victims often doubted the government’s ability to protect them and feared reprisal against themselves and their families, they often had minimal participation in legal proceedings. During the reporting period, two victims applied for the witness protection program. There were no reports that victims were detained, fined, or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking . The government entered into a formal agreement with Argentina through which victims in each country can obtain restitution from civil lawsuits filed against traffickers in the other country. The government helped repatriate trafficking victims and referred them to care facilities to receive medical, psychological, and legal services. The MWA conducted six trainings on trafficking prevention and protection for 328 public sector officials.
The government maintained prevention efforts. The Directorate for the Assistance for Paraguayan Communities in the Exterior (DACPE) is the government agency responsible for coordinating anti-trafficking programs, including the activities of an interagency roundtable that consisted of subcommittees on prevention, prosecution, assistance, and legislation and included representatives from 16 government agencies. The roundtable was effective in fostering dialogue and coordination among government agencies; however, it continued to face challenges in collecting and reporting statistics. Some NGOs reported they had not been notified when the roundtable meetings would take place and their input was not valued when they attended. The MWA facilitated five trainings through the anti-trafficking roundtable for 261 public officials, including social service providers, municipal and department employees and lawyers. The MWA coordinated regional anti-trafficking meetings in 11 departments in addition to four municipal anti-trafficking roundtables. During the reporting period, some municipalities continued to issue certifications allowing ongoing operations of brothels where the ATU had previously discovered victims. The 2014-2018 National Action Plan remained pending presidential approval. The government did not start any new prevention campaigns, but continued to post brochures and posters in bus terminals, airports, and border crossings. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor. Authorities did not identify children purchased for sex by foreigners in Ciudad Del Este and the Tri-Border area as victims of child sex tourism or trafficking. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. The government provided all peacekeepers with UN-approved training on trafficking in persons prior to their deployment on international peacekeeping missions.
Paraguay is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Paraguayan women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking within the country, and transgender Paraguayans are vulnerable to sex trafficking. An estimated 46,000 Paraguayan children work as domestic servants in exchange for food, board, and occasionally education or a small stipend in a system called criadazgo; many of these children are subjected to domestic servitude and are highly vulnerable to sex trafficking. Indigenous persons are particularly at risk for forced labor and sex trafficking. Children engaged in street vending and begging and working in agriculture, mining, brick making, and ranching are vulnerable to human trafficking. International trafficking rings often rely on local traffickers to recruit victims. Traffickers offer victims their freedom or pardon of debts if they recruit other victims and often rely on social media outlets as recruiting tools. Foreign victims of sex and labor trafficking in Paraguay are mostly from other South American countries. Paraguayan victims of sex trafficking and forced labor are found in Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, China, Colombia, and other countries. Paraguayan women are recruited as couriers of illicit narcotics to Europe and Africa, where they are often subjected to forced prostitution. Paraguayan children are reportedly subjected to forced labor in the cultivation and sale of illicit drugs in Brazil. NGOs and authorities reported government officials—including police, border guards, judges, and public registry employees—facilitated human trafficking, including by taking bribes from brothel owners in exchange for protection, extorting suspected traffickers in order to prevent arrest, and producing fraudulent identity documents. Reports indicated isolated instances of the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) and the Armed Peasant Association (ACA) forcibly recruiting children and adolescents from San Pedro, Concepcion, and Amambay to participate in military operations and serve in logistical and communication support roles. There were also reports of isolated instances in which female child soldiers entered into informal marriages with older EPP and ACA members.