Trafficking in Persons Report 2017 - Country Narratives - Venezuela


The Government of Venezuela does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; therefore, Venezuela remained on Tier 3. Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some steps to address trafficking, including the arrest of at least seven individuals suspected of human trafficking. However, the government did not report prosecuting or convicting traffickers, and reliable data on government anti-trafficking efforts was nonexistent. The government did not report identifying or assisting trafficking victims.


Draft and enact comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation prohibiting all forms of trafficking; provide specialized services for all trafficking victims, working in partnership with civil society organizations and other service providers; strengthen and document efforts to investigate and prosecute cases of sex trafficking and forced labor, and convict and punish traffickers; develop and publish an updated anti-trafficking action plan and allocate resources to implement it; enhance interagency cooperation by forming a permanent anti-trafficking working group; implement formal procedures and training for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as persons in prostitution, and for referring victims for care; ensure that upon entry, foreign workers receive educational material on human trafficking including risks of exploitation and where to call for help if needed; and improve data collection on government anti-trafficking efforts and make this data publicly available.


The government did not report prosecution efforts; the lack of comprehensive data on investigations, prosecutions, and convictions made overall law enforcement efforts against human trafficking difficult to assess. Venezuelan law criminalizes some forms of human trafficking, specifically trafficking of women and girls, through a 2007 law on women’s rights that prescribes penalties of 15 to 30 years imprisonment. The law requires force, fraud, or coercion for all forms of sex trafficking, including that of children, whereas under international law, the prostitution of children is a crime without the use of those coercive means. The law also addresses human trafficking by organized criminal groups in its law on organized crime, which prescribes 20 to 30 years imprisonment for human trafficking carried out by a member of an organized criminal group of three or more individuals, but fails to prohibit trafficking of men. The penalties for these trafficking crimes are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, the legislature did not pass a draft anti-trafficking law, first introduced in 2010.

Venezuelan authorities did not report the total number of trafficking cases investigated or individuals prosecuted or convicted for human trafficking in 2016. According to government websites and media reports, officials pursued at least five sex trafficking investigations during the year. According to press reports, at least six individuals were indicted for trafficking crimes, including three traffickers who faced possible extradition. The government publicly reported the organized crime office (ONDOFT) trained security personnel on victim identification and assistance; however, officials reported lack of funding made trainings difficult to execute. Press reports indicated Venezuela worked closely with INTERPOL on trafficking investigations during the year. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.


The government did not report protection efforts. Authorities did not provide information about trafficking victim identification and assistance or any protection efforts taken in 2016. ONDOFT operated a 24-hour hotline to receive reports of suspected trafficking cases. As in previous years, the government did not specify the kinds of assistance provided to victims in 2016. The government did not report on the existence of formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations or referring victims to services. Victim referrals to different government entities, including ONDOFT and the women’s ministry, occurred on an ad hoc basis. The availability of victim services remained limited. There were no specialized shelters for trafficking victims in the country. Victims could reportedly access government centers for victims of domestic violence or at-risk youth, although services for male victims were minimal. The government reportedly made psychological and medical examinations available to trafficking victims, but additional victim services—such as follow-up medical aid, legal assistance with filing a complaint, job training, and reintegration assistance—remained unavailable. There was no publicly available information on whether the government provided assistance to repatriated Venezuelan trafficking victims during the reporting period or encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers. There were no publicly available reports of victims being jailed or penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, and NGOs and international organizations reported this did not generally occur. International organizations continued to file asylum and relief from deportation requests for victims who feared reprisals from traffickers or criminal organizations if they returned to their country of origin. The government did not report if any requests were filed in 2016.


The government made minimal prevention efforts. No permanent anti-trafficking interagency body existed, and the government did not have a current anti-trafficking plan or strategy. Awareness efforts included public service announcements and posters and pamphlets about trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, although the government reduced the scale of its awareness campaigns compared to the previous year. There were no publicly available reports of new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions for child sex tourism offenses in 2016. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. The government did not report any specific activities to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the year.


As reported over the past five years, Venezuela is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Venezuelan women and girls, including some lured from poor interior regions to urban and tourist centers, are subjected to sex trafficking and child sex tourism within the country. Venezuelan women are subjected to forced prostitution in Caribbean island countries, particularly Aruba, Curacao, and Trinidad and Tobago. Venezuelan children are exploited within the country, frequently by relatives, in domestic servitude. Venezuelan officials and international organizations have reported identifying sex and labor trafficking victims from South American, Caribbean, Asian, and African countries in Venezuela. Ecuadorians, Filipinos, and other foreign nationals are subjected to domestic servitude by other foreign nationals living in Venezuela. Venezuelan officials reported an increase of sex trafficking in the informal mining sector.