Venezuelan Women Tricked And Trafficked In Mexico
Since the revolution in 1999 against economic failure and corruption, Venezuelans have been exiting their country into other Latin-oriented countries. By the end of 2019, 5.4 million Venezuelans had escaped the countries, accounting for roughly 20% of the total population (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2019).
However, their escape from poor quality of life is being met with a worse fate in Mexico.
Reported by the Mexican government, there are currently 57,000 Venezuelans who are living as refugees in Mexico. Human trafficking rings that often lead to sexual exploitation and abuse are a long-term issue in Mexico, but the prevalence of Venezuelan women is only highlighting how serious sex trafficking of Venezuelan refugees in Mexico really is.
How does this start, and where does it end? These are questions this article answers.
How A Venezuelan Refugee Becomes Trafficked
1. Fleeing Venezuela’s crisis
Facing persecution and economic crisis, Venezuelans will find themselves traveling great distances with little to no personal belongings to a new country. The most common countries that these refugees flee to are Latin America, such as Chile, Ecuador, Spain, and Mexico.
The motivating factor: promises of paying work. Some of the Mexican trafficking rings begin their operations in Venezuela itself and lead women towards a dream of a career that soon becomes a nightmare.
2. Little To No Documentation
Most of these refugees are reported to carry no official documents, especially since the Mexican Government has imposed a law requiring Venezuelans to have a valid VISA on their travels to Mexico. This element plays a crucial role in how the people are later exploited against every factor.
The lack of documentation makes Venezuelans illegal immigrants that can and will be harshly detained by authorities if discovered. Hence, they tend to stay quiet and do whatever possible to not go back to their home country.
3. Crossing Borders
Borders are the point where these cartel rings are most actively seeking individuals. In a swift motion, Venezuelan girls are kidnapped and manhandled into secretive locations. Here, they are beginning to be groomed by gunmen, cartel leaders, and other gang members.
4. Control And Exploitation
Sometimes, the victims are pressured to pay for their immigration by sexual exploitation. Since they came with no documentation and are illegal immigrants that can face serious consequences, they have no option of fighting back.
Control is an essential part of trafficking as it establishes the dominance of the perpetrator on the victims, who are frail and poor girls in these cases. Combined with the grooming, these girls are now part of a cycle that puts them up for grabs for anybody willing to pay to the cartel.
Statistical Reports Of Human Trafficking In Mexico
There is a range of statistics that show us the true depth of the heinous crimes being committed by human trafficking rings in Mexico. The sex trafficking of Venezuelan refugees in Mexico is receiving great coverage in the media and authoritative bodies, and we lay down just some eye-opening ones.
- Since 2012, more than sixty percent of the Venezuelan sex workers killed were Mexican cases.
- In 2018, ninety-nine cases of trafficking were reported to Mexican authorities, whereas 313 victims of exploitation were identified in the first half of 2020 (Government Of Mexico, 2021).
- In 2017, 8 prominent Venezuelan women featured in Zona Divas, a famous Mexican escort website, were killed by multiple cartels and gunmen. (ZonaDivas, 2018)
- 90% of the crimes committed against Venezuelans are never punished or brought to light (Ulloa, 2021).
- Nexos reported that there are alleged links between Venezuelan trafficking victims and the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco Cartel New Generation.
- Human Rights First has reported 6,356 violent attacks against immigrants in Mexico this year only.
- Venezuelans make up 70% of the trafficking victims in Mexico (Santisteban, 2020).
Lack Of Action By Authorities and Victims
The attitude of the Mexican forces towards the protection of the taxpayers of the country has been rather woeful. In recent years, it seems that the police forces of Mexico are falling further behind to protect its people, immigrants, and residents alike. As mentioned above, 90% of the trafficked victims do not step forward.
One of the main reasons why these victims do not step forward is their unrecorded move into the country. Framed by grooming cartels, they are brought to the borders with dreams of having freedom and a more stable life than what they had back in their home country.
The truth is that authorities have stricter policies against illegal immigration than sex trafficking. The reason behind this is the influence of cartels in the Mexican community. According to reports, roughly 20,000 individuals are trafficked in Mexico each year, and almost all are tied to powerful cartels.
Some of the most powerful global cartels in the world are infamously Mexican, and the biggest one of them is the Sinaloa Cartel. Sinaloa Cartel is the one that is claimed to be behind the sex trafficking of Venezuelan refugees in Mexico. Police, investigative teams, and media coverages refuse to indulge themselves in the business of these cartels, leaving Venezuelans helpless.
Challenges To Counter-Trafficking Of Venezuelans
There are many reasons that bring about the trafficking of Venezuelans that reach Mexico. Overcoming these reasons can be a challenge but would bring about effective results, bringing down the statistical cases of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
- Unsecured border regions,
- Lack of established governing bodies,
- Low awareness of global human rights and human trafficking,
- Lack of knowledge regarding organized criminal networks or Cartels,
- The low conviction rate of human traffickers,
- Marketing of “hope” for a better life to some of these victims,
- High demand for sexual services among the local population,
- Lack of resources to combat human trafficking,
- Wide gaps in immigration and border controls which can be exploited by traffickers,
- Fearful victims who refuse to testify against their perpetrators.
Venezuelans are facing persecution, abuse, and torture as they try to flee their homeland and move toward Mexico and other Latin American countries. The cartels that are evidently responsible for the accelerating cases of sex trafficking of Venezuelan refugees in Mexico fear no retaliation due to their influence and power in the country.
With the status of illegal immigrants, Venezuelan refugees are afraid to speak up, and the door of law is shut on them due to the harsh reality that the victims will face further trials than their perpetrators for the sole reason of illegal immigration. The true question remains for the world to talk more about:
When does the Venezuelan trafficking crisis stop, and who stops it?
Government Of Mexico. (2021). Mexico – United States Department of State. State Department. Retrieved April 16, 2022, from https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-trafficking-in-persons-report/mexico/
Santisteban, A. H. (2020). STUDY ON THE PROTECTION SITUATION OF VENEZUELAN REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS IN THE CARIBBEAN. ReliefWeb. https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/R4V%2520Protection%2520Study%2520Caribbean%25202021.pdf
Ulloa, T. (2021). Coalition Against the Trafficking of Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2019, January 12). Venezuela situation. UNHCR. Retrieved April 16, 2022, from https://www.unhcr.org/venezuela-emergency.html
ZonaDivas. (2018). ZonaDivas Victims. https://www.zonadivas.info/victimas.html