The government increased law enforcement efforts. The Law against Trafficking and the 2013 Creation of the National Coalition against the Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons did not criminalize all forms of sex and labor trafficking because it required movement to constitute a trafficking offense. It specifically criminalized the acts of promoting, facilitating, or assisting in the entrance into or exit from the country, or the displacement within the country of persons for prostitution, sexual or labor exploitation or servitude, slavery or practices similar to slavery, forced labor or services, forced marriage, forced begging, illegal extraction of organs, or illegal adoption as the crime of trafficking. Inconsistent with international law, the law established the use of force, fraud, or coercion as aggravating factors, rather than essential elements, of the crime. The law defined trafficking broadly to include illegal adoption without the purpose of exploitation and labor exploitation. Article 172 criminalized sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of four to 20 years imprisonment; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with other serious crimes. In addition to article 172, officials used trafficking-related offenses to prosecute trafficking cases, including aggravated pimping (article 170) and coerced pimping (article 171). These articles prescribed penalties ranging from two to 10 years imprisonment; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 189 criminalized forced labor or services and prescribed penalties of four to eight years imprisonment; these penalties were sufficiently stringent. On May 8, 2018, the government adopted amendments to articles 172 and 189, which aligned the law’s definition of trafficking more closely with international law by removing the requirement of movement and establishing force, fraud, or coercion as essential elements of the crime except in the case of child sex trafficking where these means are not required.
The Attorney General’s Office reported investigating 62 cases of movement-based trafficking (article 172), coerced pimping (article 171), aggravated pimping (article 170), and forced labor or services (article 189), compared to 27 new cases in 2016. The government initiated 41 new prosecutions and convicted five traffickers under articles 172 and 189 to sentences ranging from five to 23 years imprisonment, compared to 39 new prosecutions and one conviction under article 172 in 2016. Notable cases included aggravated and coerced pimping in bars, forced labor as domestic servants, and transnational sex trafficking operations where traffickers recruited victims with false promises of employment in modeling agencies and restaurants and exploited them in commercial sex. Observers noted improvements in coordination between the Attorney General and judicial investigatory police, but a significant backlog of criminal cases, including trafficking cases, slowed prosecutions. Costa Rica’s judiciary began developing a “Strategic Plan for the Prosecution of Trafficking in Persons” to address its deficiencies and advanced key elements of the plan during a workshop in March 2018. The government provided anti-trafficking training to law enforcement, the judicial sector, child welfare officials, educational professionals, and civil society members. The government reported the former mayor indicted for establishing a trafficking network in 2011 still awaited trial. Authorities arrested a police officer for allegedly assisting a criminal trafficking network operating out of a bar during the reporting period; the officer remained in custody pending trial. The government did not convict any officials complicit in human trafficking or trafficking-related offenses.