The government increased law enforcement efforts. Law 263 of 2012—the Comprehensive Law against Trafficking and Smuggling of Persons—criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment for adult trafficking, and 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment for child trafficking. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with the definition of trafficking under international law, the definition of trafficking under Article 281bis of the law required a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. However, Article 322 of the law criminalized all commercial sex acts involving children, thereby addressing this gap. Article 322 prescribed penalties of 8 to 12 years’ imprisonment, which were also sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with other grave crimes, such as rape. Article 281bis defined trafficking broadly to include illegal adoption without the purpose of exploitation, the sale of organs, and unlawful biomedical research. In addition, Article 321 of Law 2033, which criminalized pimping using force, fraud, or coercion, was used to prosecute sex trafficking crimes. The law prescribed significantly lower penalties of 3 to 7 years’ imprisonment for adults, and 4 to 10 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving children. While Law 263 created separate criminal offenses for trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling, one government agency was responsible for both crimes; that agency often conflated the two crimes in its collection of data and response to perpetrators and potential victims of trafficking.
The government reported investigating 281 cases of trafficking, including 13 cases for pimping. Authorities prosecuted 55 trafficking cases, including nine for pimping (44 in 2017). Authorities convicted two traffickers, one under the trafficking law and the second under article 321. Authorities did not specify how many of these cases were labor or sex trafficking, and these cases likely included other crimes not considered trafficking under international law. The government did not provide sentencing data for those convicted in 2018. Observers reported the vast majority of arrested suspects, including traffickers, served time in pre-trial detention without ever receiving a final sentence and often avoiding justice by paying bribes to corrupt officials to avoid prosecution. General backlogs in the judiciary, insufficient resources and personnel, and poor training of law enforcement officials impeded law enforcement efforts. Observers reported each prosecutor was responsible for 800 to 1,000 cases, leading to a slow administration of justice. Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. The government did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting any new cases of official complicity. In the nightclub case dating back to 2016, the government indicted three complicit officials for trafficking crimes, including two police officers and a municipal employee. In the 2017 case involving the prosecution of two individuals on politically motivated trafficking allegations, authorities reported insufficient evidence to prosecute.
International organizations and NGOs provided training workshops for government officials, including police officers, judges, prosecutors, and immigration authorities. Additionally, the Ministry of Government (MOG) and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) organized anti-trafficking capacity building opportunities for members of the judiciary, reaching approximately 292 officials, including judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials. The La Paz police department’s anti-trafficking unit maintained 18 police investigators and other departments’ anti-trafficking units allotted three to five investigators. Police officials rotated into new positions every three months to one year, resulting in a cyclical loss of institutional knowledge and impeding specialization in trafficking crimes. The Ministry of Labor (MOL) provided basic training to newly hired labor inspectors on child labor, including indicators of forced labor. In 2018, authorities reported investigating 52 cases of child labor, some that could have been labor trafficking. The 2017 forced labor case involving 17 adults and eight children from the Guarani indigenous group exploited in the sugarcane harvest remained open at the end of the reporting period.