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The Government of Paraguay does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Paraguay remained on Tier 2. These efforts included assisting more victims and training more officials working on anti-trafficking efforts. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Services for all victims remained insufficient, cooperation with civil society remained inadequate, use of the identification protocol and referral mechanism was ad hoc, cases of police officers’ complicity continued to go unaddressed, and the 2014-2018 national plan to combat trafficking expired without ever receiving presidential approval.

Increase access to adequate specialized victim services, including shelter options for all victims of trafficking. • Increase funding and training to implement victim identification protocols and victim referral mechanisms. • Increase engagement with civil society actors to assist the government’s efforts to prevent trafficking and protect victims, and incorporate them as regular participants in the interagency roundtable. • Investigate criminally and punish official complicity in the facilitation of trafficking. • Increase investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of traffickers. • Adopt reforms to eliminate situations of criadazgo (child servitude) and the related abusive practices and working conditions that may amount to trafficking. • Train law enforcement officials to bolster understanding that child sex tourism is human trafficking. • Draft an updated national plan to combat trafficking and approve funding for its implementation. • Improve interagency coordination and develop a case management database for trafficking cases. • Designate a government entity responsible solely for coordinating anti-trafficking efforts. • Further increase transnational cooperation with neighboring governments to bolster law enforcement coordination, victim protection, and consular assistance. • Train members of the navy on victim identification and inspect barges and ships traveling through the major waterways. • Revise the definition of human trafficking under law 4788/12 to ensure force, fraud, or coercion are essential elements of the crime as established under the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

The government decreased prosecution efforts. The Comprehensive Anti Trafficking Law 4788 of 2012 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to eight years’ imprisonment; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, Law 4788/12 established 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 also criminalized international trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor, respectively.
The Paraguayan National Police Anti-Trafficking Unit was responsible for investigating trafficking crimes, while the Anti-Trafficking Unit (ATU) was the lead prosecuting agency. In 2018, authorities initiated 110 trafficking investigations, 60 for sex trafficking and 50 for forced labor (134 investigations in 2017). The ATU indicated that 25 of those investigations led to filing preliminary charges (53 in 2017) and 15 to convictions (17 in 2017) under Law 4788/12; sentences for trafficking offenses averaged five years.
Government funding for police anti-trafficking activities decreased, leading to the termination of five officers specializing in trafficking and the permanent closure of a critically important anti-trafficking office in Encarnacion. In 2018, the ATU cooperated with Argentina, Bolivia, France, Spain, EUROPOL, and INTERPOL on cases that led to the arrest of 14 traffickers and the identification of nine victims. With assistance from a foreign government, the ATU participated in four training sessions on labor trafficking reaching 800 government officials, including judges, prosecutors, investigators, labor inspectors, and immigration officials. Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. The government did not report investigating reports of official complicity, and civil society organizations continued to allege police involvement in trafficking activities. Such reports included officials taking bribes to issue passports for Paraguayan trafficking victims exploited abroad, and from massage parlors and brothels where trafficking crimes allegedly occur. The government did not open a formal investigation into allegations that police facilitated sex trafficking of women and girls on barges operating along the Paraguay River. The government did not investigate crimes of child sex tourism in Ciudad del Este and the Tri-Border area as trafficking crimes.

The government decreased protection efforts. The government lacked a comprehensive database to aggregate efforts taken by various ministries and did not provide comprehensive data; however, it reported identifying 70 victims during the reporting period, compared with 90 in 2017. The Ministry of Children and Adolescents (MINNA) reported all of the victims identified this year, whereas the Ministry of Women Affairs (MWA) reported all the victims identified in 2017. In 2016, with the assistance of an international organization, the government developed a formal victim identification protocol and national referral guide for prosecutors, police, labor inspectors, and border officials. However, use of these tools was inconsistent and ad hoc. In practice, some government entities had protocols for the proactive identification of victims, but valuable statistical information on trafficking cases was not aggregated as the government did not have a database for adequate data collection.
There were two shelters dedicated for female trafficking victims, one managed by the MWA for adults and the other co-managed by MINNA and an NGO for child and adolescent victims. MINNA assisted 48 victims (12 in 2017), while the MWA assisted 15 victims (15 in 2017). In addition to shelter and food, the government provided psychological support, social assistance, legal advice, and reintegration programs for victims. The government did not have a shelter to assist male trafficking victims; however, the ATU continued to provide psychological assistance, food, and immediate shelter at hotels on an ad hoc basis before facilitating the return of male victims to their community of origin. The government did not have significant engagement with civil society and, besides some funding provided to the NGO operating the MINNA shelter, the government did not provide assistance for NGOs to help in the protection victims. Lack of substantive cooperation with civil society limited the government’s ability to provide comprehensive, trauma-informed care. The overall quality of care for victims was insufficient due to limited resources and the lack of qualified personnel. The ATU continued to provide basic assistance to victims of trafficking, going beyond its core investigative responsibilities. The government continued to rely heavily on international partners to provide assistance for victims, including in reintegration. In 2018, authorities cooperated with Argentina, Bolivia, France, Spain, EUROPOL, and INTERPOL on cases involving five Paraguayans and four foreign victims of trafficking. Government officials reported funding was insufficient to assist victims adequately. In 2018, the government provided approximately 314 million guaranies ($52,720) for short-term victim assistance to the MWA. The ATU had approximately $16,000 for victim assistance provided by an international organization. In addition, MINNA provided approximately $50,000 to the NGO that operated the specialized shelter for underage victims. The government helped repatriate five victims and referred them to care facilities. Authorities did not provide any training for government officials on victim protection for the second consecutive year.

The government maintained inadequate prevention efforts. The Office of the Director General for Consular Affairs (DGCA) was the government entity responsible for coordinating anti-trafficking programs and an interagency roundtable that included representatives from 16 government agencies. In 2018, the roundtable did not convene any formal meetings. Poor and informal interagency coordination limited the government’s ability to monitor, collect, and report statistics. Law 4788/12 did not require participation of civil society in the roundtable and authorities provided them a limited role. The government lacked a national anti-trafficking secretariat, despite the 2012 law mandating its creation. Several observers reported the absence of a dedicated agency limited the effectiveness of anti-trafficking efforts. One NGO continued to serve as a liaison between the roundtable and civil society; however, observers indicated that engagement was cursory and insufficient. Despite the roundtable’s efforts to draft the 2014-2018 national plan to combat trafficking, the plan expired before ever receiving presidential approval for its implementation.
In 2018, the MWA reported conducting training for more than 1,500 individuals in at-risk communities and high-risk industries, such as the hospitality sector. The government continued to post brochures and posters in bus terminals, airports, and border crossings to promote awareness. The government maintained a hotline to report crimes against children, including trafficking; however, authorities did not report how many reports of trafficking it received. Authorities continued to operate a cell phone app version of the hotline to promote use among younger audiences; however, the government did not report identifying any trafficking cases through the app. The government launched public awareness campaigns targeting tourists to prevent child sex tourism in high-risk areas such as Ciudad del Este in the Tri-Border area. In addition, it continued to investigate these trafficking crimes as separate offenses. The government sponsored training for taxi drivers in Encarnacion that included awareness on sex trafficking. In the Chaco region, where there was a high prevalence of trafficking, the government convened meetings with employers to raise awareness on forced labor. Authorities did not report any other efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor. The ATU provided anti-trafficking training to diplomatic personnel serving in border areas, and the DGCA trained its staff on anti-trafficking laws, protocol, and interagency coordination. However, the government did not provide anti-trafficking training for all diplomatic personnel deployed abroad.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Paraguay, and traffickers exploit victims from Paraguay abroad. The practice of child domestic servitude, criadazgo, is the most visible and common form of trafficking in the country. Middle- and upper-income families in both urban and rural areas take on children, almost exclusively from impoverished families, as domestic workers and provide varying compensation that includes room, board, money, a small stipend, or access to educational opportunities. An estimated 46,000 Paraguayan children work in situations of criadazgo; many of these children are highly vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking. Although criadazgo mainly affects young girls, boys are increasingly at risk. Boys are often victims of forced labor in the agriculture industry, domestic service, criminality, and in some cases as horse jockeys. Traffickers exploit Paraguayan women and girls in sex trafficking within the country, and transgender Paraguayans are vulnerable to sex trafficking. In the Chaco region, traffickers exploit indigenous persons in forced labor. Children engaged in street vending and begging and working in agriculture, mining, brick making, and ranching are vulnerable to trafficking. Paraguayan victims of sex trafficking and forced labor have been identified in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Mexico, Spain, and other countries. Traffickers recruit Paraguayan women as couriers of illicit narcotics to Europe and Africa, where they subject them to sex trafficking. Paraguayan women and girls are vulnerable to trafficking on ships and barges navigating along the country’s major waterways. Traffickers exploit Paraguayan children in forced labor in the cultivation and sale of illicit drugs in Brazil. Reports from 2015 indicated isolated instances of the now-defunct organized criminal group, the Armed Peasant Association (ACA), forcibly recruiting children and adolescents to participate in logistical and communication support roles. Foreign victims of sex and labor trafficking in Paraguay are mostly from other South American countries. The Tri-Border Area between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay is vulnerable to trafficking given the lack of regulatory measures, insufficient transnational cooperation, and the fluidity of illicit goods and services. Civil society and victims reported instances of officials—including police, border guards, judges, and public registry employees—facilitating sex trafficking, including taking bribes from brothel owners in exchange for protection, extorting suspected traffickers to prevent arrest, and producing fraudulent identity documents.

U.S. Department of State

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