The government decreased prosecution efforts. Article 78 of the 2008 immigration law criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking, prescribing penalties of four to 16 years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent, and with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The penalties were increased by one-third to one-half if the trafficking offense involved a child victim. Inconsistent with the definition of trafficking under international law, the law established the use of force, fraud, and coercion as aggravating factors rather than as essential elements of the crime. In 2018, the government adopted anti-trafficking law 19.643, which provided minimum standards for victim protection, prevention, and investigation, and created a comprehensive institutional response to combat trafficking.
The government did not collect comprehensive data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and did not maintain a system for tracking court cases. In 2018, the government initiated 17 trafficking investigations (10 in 2017), including three for labor trafficking and 14 for sex trafficking. The government reported four prosecutions (23 in 2017), one for sex trafficking, two for sex and labor trafficking, and the other unknown. The government did not convict any traffickers, compared to zero in 2017; over the last six years, the government has only convicted five traffickers, out of 43 investigations and 52 prosecutions. The gender unit in the Attorney General’s Office focused on investigating and prosecuting crimes related to trafficking and the exploitation of children. Authorities did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses. Government authorities reported difficulty prosecuting trafficking crimes due to victims’ initially consenting to involvement in prostitution and, in most cases, the absence of physical constraint. The government did not report training law enforcement officials, judges, or prosecutors on the irrelevance of initial consent into prostitution or ways to deal with cases that include coercion beyond physical restraint. The government increased efforts to train law enforcement officials responsible for victim identification and investigation; yet an international organization assessed that, in practice, law enforcement officials did not employ systematic procedures to identify victims proactively. During the reporting period, the government failed to cooperate with a foreign government on a case involving four minor victims of trafficking. The government offered some training to strengthen law enforcement and border officials’ capacity to identify victims; most notably it conducted two training modules for law enforcement officials, reaching more than 2,300 individuals.