CHILE (Tier 1)

The Government of Chile fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.  The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Chile remained on Tier 1.  These efforts included investigating and prosecuting more alleged traffickers, increasing the prescribed penalty for a statute often used to prosecute child sex traffickers, and reviving a network of regional anti-trafficking councils to facilitate coordination between national and subnational officials.  Although the government meets the minimum standards, Chilean courts issued lenient sentences to convicted traffickers, resulting in a pattern of suspended sentences that undercut nationwide efforts to fight trafficking.  Victim service provision remained uneven, with limited access to care for male victims and victims outside the capital.

  • Seek adequate penalties, which should include significant prison terms, for traffickers convicted under Articles 411 and 367 of the penal code.
  • Vigorously investigate; prosecute; and as appropriate, convict traffickers, including domestic child sex traffickers.
  • Provide suitable, safe shelter for child and male trafficking victims as required by law and expand access to specialized shelters for all victims, including outside the capital.
  • Increase training on application of Article 411 for judges and prosecutors.
  • Actively screen for trafficking victims among vulnerable migrant groups.
  • Continue efforts to disrupt systematic child abuse, including trafficking, in care facilities serving trafficking victims and hold violators accountable.
  • Provide victims access to a full range of services, including long-term rehabilitation.
  • Consistently support victim efforts to seek restitution.

The government increased prosecution efforts.  Article 411-quater of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking, prescribing penalties ranging from five years and one day to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine for offenses involving an adult victim and 10 years and one day to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine for those involving a child.  These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.  Chilean officials continued to investigate and prosecute many internal child sex trafficking cases under Article 367 of the penal code, which penalized the commercial sexual exploitation of a child.  Although Article 367 prescribed penalties ranging from three years and one day to 20 years’ imprisonment, many child sex trafficking crimes were subject to penalties of only three years and one day to five years’ imprisonment under this provision, significantly lower than the penalties available under Article 411-quater.  Under mandatory sentencing laws, judges frequently suspended or commuted sentences of less than five years’ imprisonment, even when adjudicating cases of human trafficking and other serious crimes.  However, in December 2022, the government amended Article 367, increasing the penalties to five years and one day to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine.  Any crimes prosecuted after the adoption of the amendment were subject to these increased penalties, which more closely align with the penalties prescribed for trafficking crimes involving children under Article 411-quater.   

Law enforcement initiated 321 trafficking investigations in 2022 (196 child sex trafficking investigations under Article 367, 79 sex trafficking investigations under Article 411, and 46 labor trafficking investigations under Article 411), compared with 184 trafficking investigations in 2021 (120 child sex trafficking investigations under Article 367, 32 sex trafficking investigations under Article 411, and 32 labor trafficking investigations under Article 411), and 193 investigations in 2020.  Authorities prosecuted 40 alleged traffickers in 2022 (11 for child sex trafficking under Article 367, 26 for sex trafficking under Article 411, and three for labor trafficking under Article 411), compared with prosecuting 10 alleged traffickers in 2021 (four for child sex trafficking under Article 367 and two for sex trafficking and four for labor trafficking under Article 411), and seven in 2020 (two for child sex trafficking under Article 367 and five for labor trafficking under Article 411).  Authorities attributed the notable increase in sex trafficking prosecutions to the increased activity of and involvement of organized criminal groups in trafficking crimes.  There were seven ongoing prosecutions (three under Article 367 and four under Article 411), initiated in previous reporting periods, compared with five ongoing prosecutions reported in 2021.  The government convicted nine traffickers in 2022 (six child sex traffickers under Article 367, one sex trafficker under Article 411, and two labor traffickers under Article 411), compared with 11 traffickers in 2021 (six child sex traffickers under Article 367 and three sex traffickers and two labor traffickers under Article 411) and eight traffickers in 2020 (three child sex traffickers under Article 367 and three sex traffickers and two labor traffickers under Article 411).  Of those traffickers convicted under Article 367, four engaged in commercial sex acts with child trafficking victims, compared with four in 2021 and two in 2020.

Judges issued sentences of three years and one day’s probation to each of the three traffickers convicted in abbreviated trials under Article 411.  Courts sentenced one sex trafficker convicted under Article 367 to approximately 19 months’ probation.  A second trafficker convicted under Article 367, a bus driver who exploited girls living in a civil society-run shelter in commercial sex, received a sentence of 17 years’ imprisonment; however, an appeals court later ordered a retrial, negating the imposed sentence.  Judges sentenced the remaining four traffickers, convicted under Article 367 for engaging in commercial sex acts with child trafficking victims, as follows:  two received unspecified periods of probation; one received a suspended sentence of approximately 19 months; and the last, also convicted of statutory rape, received a sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment.  Four traffickers’ trials (one accused of sex trafficking under Article 411) concluded in acquittal during the reporting period; instead, courts convicted three of these accused traffickers of other crimes, including rape.  Seven of nine convicted traffickers’ sentences did not require imprisonment, compared with six of 11 traffickers convicted in 2021 and six of eight traffickers convicted in 2020.  Many traffickers convicted in Chilean courts served parole or probation without post-trial imprisonment.  In the past three years, judges sentenced nine of 28 convicted traffickers to penalties above the mandatory minimum.  Judges suspended the sentences of 68 percent of traffickers convicted since 2021, which weakened deterrence.  Judges often held accused traffickers in pretrial detention; the government reported it detained 30 alleged traffickers during or prior to trial in 2022.

The national investigations police had three specialized anti-trafficking units operating in Arica, Iquique, and Santiago.  The National Prosecutor’s Office (MP) had advisors available to support local prosecutors managing trafficking prosecutions; there were no prosecutors specialized in or dedicated to human trafficking casework.  Observers expressed concern some local prosecutors were unfamiliar with human trafficking and failed to recognize trafficking crimes, particularly forced labor cases.  The government established a joint Argentine-Chilean prosecutorial unit to investigate trafficking crimes, which initiated its first joint investigation in September 2022; the government reported launching similar joint investigative ventures with Bolivian and Paraguayan authorities.  The government exchanged numerous cooperation requests with Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Spain, and Venezuela, and requested Paraguay’s assistance to extradite an accused trafficker; the extradition request remained pending at the end of the reporting period.  The government’s Interagency Task Force on Trafficking (MITP) and the MP provided specialized training to investigators, attorneys, advisors, and other officials on a range of trafficking topics; these entities delivered some trainings virtually in 2022.  The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes.  The government indicated it continued to investigate previously reported cases of alleged official complicity, including a 2020 case involving a law enforcement officer accused of obstructing a sex trafficking investigation and another case involving a National Service for Minors (SENAME) care facility director allegedly involved in the commercial sexual exploitation of two children under her supervision – allegations which, if proven, would amount to sex trafficking under the international law definition.

The government maintained victim protection efforts.  MITP coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, including victim assistance.  The government identified 51 trafficking victims (39 sex trafficking victims, seven labor trafficking victims, and five victims of unspecified forms of trafficking) in 2022, compared with identifying 49 adult victims in 2021 and 47 in 2020.  Of the victims identified, there were 28 female victims, four male victims, and 19 victims for whom the government did not identify a gender.  Of the 51 identified victims, there were seven children, all girls; by comparison, the government identified zero child victims in 2021, two in 2020, and two in 2019.  The government reported all victims identified in 2022 were foreign citizens from Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, or Peru.  The government had a uniform reporting mechanism and a set of internal resources on trafficking indicators to guide public agencies’ efforts to identify potential trafficking victims; it provided additional support for agencies reporting potential victims for the first time.

The MP’s Regional Victims and Witness Assistance Unit (URAVIT) provided assistance to 51 trafficking victims in 2022.  The National Service of Women and Gender Equality (SERNAMEG) reported it provided shelter services to 31 adult women victims in 2022, compared with 10 in 2021.  The MITP’s protocol on victim assistance entitled victims to safe housing, health services, psychological services, legal assistance, education, employment assistance, and regularization of migratory status.  The Ministry of Interior’s Victim Assistance Network and URAVIT coordinated housing for victims; the government could place up to 10 female trafficking victims at a time in SERNAMEG’s specialized shelter for trafficking victims.  The government placed most female victims, including those located outside the capital, in SERNAMEG’s domestic violence shelters or NGO-run shelters.  There were no shelters for male victims; however, URAVIT could arrange housing in hotels for male victims on a case-by-case basis.  In 2022, the government reported providing an unspecified form of housing to one male victim for three months.  The provision of victim services remained uneven across the country, and observers reported funding was inadequate to provide necessary services, especially adequate shelter for child and male victims.  The government allocated funding in 2022 for the construction of a second specialized shelter for female trafficking victims in northern Chile.  The government did not fund most NGOs providing victim assistance; most agencies did not have specific line items in their budgets for victim assistance.  Reintegration services, such as education and job placement assistance, were insufficient, and officials reported victims had limited access to adequate mental health services.

URAVIT budgeted 62 million Chilean pesos ($72,815) to provide housing and other basic needs for trafficking victims and potential victims in 2022, compared with 35.4 million pesos ($41,575) in 2021 and approximately 84 million pesos ($98,650) in 2020.  SERNAMEG allocated 129.7 million Chilean pesos ($152,320) in funding for its NGO-operated shelter for women victims of trafficking, smuggled women, and their children, compared with allocating 129.7 million pesos ($152,320) in 2021, and 136 million pesos ($159,720) in 2020.  The government provided victims legal representation under the victim assistance protocol; the Ministry of Justice provided legal representation to child victims, SERNAMEG provided it to women victims, and MITP’s civil society members provided representation for male victims.

Better Childhood, the government’s child protection agency, provided basic services to child trafficking victims through a network of programs for child victims of commercial sexual exploitation and care facilities; before 2021, SENAME managed these programs and facilities.  The government continued to work with an NGO to provide continuous care for child victims during the ongoing oversight transition.  Better Childhood operated with a 3.29 billion Chilean pesos ($3.86 million) budget for child and adolescent victim services in 2022, compared with an undisclosed budget in 2021 and 3.26 billion pesos ($3.83 million) in 2020.  Better Childhood assisted 1,422 children in 2022, compared with 1,417 children in 2021 and 1,371 children in 2020; Better Childhood did not track how many of the children it assisted were trafficking victims.  Better Childhood continued to decommission its Specialized Redress Centers under Direct Administration (CREADs), the facilities that served most child trafficking victims under government care, replacing them with smaller “family-style residences.”  According to government reports, children in CREADs were at severe risk of rights violations and sexual abuse.  The government closed two CREADs in 2022; four of the original 11 facilities remained operational at the end of the reporting period.   

The government issued 13 no-fee visas for foreign trafficking victims, compared to 16 in 2021.  These visas were valid for up to one year and renewable for up to two additional years if the victim reported the trafficking crime to the prosecutor’s office.  Chilean law expressly prohibited the deportation of identified trafficking victims.  Foreign victims received the same victim services and courtroom accommodations – such as teleconference, witness protection, and video testimony – as Chilean victims.  URAVIT continued to use a video interpretation service to facilitate safe exchanges between law enforcement and victims of all crimes, including trafficking victims, providing access to interpretation in sign language, regional Indigenous languages, Haitian Creole, Chinese, and other languages.  Despite these efforts, the government reported challenges in encouraging victims to participate in a full trial.  The government worked with an international organization to facilitate the repatriation of three victims and third-country resettlements for seven Venezuelan victims; Chilean law prohibited the return of victims to countries where they could face harm.  The government continued its gradual implementation of a 2019 law requiring video testimony for all child and adolescent crime victims as a measure to reduce re-traumatization.  The government trained 60 interviewers on the use of video testimony under the law.  Victims could receive restitution or compensation through criminal or civil cases, respectively; in 2022, the courts awarded a labor trafficking victim 50 million pesos ($58,720) in restitution, in addition to 30 million pesos ($35,230) in back wages and other compensation, upon the conviction of the trafficker who exploited him.

The government maintained modest prevention efforts.  The Ministry of Interior continued to lead the MITP, which included government agencies, international organizations, and local NGOs.  The task force held three general meetings during the reporting period; its prosecution, protection, and prevention subcommittees met nine times.  The Ministry of Interior reactivated a network of 15 regional anti-trafficking task forces to facilitate training and coordination between national and regional authorities.  The MITP continued informal implementation of a draft 2019-2022 NAP, which was not public and had not been approved at the ministerial level.  There was no federal allocation to fund the implementation of the 2019-2022 draft NAP; instead, each agency contributed to implementation from its own budget.  The government began drafting a 2023-2026 NAP during the reporting period and, in December 2022, passed a national strategy on organized crime, which included anti-trafficking initiatives.  Agencies responsible for funding protection and prevention programs operated without dedicated resources for this purpose; observers expressed concern personnel and budget constraints affecting these agencies jeopardized the stability of anti-trafficking efforts.  Observers noted a need for more robust coordination and data-sharing among government agencies.

The government participated in awareness-raising events, primarily hosted by outside entities, throughout the year, targeting the general public and officials who might encounter trafficking victims in the course of their duties.  Several agencies operated hotlines that could take calls on suspected trafficking crimes.  The government did not report whether officials received trafficking-related calls to these hotlines or initiated investigations based on calls; in 2020, the most recent year for which data was available, authorities initiated at least 15 trafficking investigations based on hotline calls.  Authorities trained labor inspectors to identify trafficking indicators and imposed administrative penalties for child labor violations, some of which may have constituted trafficking crimes.  The government identified 186 child labor violations during an undisclosed number of inspections, compared with identifying 218 child labor violations during 75,000 inspections in 2021.  The national tourism service, in collaboration with Better Childhood, continued its certification of tourism organizations and establishments adhering to best practices for the prevention of child sex trafficking; businesses participated in an anti-trafficking training during the certification process.  The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Chile and, to a lesser extent, traffickers exploit Chilean victims abroad.  Chilean women and children are exploited in sex trafficking within the country, as are women and girls from Asia and other Latin American countries, particularly Colombia and Venezuela.  Government reporting indicates Bolivian, Colombian, Paraguayan, and Thai migrants are especially vulnerable to trafficking.  Children staying in child protection centers are at risk of potential abuse, including trafficking, and some traffickers recruit children under institutional care.  Traffickers exploit adults and children – primarily from other Latin American countries, as well as Asia – in forced labor in Chile in mining; agriculture; aquaculture; construction; street vending; domestic service; and the hospitality, restaurant, and garment sectors.  Traffickers subject People’s Republic of China national and Haitian immigrants to sex trafficking and forced labor and Colombian women to sex trafficking.  Chilean authorities identified a significant number of children involved in illicit activities, including drug trafficking and theft; some of these children may have been trafficking victims.  Traffickers subject Chilean men to labor trafficking in Peru and Chilean women to sex trafficking in Argentina, as well as other countries.  Foreign traffickers worked in tandem with Chilean traffickers to exploit victims.  Most convicted traffickers were Chilean, Ecuadorian, or Bolivian citizens; men and women were equally represented among convicted traffickers.

An international organization expressed concern that striking workers in certain industries could be imprisoned and forced to work.  Police frequent brothels in small towns, and labor inspectors in rural areas maintain relationships with local businesses, potentially dissuading trafficking victims from reporting exploitation and fueling perceptions of complicity.  Officials recognize growing migrant communities, especially Venezuelans, as increasingly at risk of trafficking.  Traffickers exploit both regular and irregular migrants, including short-term visa holders.  Stricter immigration laws also contributed to heightened vulnerability in migrant populations, including Venezuelans entering the country irregularly along northern borders.  Transnational criminal organizations exploit victims, especially foreign women and girls, in sex and labor trafficking throughout Chile.

U.S. Department of State

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