Seekle, Clare Ribando. “Trafficking in persons in Latin America and the Caribbean.” CRS Report for Congress 33200. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. (February 11, 2015).

The author of this Congressional Research Service report introduces the concept of trafficking in persons (TIP) and discusses the range of TIP in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report describes human trafficking related to forced labor, forced sex-work, and as a form of payment collection. The author notes the important distinction between smuggling which is voluntary and trafficking which is forced or otherwise coercive. The author indicates some suggestions for why trafficking occurs in Latin America, noting the demand for physical labor in agro-export economies, failed attempts at immigration, and the presence of drug smuggling and corrupt local officials. The report outlines the United States’ continuous efforts to monitor other nations’ legislation and convictions related to human trafficking, including a ranking system, sanctions, funding for programs, and some direct support in prosecution of traffickers and training of officials. The report also notes several efforts by Latin American nations to address the issue internally, but such efforts are often challenged by financial limitations.

This image is from an article about human trafficking published on GMA News Online. It implies the individual hardship of trafficking, and connects this to the broader economic context that encourages trafficking to profit from international sources

This image is from an article about human trafficking published on GMA News Online. It implies the individual hardship of trafficking, and connects this to the broader economic context that allows trafficking as a means to profit internationally.

This report provides a strong overview of the nature of human trafficking in Latin America. The author presents background information that is useful in understanding the mechanisms of human trafficking. The author discusses a relationship between Latin American agro-export economies and forced labor through trafficking, but unfortunately fails to explicitly offer this economic structure as a sign that the United States may tacitly support human trafficking through its economic role in the region. Likewise, the author notes that popular images of prosperity in the United States and Europe contribute to individuals’ acceptance of risky means of migration, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking in the process. Yet later in the article when discussing obstacles to combating trafficking, she does not present education about potential risks of migration as a potential method to combat the issue. The report is very informative, yet the author’s periodic use of passive language limits the report’s capacity to directly connect United States actions and the continuance of human trafficking in Latin America. The report’s periodic vagueness in relaying the United States’ role perhaps reflects the author’s interests as a researcher for Congress.

The report is important as a factual document, in its analysis of challenges in combatting human trafficking, and as potential evidence that the United States government sees itself as more of a regulator than a same-level player. The report is useful in examining themes of HIS 161 as it provides statistical and political information on an occurrence that violates individual rights. As the report does not mention the term “human rights,” it contributes to underlying questions of the boundary between crime and human rights violations. The report may prove helpful in research on human trafficking, the classification of human rights, and political involvement in these questions.

Wren Greaney

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