Sex trafficking ‘staggering’ in illegal Latin American gold mines: researchers – by Anastasia Moloney (Reuters U.S. – March 30, 2016)

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The scale of sex trafficking around illegal gold mines in parts of Latin America is “staggering,” and thousands of people working there are prey to labor exploitation by organized crime groups, a think-tank said on Wednesday.

“When these mines are directly controlled by criminal groups, or in areas controlled by organized crime, there is an elevated risk of human trafficking,” the report by the Geneva-based organization said.

“In Colombia and Peru particularly, and to a lesser extent in the other countries studied, our research uncovered numerous instances of labor trafficking and exploitation, sex trafficking and child labor.”

The report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime examined the links between illegal gold mining, organized crime and human trafficking in nine countries – Peru and Colombia, the region’s largest producers of illegal gold, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Livia Wagner, who wrote the report, said she had seen girls as young as 12 working in the brothels and bars around illegal gold mines in Madre de Dios, a vast province in Peru’s Amazon jungle.

“Sexual exploitation is very much prevalent in illegal mining areas, especially in Peru and Bolivia, and my impression is that the girls are getting younger and younger. The scale is staggering,” Wagner, a private sector advisor at the Global Initiative, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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