PANAMA CITY – Panama has rescued 190 victims of human trafficking, has dismantled 16 of the international mafias involved in this crime and has tried 440 of these criminals since 2014, officials announced Monday.
The executive secretary of the National Commission against Human Trafficking, Rodrigo Garcia, told a press conference that the crime of human trafficking has different versions including slave labor, organ trafficking and sexual exploitation.
In Panama, where human trafficking has been a crime since 2011, thanks to the passing of Law 79, the most frequent form is sexual exploitation and most of the victims are foreigners, the official said.
“Most of the victims are of foreign origin and above all, from neighboring countries where the socioeconomic situations are complicated,” Garcia said.
In 2017, authorities rescued 52 people, while in 2016, 2015 and 2014 the numbers were 84, 50 and 12, respectively, the executive secretary of the commission said.
“The campaigns to prevent and raise awareness of this crime have been successful because citizens are cooperating with the authorities and reporting irregular situations,” Garcia said.
He added that “trafficking has existed alongside normality for centuries. However, thanks to this prevention and this raising of awareness, I feel our country is closing our doors to it.”
The commission, which was created in 2011 during the previous administration, is made up of public and private institutions.
Garcia also acknowledged that the commission has some “unfinished business,” which is the construction of a shelter for trafficking victims, which will have the support of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC).
According to UN figures, human trafficking is an illicit activity that every year racks up some $32 billion around the world, trailing only drug trafficking, while 70 percent of its victims are women.