Mexican President Felipe Calderon is cracking down on human trafficking in his country by giving congress 180 days to approve a new law aimed at reforming how authorities handle cases now referred to as the “new form of slavery.”
Calderon announced the changes in Mexico’s constitution Wednesday, which requires an individual to be sent to prison during the trial period if accused of violating human trafficking laws.
The changes also guarantee anonymity for the victims in the case.
Calderon told members of Mexico’s congress that victims should be able to give their testimony to the authorities and to society without being at risk.
He told Mexico’s lawmakers in his speech that criminal organizations that ship and sell drugs and weapons are now relying on human trafficking to make millions.
“Lawmakers and citizens alike must take action,” Calderon publicly told lawmakers on Wednesday. "We have to create a unified front to end human trafficking in Mexico. This front is not limited to police or officials, this front starts in the streets, in the neighborhoods and in the communities."
According to the Mexican Constitution, treaties made by the president and ratified by the Senate are the supreme law of the land.
The Mexican government failed to improve on its limited anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts against offenders last year, according to federal records.
Although there has been increased activism on the part of the Mexican authorities to address the issues of trafficking and smuggling, the Mexican legal framework has been untouched and basically limiting the powers of authorities to do anything about the crimes.
There are an estimated 10,000 women who are victims of human trafficking in Mexico's capital, according to a report from Mexico City's human rights commission.
The report shows that there were only 40 investigations and three convictions in the city last year.
Victims in Mexico experience a double vulnerability of sorts because they do not receive assistance when they first report these crimes to authorities.
"There are thousands and thousands of cases, in a society that is still unaware of the seriousness of this crime," Calderon told congressional members. "We have to break through this curtain. We are hiding a criminal reality that is in front of us."
Over the last decade, the issue of human trafficking has become a global phenomenon of unforeseeable proportions, according to human rights advocates.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, human trafficking is almost always a form of organized crime and should be dealt with “using criminal powers to investigate and prosecute offenders for trafficking and any other criminal activities in which they engage.”
An estimated 20,000 Mexican and Central American children are estimated to be sex victims in Mexico, and to be located primarily in border, urban and tourist areas.
Thousands of women every year are sent to the United States and trafficked into the Mexican sex trade.
To bring urgency to the changes needed in Mexico’s constitution, Calderon presented a video testimony from an anonymous woman who was a victim of human trafficking.
She told her story on the video recalling how a man lured her into the criminal underworld by using the Internet.
“The man was in his 30s,” the woman testified in the video.
“He made me an offer I felt I couldn't refuse. That was to work as an event promoter with a daily salary of 700 pesos, which is about $60. They would provide food and transportation,” she said.
When the woman arrived in the city of Monterrey, “the reality was very different,” she said.
"He made me take drugs, and prostitute myself. There were no honest friendships for anyone. Only money was important. Out of fear I would obey the drug traffickers."
Records show that Mexico has a large source of transit persons who end up in the trafficking underworld. A significant number of Mexican women, girls, and boys are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation. They become helpless victims through commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor.
Traffickers use many shady recruitment tools. Victims are lured in by false job offers from poor rural regions to urban, border, and tourist areas. There are promises of family reunification, cheap tourism, modeling careers and academic studies.
As many as 250,000 aliens are serving time in U.S. prisons, on probation, on parole, or have been marked for deportation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Groups considered most vulnerable to human trafficking in Mexico include women and children, indigenous persons, and undocumented migrants.