Human trafficking is a crime without borders.

A transnational operation against human trafficking rescued more than 2,700 people and dismantled multiple smuggling rings in Latin America and elsewhere, shedding light on the complex nature of this largely hidden and very lucrative criminal trade.

A variety of police agencies, including Interpol, reported making a significant dent in the world of illegal human trafficking via an operation dubbed Spartacus III. The operation initially focused on three of Latin America’s busiest airports, Ministro Pistarini, in Buenos Aires, El Dorado in Bogotá and Guarulhos in Sao Paulo. It expanded to include the participation of 25 countries.

Nearly 900 Peruvian authorities took part in the operation and rescued more than 400 individuals from forced labor and sexual exploitation in the mining town of La Rinconada. Spartacus III is also credited with closing an adoption agency in Brazil that authorities said trafficked in eastern European infants and toddlers, reports La Prensa.

The umbrella operation also dismantled a high profile Colombia-China trafficking network known as “Paniagua,” that allegedly is responsible for sending hundreds of Latin American women and girls into sex work in China.

The effects of the operation will be felt “much further than the Americas,” Interpol's head of police services, Tim Morris, told El Espectador.

The 25 countries that took part are: Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, The Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Spain, St. Marten, Uruguay, The United States, and Venezuela.

InSight Crime Analysis

Human trafficking is a very lucrative and, compared to drug trafficking, underreported criminal phenomenon. In an introductory letter for the US State Department’s 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report, Secretary of State John Kerry estimated the industry to be worth $150 billion per year.

The Spartacus III operation is noteworthy for its integration of so many cooperating nations, which demonstrates the importance of international cooperation in combatting this crime without borders. It also sheds light on the many different faces of the illegal industry, ranging from sexual exploitation to forced labor and even illegal adoption.

While the most recent human trafficking reports may have given sub par marks to Latin American countries' efforts to combat this plague, the operation's multinational approach is a good strategy for encouraging all countries to take human trafficking seriously.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Trafficking 

“It’s not just a matter of law enforcement; it’s a matter of moral obligation to end slavery of any kind on this planet, and we have to work at it,” Kerry wrote in the State Department report.

The operation was timed to coincide with World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, which is July 30. It will be interesting to see if Spartacus III is a show put on for that special occasion or if the international effort to combat human trafficking can be sustained year round and its coordination mechanisms replicated on a more regular basis.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy. Unlike their paramilitary and drug cartel predecessors, the BACRIM maintain a diversified...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...