|From left: Dr. Ariel Gustavo Forselledo,
US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission James Williard and
Political Officer Oliver Griffith
||Participants in the opening
session of the workshop.
The workshop, “Trafficking Children
for Sexual Exploitation and Child Pornography on the Internet
in MERCOSUR, Bolivia and Chile,” opened Monday (March
22) at the Inter-American Children’s Institute (8
de Octubre 2904). The two-day conference includes officials
from the Institute and the U.S. Embassy, Montevideo, the
sponsors of the program.
Dr. Ariel Gustavo Forselledo, coordinator
of the Institute’s Program for Promotion of Children’s
Rights, welcomed attendees from various children protection
agencies in the participating countries.
He said the Institute is working with the
U.S. Embassy to develop a plan to combat trafficking of
persons in the region.
Forselledo said the institute plans to work
with the Organization of American States (OAS) to develop
an annual report on the situation in the region; organize
regional events; foster the cooperation of OAS members in
establishing public policies and action plans to ensure
the rights of children and adolescents, and develop training
for leaders of organizations involved in the protection
In opening the workshop, Deputy Chief of
Mission James Williard told the participants: “You
are the officials on the front lines of your countries combating
an abominable form of slavery that should no longer exist
in the 21st century: trafficking in persons. It is a dark
and uncomfortable subject, but one that must be illuminated.”
Williard cited an annual human trafficking
survey conducted by the U.S. Department of State that estimated
between 800,000 and 900,000 men, women and children are
trafficked across international borders around the world
every year, with 18,000 to 20,000 arriving in the US alone.
He said the largest and fastest growing form of trafficking
in person is for prostitution, followed by forced labor,
domestic servitude and forced recruitment of children as
“The US has taken significant action
to combat trafficking in persons, including children, and
our sponsorship of this conference is part of a $50 million
initiative,” Williard said. “In addition, we
have passed legislation that will assure that the depraved
individuals who traffic and sexually abuse children will
find no safe haven.”
He noted that in April 2003, the PROTECT
Act was signed into law by President Bush, allowing law
enforcement officers to prosecute Americans who travel abroad
to abuse minors, without having prior proven intent. The
law also clarifies that there is no statute of limitations
for crimes involving the abduction of or physical and sexual
abuse of a child. U.S “sex tourists” are now
subject to domestic child abuse and child exploitation laws
and they face up to 30 years imprisonment.
The objectives of the workshop are to establish
a forum of exchange of information about these problems
in MERCOSUR, Bolivia and Chile and to come to an agreement
on a plan to develop national investigations in this area.
Immediately after this workshop, another
session will be held, offering training on Methods of Investigation
of Pornography on the Internet. This workshop is directed
toward professionals of the participating countries and
will be run by experts from the U.S.
In September there will be a regional conference
on trafficking children and adolescents for sexual exploitation
and child pornography on the Internet for MERCOSUR, Bolivia
and Chile. This two-day conference will allow the presentation
and discussion of the results of the investigations carried
out in each participating country. Participants will also
be able to exchange and coordinate efforts on initiating
legislation and programming reforms.
The U.S. Embassy and the Inter-American
Institute of the Children are collaborating on this issue
in response to mandates received by both organizations.
On Jan. 13, 2004, the U.S. Embassy and the Institute signed
an agreement for the development of a joint project to combat
trafficking of children and child pornography on the Internet.