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Viewing cable 06SANJOSE481, COSTA RICA 2005 TIP REPORT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06SANJOSE481 2006-03-02 14:02 2011-03-08 16:04 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy San Jose
Appears in these articles:
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
REF: STATE 3836 
The following is Embassy San Jose's submission for the 2005 
annual anti-trafficking in persons (TIP) report.  Responses 
are keyed to checklist questions outlined in reftel, 
beginning at paragraph 21.  Post's POC for the report is 
Political Officer Robert Copley.  Telephone number: (506) 
519-2253.  Fax: (506) 519-2364. Total number of hours spent 
in preparing the TIP report: Poloff Copley: 45, Political 
Assistant Hellen Sanou: 20, Political Counselor: 1, Consular: 
1, RSO: 1, DCM: 2. 
21A.  Costa Rica is a country mainly of transit, destination 
and, to a much lesser degree, origin for internationally 
trafficked men, women, and children.  Specific numbers for 
each population are unavailable, but government and 
non-government sources agree that women and children 
constitute the majority of trafficking victims who pass 
through Costa Rica.  Trafficking also occurs within the 
country's borders.  There are currently no comprehensive 
estimates as to the extent of the problem.  Post is aware of 
a recent G/TIP-funded study by Johns Hopkins University to 
assess the potential scope of the trafficking problem in 
Costa Rica.  The Ministry of Public Security noted that the 
number of raids in connection with sexual exploitation crimes 
nearly doubled last year in relation to 2004, which was 
double the rate for 2003. 
Sources of information for this report include the Chief 
Prosecutor's Office, the Migration Department, the Public 
Security Ministry, the Women's Ministry, the Children's 
Welfare Institution (PANI), the Judicial Investigative Police 
(OIJ), the OIJ's special trafficking crimes investigative 
unit, the Legislative Assembly, the International 
Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Labor 
Organization (ILO), the United Nations' Children's Fund 
(UNICEF), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) Save the 
Children Sweden, Defense of Children International, Paniamor, 
Alianza Por Tus Derechos, Fundacion Rahab, and the press. 
Women and children are the most at risk of being trafficked. 
21B.  Persons continued to be trafficked to and through Costa 
Rica from all over the world during 2005.  Police and NGOs 
reported that main source countries include the Dominican 
Republic, Colombia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ecuador, Cuba, 
Peru, Russia, China, and the Philippines.  Governmental and 
nongovernmental sources agree that individuals are trafficked 
internationally mainly to the United States, Canada, Mexico, 
and Europe.  Investigators from the OIJ's trafficking crimes 
unit said that internal trafficking victims are generally 
moved from one location to another.  IOM continues to report 
indications of trafficked Russian women in the southern 
Golfito area.  IOM also reported that Dominican women are 
flown to Panama, and then brought illegally overland into 
Costa Rica to dance in nightclubs.  Once in Costa Rica, they 
are forced to engage in commercial sex work.  Victims are 
threatened with physical harm if they do not comply with the 
traffickers' demands, and the traffickers may also threaten 
to harm the victims' families.  The victims' travel documents 
are routinely seized, and debt bondage is common. 
NGO Paniamor reported that some trafficking activities are 
timed to coincide with the harvest season.  Women and 
children from neighboring countries sometimes voluntarily 
travel to Costa Rica to engage in commercial sex work with 
agricultural workers (banana plantations, for example), and 
later fall into organized networks of commercial sexual 
Methods used to approach the victims include false offers of 
lucrative employment.  Defense of Children International 
reported that advertisements via internet and newspapers for 
hotel staff and models are used to lure females.  The Public 
Security Ministry reported cases of young Costa Rican women 
who were lured overseas by false employment offers promising 
a USD 1,500 weekly salary in addition to paid housing. 
Immigration officials reported a substantial increase in 2005 
in the number of apparently poor young women traveling for 
the first time and alone to destinations such as Japan, 
Europe, and Canada.  These young women believe they have good 
jobs waiting for them and appear to have been well briefed on 
what to say to immigration officers. 
Individuals are also trafficked internally in Costa Rica. 
According to the Ministry of Public Security, people from 
poor outlying areas are trafficked to the capital of San 
Jose.  People are also trafficked from the capital to the 
high-tourism areas, such as the Pacific coastal areas of 
Guanacaste Province and the Caribbean port of Limon. 
The GOCR continued to demonstrate political will and to make 
progress, within its limited resources, against trafficking 
during 2005.  The GOCR has particularly targeted child sexual 
21C.  Lack of resources, particularly funding for police, 
prosecutors, and shelters for victims severely hampered 
government efforts to fight trafficking in 2005.  The police, 
judicial investigators, and prosecutors all reported that 
lack of human and financial resources limited their ability 
to conduct investigations, carry out undercover operations, 
acquire technology, and pay informants.  The Children's 
Welfare Institution (PANI) lacks resources to maintain the 
number of shelters needed to accommodate trafficking and 
commercial sexual exploitation victims who are minors.  There 
are no shelters specifically for trafficking victims.  Save 
the Children, Defense of Children International, IOM, and ILO 
all reported that the government lacks the resources to 
provide victims with rehabilitation services.  There is no 
systematized operation to provide assistance to foreign 
victims waiting to be repatriated.  There are some 
indications of minor corruption at the local level. 
21D. The GOCR does not systematically monitor its anti-TIP 
efforts.  Individual units keep internal statistics but in 
differing formats, even within the same institution. 
Trafficking information is shared informally during regular 
meetings of a national-level committee comprised of 
government officials and NGOs--the National Commission 
Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Minors (CONACOES). 
22A.  The GOCR acknowledges that trafficking is a problem in 
Costa Rica, especially sexual exploitation of minors.  There 
is some confusion, however, among some government officials 
about the differences between trafficking, alien smuggling, 
and commercial sexual exploitation.  Some officials use the 
terms interchangeably.  As mentioned above, the majority of 
efforts and resources in Costa Rica are focused on commercial 
sexual exploitation of minors. 
22B.  Government agencies involved in anti-trafficking 
efforts include the Ministry of Public Security, the 
Migration Department, the Children's Welfare Institution 
(PANI), Judicial Investigative Police (OIJ), the Office of 
the Chief Prosecutor, and the Ombudsman's Office.  No agency 
has the lead, but the investigative, prosecutorial, and 
judiciary authorities are all part of the independent 
judicial branch of the Costa Rican Government.  As mentioned 
in 21D above, trafficking activities are informally 
coordinated through CONACOES.  A sub-committee of CONACOES, 
called the Coalition Against Trafficking was formed in 
November 2005 to create a more agile working group among the 
ministries and NGOs that most directly cooperate against 
trafficking.  The coalition is chaired by the Minister of 
Public Security. 
22C.  The Migration Department continued a national public 
information campaign, launched in 2004, and designed to deter 
tourists who might be interested in sexual tourism.  The 
campaign included posters in airports and placing inserts in 
immigration documents that warned incoming tourists of the 
criminal sanctions against sexual exploitation of minors. 
There are also billboards along the routes to major beach 
hotels.  In December 2005, PANI implemented a national 
information campaign in conjunction with Microsoft to help 
school children navigate safely on the Internet.  On February 
15, 2006, the GOCR launched a series of TV, radio, and 
billboard ads warning young women of the dangers of 
commercial sexual exploitation.  The ads feature adolescent 
girls encouraging other girls to reject money or gifts in 
exchange for travel that could result in sexual exploitation. 
 The ads were designed and financed in cooperation with 
several international NGO,s, UNICRI, and the Italian 
22D.  IOM and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that 
the GOCR has programs that indirectly help to prevent 
trafficking.  For example, the Women's Ministry has programs 
that support the role of a mother in ensuring her children 
remain in school, programs to support adolescent mothers; and 
programs to involve women in micro-enterprise.  The Ministry 
also provides school vouchers and scholarships to help offset 
education costs that can be prohibitive to low-income 
22F.  Aside from regular CONACOES meetings, there is no 
formal mechanism to coordinate communication between agencies 
involved in combating trafficking.  Due to Costa Rica,s 
small size, all members of the anti-trafficking community are 
well and personally known to each other.  Professional 
jealousies and bureaucratic turf battles occasionally limit 
effective use of the GOCR,s already-limited resources. 
22G.  The GOCR monitors migratory movements of people for 
evidence of trafficking patterns.  Immigration officials at 
the airports, for example, detected and reported a 
substantial increase in 2005 in the number of apparently poor 
young women traveling for the first time and alone to 
destinations such as Japan, Europe, and Canada.  Porous land 
borders with neighboring Nicaragua and Panama are impossible 
to effectively monitor for trafficking of all kinds. 
Immigration officials and NGOs reported female minors aged 
12-18 continue to be trafficked, even through formal border 
checkpoints, in tractor-trailer trucks.  Some of these minors 
are recruited; others look for rides themselves. 
22H.  As mentioned in 22F above, there is no mechanism for 
coordination and communication aside from CONACOES, which 
functions as an informal clearinghouse for information based 
on the personal relationships among its members. 
Internationally, the Ministry of Public Security cooperates 
with other countries' migration departments, Interpol, and 
the FBI to identify and detain suspected traffickers.  The 
GOCR also participates in the Commission of Central American 
Migration Directors (OCAM), which includes trafficking in its 
general work plan, and the Regional Conference on Migration 
(CRM).  The GOCR does not have a TIP task force, but a 
two-year G/TIP-financed program of joint training and 
equipment donations has improved inter-agency cooperation. 
The GOCR has a public corruption task force, which is located 
in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General for Ethics. 
22J.  The GOCR does not have a national action plan to 
address trafficking in persons.  The National Child and 
Adolescence Plan refers to prevention of trafficking and 
protection of victims. 
Investigation and Prosecution of Traffickers 
23A-B.  In November 2005, the Legislative Assembly ratified a 
long-awaited reform to Costa Rica,s immigration law.  The 
new law, which will enter into force in August 2006, makes 
alien smuggling a crime for the first time.  Costa Rica still 
does not have a specific law prohibiting trafficking in 
persons.  However, trafficking is proscribed in Title III 
(known as the Law Against Sexual Exploitation of Minors) and 
Title XVII (which deals with human rights crimes of an 
international nature) of the Criminal Code.  Articles 156 to 
163 of Title III were revised in August 1999 to include 
sexual crimes against minors.  The reforms broadened the 
situations and conditions under which such crimes are 
penalized.  Lack of a specific law against trafficking makes 
keeping uniform statistics extremely difficult since not all 
forms of trafficking are covered under these statutes and not 
all crimes charged under these statutes constitute 
Article 169, which criminalizes pimping, states: "Anyone who 
promotes the prostitution of persons of any gender, maintains 
them in prostitution, induces them to practice prostitution, 
or recruits them for this purpose will be sanctioned with a 
prison term of two to five years.  The same sentence will be 
imposed for those who maintain a person in sexual servitude." 
 Article 170 criminalizes aggravated pimping with a 4-10 year 
prison term as the penalty for individuals who: pimp minors 
under 18 years of age; use deceit, violence, abuse of 
authority, or exploitation of a victim's economic situation; 
use any means of intimidation or coercion; have a sibling or 
blood relationship or have a custodial relationship or has a 
tutor/teacher relationship; or have a relationship of 
confidence with the victim or the family, regardless of 
kinship.  Under Article 170, the will of the victim (i.e., 
the victim's consent to engage in prostitution) is considered 
irrelevant to the offense. 
Article 172 deals with international trafficking in persons. 
It says: "Anyone who promotes, facilitates, or favors the 
entrance or exit from Costa Rica of persons of any gender so 
that they may practice prostitution or in order to maintain 
them in sexual or labor servitude will be sanctioned with a 
prison term of three to six years."  The sentence will be 
4-10 years if it involves any aggravating factor enumerated 
under Article 170 on aggravated pimping (if the victim is a 
minor, for instance). 
Under Title XVII of the Criminal Code on crimes against human 
rights, Articles 374, 376, and 377 have to do with 
trafficking.  Article 374 covers "crimes of an international 
character."  It states that a prison term of 10-15 years will 
be imposed upon persons who run or form part of an 
organization of an international character dedicated to 
trafficking slaves, women or children, narcotics, or that 
carries out acts of terrorism or infringes upon regulations 
envisaged in treaties subscribed to by Costa Rica to protect 
human rights. 
Article 376 establishes a prison sentence of 2-4 years for 
individuals who sell, promote, or facilitate the sale of a 
minor (for domestic service, commercial sex work, or 
adoption) and receive any type of payment, gratuity, or 
economic reward for their action.  The same sanction is 
applied to individuals who pay, give a reward, or otherwise 
remunerate with the purpose of receiving a minor.  If the 
perpetrator of the crime has a blood relationship with the 
minor, or is the minor's guardian or custodian, or 
"represents" the minor, the sanction is increased to 4-6 
years.  The same sentence of 4-6 years is imposed if the 
perpetrator who sells, promotes, facilitates, or legitimizes 
in any way the act of the sale of a minor is a professional 
or public employee.  The sanction against professional and 
public employees also includes a 2-6 year suspension from 
working in the profession or office they held when they 
committed the crime. 
Article 377 imposes a 5-10 prison term on individuals who 
promote or facilitate the trafficking of children for 
adoption with the purpose of selling the child's organs. 
These laws are currently being used in trafficking cases. 
Investigators in the OIJ's special trafficking crimes unit, a 
juvenile court judge, ILO, IOM, and representatives from 
several NGOs reported to Poloff that the current legislation 
is not adequate to cover the full scope of trafficking in 
persons.  The investigators lamented the difficulty of 
prosecuting cases under the current legislation.  IOM and ILO 
both commented on loopholes in the law.  For example, current 
legislation only penalizes sexual and labor exploitation if 
the victims have crossed an international border.  There is 
no law against internal (within the borders of Costa Rica) 
trafficking.  CONACOES presented several legal reforms to 
better define trafficking and to expand the definition in 
order to criminalize internal trafficking in 2005.  The 
proposed reforms were incorporated into a single bill (Number 
14,578) which received unanimous support in the Judicial 
Committee and now awaits discussion in the plenary. 
23C. The penalty for rape ranges from 10-18 years, depending 
on the relation of the rapist to the victim and the degree of 
harm done to the health of the victim. 
23D.  Prostitution for individuals over the age of 18 in 
Costa Rica is legal.  In August 2005, the coordinator for HIV 
programs at the Costa Rican Social Security Institute (CCSS) 
estimated the number of female prostitutes in Costa Rica at 
8,750, based on surveys of the 2,700 female prostitutes who 
sought medical treatment at CCSS facilities during 2004. 
According to this estimate, 40 percent of these women are not 
Costa Rican (20 percent Nicaraguan, 10 percent Dominican, 6 
percent Colombian, and 4 percent other).  Pimping is a crime 
punishable by two to five years in prison.  Brothel owners 
and operators are subject to the same sanctions as pimps. 
See Article 169 and Article 170 in section 22A-B above 
(sanctions range from two to ten years in prison).  NGOs 
agree that laws against brothel owners and pimps are 
insufficiently enforced.  The Ministry of Public Security 
increased the number of raids it carried out on brothels 
during 2005. 
23E.  It is difficult to collect significant statistics on 
the GOCR,s efforts against traffickers.  The best measures, 
given the GOCR,s own emphasis on child sexual exploitation, 
are cases involving paid sex with children.  This is an 
incomplete measure involving only one aspect of trafficking, 
but the statistic is uniformly reported by the Supreme Court, 
allowing year-on-year comparisons.  Without a specific law 
against trafficking, more comprehensive analysis would 
require physical visits to each court,s jurisdiction to 
review sentences in individual cases.  This is prohibitively 
labor-intensive, even for NGOs. 
The Chief Prosecutor,s Office, which has its own child 
sexual exploitation unit, reported 37 investigations during 
2005 involving one of the trafficking laws described in 
question 23 A-B above.  At least one of these investigations 
has resulted in formal trafficking charges.  No further 
information is available, as these cases remain under 
investigation.  According to statistics published by the 
Supreme Court, 19 cases involving paid sex with minors were 
investigated by the OIJ trafficking unit during the first 9 
months of 2005 for which statistics are available.  In all of 
2004, prosecutors opened 18 trafficking investigations and 
obtained convictions in two cases.  The Supreme Court will 
publish final statistics for 2005 in the May-June, 2006 
timeframe.  At that time, we will also have statistics on the 
number of 2005 convictions under trafficking laws.  The only 
way to get information on the length of actual sentences is, 
as mentioned above, to visit individual courts. 
The Child Sexual Exploitation unit of the Ministry of Public 
Security (police) carried out 59 raids on establishments 
where child sexual exploitation was suspected in 2005.  This 
is nearly double the 30 raids carried out in 2004.  The unit 
also located and re-arrested 41 convicted pedophiles or 
repeat rapists who, for a multitude of reasons, were not 
serving their jail terms.  The three-person OIJ special 
investigative unit that focuses exclusively on trafficking 
told us it is conducting a delicate investigation of a Costa 
Rican official allegedly involved in internal trafficking of 
minors for sexual exploitation. 
23F.  According to the OIJ trafficking unit, international 
groups are behind the trafficking operations they are 
investigating.  The heads of the operations are foreigners, 
who may or may not be physically located in Costa Rica. 
Uruguayans, Cubans, Dominicans, Colombians, Americans, and 
Chinese have been identified as heads of trafficking 
operations.  The investigators reported that traffickers 
often use banks and money exchange centers as part of their 
operation.  NGO Fundacion Rahab reported that traffickers 
also operate under the guise of travel companies and 
matrimonial agencies.  The Chief Prosecutor's Office reported 
that some traffickers work freelance and are often also 
involved in alien smuggling.  The successful prosecutions 
Post is aware of involve small local or regional groups. 
Post has no reports on where profits from trafficking in 
persons are being channeled. 
23G.  The GOCR actively investigates cases of trafficking to 
the extent financial and personnel resources permit. 
Undercover operations, electronic surveillance, and mitigated 
punishment or immunity for cooperating suspects are all 
legally available to the GOCR.  Investigators outside of the 
capital received training and equipment donations from the 
Embassy in 2005 in order to enhance their ability to conduct 
investigations.  OIJ investigators in the capital possess 
some training and equipment but are only able to conduct 
sporadic operations in the provinces. 
23H.  The GOCR provides specialized training, particularly to 
immigration officials, on recognition of trafficking. 
Several NGOs work closely with the Police Academy and 
Judicial School to provide sensitivity training for officials 
on special handling techniques for trafficking victims they 
may encounter.  Investigative and prosecutorial training is 
not specialized for trafficking. 
23I.  The GOCR cooperates closely with the U.S. government on 
investigations and prosecutions of trafficking cases.  Post 
is also aware of an ongoing trafficking case in which Costa 
Rican and Nicaraguan prosecutors are cooperating closely to 
collect evidence concerning numerous Nicaraguan minors who 
were trafficked to Costa Rica during 2005. 
23J.  The GOCR willingly extradites persons who are charged 
with trafficking to other countries and cooperates very 
actively in returning U.S. fugitives.  Post is unaware of any 
U.S. traffickers being located in or extradited from Costa 
Rica in 2005.  Five American Citizens are currently serving 
jail sentences in Costa Rica for sexual abuse involving 
minors.  Two others were deported to the United States to 
face sex abuse charges during 2005.  The Costa Rican 
Constitution prohibits extradition of Costa Rican nationals 
to any jurisdiction; there is no effort to modify this 
23K.  NGO,s have reported indications of low-level 
tolerance/involvement of trafficking by immigration officials 
at border checkpoints.  These accounts often consist of 
border guards accepting sexual favors from trafficking 
victims in exchange for allowing them to enter Costa Rica 
without proper documents.  Media accounts confirm various 
kinds of low-level official corruption at the borders.  The 
ongoing OIJ investigation mentioned in paragraph 23E also 
involves a Costa Rican official. 
23L.  To Post,s knowledge, no Costa Rican official has been 
prosecuted for trafficking. 
23M.  Post does not have information on the number of foreign 
pedophiles the GOCR has prosecuted or deported to their 
country of origin.  Costa Rica's child sexual abuse laws do 
not have a specific provision for extraterritorial coverage. 
23N.  ILO Convention 182 was signed by the GOCR on August 17, 
2001 and ratified on August 31, 2001.  ILO Convention 29 was 
ratified on May 26, 1960.  ILO Convention 105 was ratified on 
April 17, 1959.  The Optional Protocol to the Convention of 
the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child 
Prostitution, and Child Pornography was signed on September 
7, 2000 and ratified on February 11, 2002.  The Protocol to 
Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons was 
signed on March 16, 2001 and ratified on November 4, 2002. 
Protection and Assistance to Victims 
24A.  The Chief Prosecutor's Office has a victims assistance 
office that trafficking victims can appeal to if they choose 
to press charges against their trafficker.  There is no 
specialized shelter for trafficking victims.  The GOCR does 
not have trafficking victim care or victim health care 
facilities.  By law, minor victims who are illegally in the 
country cannot be deported.  The Children's Welfare 
Institution does have general shelters in which it can 
temporarily place trafficking victims who are minors.  The 
Ministry of Public Security has established coordination with 
the Chief Prosecutor's office on sex crimes in order to 
assist trafficking victims with hospitalization (when needed) 
and legal representation.  The Public Security Ministry can 
provide protection to key witnesses in trafficking cases, but 
the GOCR lacks a formal witness protection program. 
According to the Ministry, the GOCR provides economic 
assistance for two months in addition to a one-time payment 
of approximately USD 27.  The Children's Welfare Institution 
lacks the budget and personnel to create a specialized center 
to attend to the needs of young victims. 
24B.  The GOCR is unable to provide funding or other support 
to NGOs for services to victims.  With its current budget, 
the GOCR is unable to maintain critical infrastructure such 
as schools, roads, and hospitals.  It simply does not have 
funding to provide services to trafficking victims beyond the 
standard emergency services available to anyone. 
24C.  According to the OIJ trafficking unit, there is no 
screening or referral process in place to transfer detained 
victims to NGOs that can provide short- or long-term care. 
The Public Security Ministry reported that there is a 
procedure in place to provide assistance and ensure 
repatriation of victims.  The Ministry is working with the 
IOM and the Children,s Welfare Institution to develop an 
inter-institutional protocol for the handling and 
repatriation of child trafficking victims. 
24D.  ILO reported that trafficking victims who are minors 
are treated as victims and not as criminals, since the legal 
code on children and adolescents clearly indicates that all 
such minors are victims.  NGO Fundacion Rahab reported that 
it works with victims to help them overcome fears of 
cooperating with authorities, and to that end prosecutors 
take the victims' statements at the NGO's offices.  To the 
extent that adult trafficking victims are confused with 
illegal aliens, however, they are sometimes treated as 
criminals and summarily deported.  In no case are they 
prosecuted or fined. 
24E.  The Ministry of Public Security reported that the GOCR 
encourages victims to assist in the investigation and 
prosecution of trafficking.  Victims can file civil suits 
against their traffickers.  Victims may remain in Costa Rica, 
but are also allowed to leave.  If they wish to remain, they 
may apply for work permits.  Some nationalities, such as 
Colombians and Cubans, can easily receive refugee status. 
24F.  The Children's Welfare Institution is charged with 
providing protection to victims who are minors.  NGO, 
international organization, and GOCR employees reported that 
the Institution does not have the resources to provide the 
necessary services and shelter to victims.  There are no 
shelters run or funded by the GOCR specifically for 
trafficking victims.  The OIJ has a victims' assistance 
office, but it is a general office for victims of all types 
of crimes. 
24G.  A training manual was produced and distributed to all 
Costa Rican diplomatic missions that provides information on 
combating trafficking in minors.  The ILO and the Migration 
Department provided training to border officials on how to 
help prevent trafficking.  The training included instruction 
on the difference between alien smuggling and trafficking; 
the responsibility of migration officials to prevent, detect, 
and report trafficking cases they identify; and the 
officials' obligation to protect trafficking victims. 
24H.  Post is not aware of any GOCR support for repatriated 
Costa Ricans who are victims of trafficking. 
24I.  International Organizations working with trafficking 
victims include IOM and ILO.  International NGOs working with 
trafficking victims include Defense of Children International 
and Save the Children Sweden.  Local NGOs include Fundacion 
Rahab, Alianza Por Tus Derechos, and Paniamor.  IOM is 
working on several projects including repatriation of victims 
and creating a regional network of key governmental figures 
involved in the fight against trafficking.  Fundacion Rahab, 
with funds from ILO, operates a center in Limon that helps 
victims who are minors reintegrate back into their homes and