Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Gabriel Garcia, "The State Department Human Trafficking Report: Raw Ideology Rather Than Bona Fide Research," COHA, June 28, 2006

The State Department’s human trafficking methodology is to rank countries on a three tier system. Tier 3 is comprised of countries that are the most egregious participants in trafficking and are thus subject to heavy sanctions. Tier 2 includes countries complicit in trafficking, but which, from the State Department’s perspective, are making significant efforts to counter the problem; finally, Tier 1 is comprised of countries not significantly engaged in the industry. The problem with this methodology is that a country’s ranking appears to be based far less on well-defined evidentiary standards than on Washington’s readiness to launch a rant against the likes of Chávez.

...according to a study recently issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns, there are, in fact, more reports on human trafficking incidents applying to a major US ally, Colombia, than Washington’s major adversary, Venezuela; yet the former received only a Tier 1 classification from the State Department, while the book was thrown at Caracas. This discrepancy reveals how much sway political factors have in the methodology behind producing the agency’s annual report. Colombia is one of Washington’s closest regional allies; thus the country’s endemic corruption and the tempo of human trafficking are systematically overlooked or downplayed by US officials. Numerous cases of Colombian women being trafficked into Japan’s sex industry have been cited by entities such as the UN, and the attribution process is cited as an area in need of major improvement.

...many officials believe Japan’s extensive human trafficking activity and weak legislation to combat it should have landed it in a Tier 3 ranking, but clearly that nation is too important an ally and trade partner to allow for such a designation.

Depending upon whether the Secretary of State wants to complain about an ideological adversary or praise a loyal ally, the architects of the reports are prepared to spotlight phantom offenses or ignore arrant abuses.

In 2005, ... the initial decision to include the island [Cuba] in the most negative category came about without any new evidence being presented that Havana had committed any offenses since the last reporting period. In fact, Cuba was not even mentioned in either the 2001 or 2002 report...

The 2005 Human Trafficking Report on Cuba...relies heavily on hearsay. For example, it notes that “there are no reliable estimates available on the extent of trafficking in the country; however, children in prostitution (are) widely apparent, even to casual observers.” ... US “casual observers” are not permitted by Washington to travel to Cuba...

Following the release of its latest report, the State Department was forced to admit that its claim that Caracas had failed to prosecute a single human trafficker may have been wrong, since the Chávez government asserted that it had, in fact, prosecuted 21 individuals. Nevertheless, as a result of the ranking, predicated as it was on a very narrow or nonexistent foundation, the South American nation has suffered sanctions involving the blockage of $250 million in international loans in 2005. While Caracas is cited as having a poor preventative anti-trafficking process in place, the State Department report cannot point to a single stated complaint against Venezuelan authorities.

...the question should be asked whether the entire certification process, in all of its manifestations, should be dropped, because it is obvious, that what is now being done in the name of high-minded reform, is simply shameless self-serving pandering to the White House’s reigning ideological biases.

In 2003, Human Rights Watch observed that the report lacked adequate analysis backed by concrete data and noted that the US document did not include facts about tried, prosecuted, and the conviction rate of traffickers in countries with which it has close ties.


thoroughly unprofessional

debauched process

perversion of scholarship

chronic lack of objectivity

faulty research developed by the State Department

discretionary interpretations...highly fluid standards... loose evidentiary arguments

bogus allegations [against Venezuela]

grossly self-indulgent behavior

degrades the usefulness of the reporting process

politicized manipulation and the routine use of selective data

...desultory gibberish...

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