SAN JUAN – The profits generated by human trafficking worldwide tripled last year to reach $96 billion, becoming the second most profitable crime after the drug trade, a report released by singer Ricky Martin’s humanitarian foundation said.
The report was presented at a conference entitled “Visiting Human Trafficking: An Updated Profile of the World and Puerto Rico,” held on the main campus of the University of Puerto Rico.
The principal speaker was Mohammed Mattar, an expert in legislation against human trafficking and executive director of the Protection Project, a human rights institute based at The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
Human trafficking includes exploitation for such purposes as prostitution, sexual violence, child pornography, pederasty, sexual tourism, wife slavery, forced labor, slavery and similar practices, servitude and the extraction of organs.
The president of the Ricky Martin Foundation, UPR researcher Cesar Rey, told Efe that the report also showed that the illegal drug trade in Puerto Rico generates $4 billion a year, an amount equal to the budget of the island’s Department of Education.
Rey, a former head of that department, said that drug trafficking is related to human trafficking, since organized-crime kingpins contract minors as their “cheapest work force” for selling drugs and working as prostitutes.
He mentioned the arrest of businessman Rommel Cintron Pons, accused of prostituting girls under 15 years old for $1,500, as an example of human trafficking in Puerto Rico.
He also said the foundation has offered talks and workshops over the past year to judicial officials, social workers and educators to inform them of just how much the scourge has grown in Puerto Rico.
He said he still hopes the Puerto Rican legislature will pass the necessary laws to combat human trafficking on the island and include it as a serious crime in the Criminal Code.
For her part, the executive director of the Ricky Martin Foundation, Bibiana Ferraiuoli, said that human trafficking is “a crime that must be fought day after day.”
“We must do everything possible so that any child threatened by it survives, and we must remain strong in making this our lifelong mission,” she said.
Martin, a multiple Grammy winner with global sales of more than 65 million, established the foundation as an “advocate for the well-being of children around the globe in critical areas such as social justice, education, and health,” the organization’s Web site says.
The foundation has made the battle against human trafficking its main priority. EFE