Recent operations in Colombia that resulted in the arrest of dozens of alleged sex traffickers might land dozens of US citizens suspected of having sex with minors, US authorities told the Miami Herald.
The suspected child molesters came under the attention of the US justice department after a series of busts in the Colombian cities of Medellin, Cartagena and Armenia carried out by both US and Colombian authorities, and an NGO dedicated to combating the sexual exploitation of children.
According to Angie Salazar, a US Immigration and Customs official, investigations following the operations alerted the authorities about dozens of foreigners who are involved in child prostitution in Colombia.
“We’re starting with concrete individuals that we know have already been here and already done it or are in the midst of their travel to come here for the second, third, fourth times to do this,” Salazar told the Miami Herald.
“We don’t know how many [will be detained] yet because we’re still pursing all of those leads, but I would say probably in the 50s,” she added, hinting that a number of suspects were located in Florida.
According to the US immigration official, agents have been following a trail of email communications and monetary transactions made to Colombian individuals and brothels that deal in underage sex.
US law allows the country’s prosecution to prosecute suspected child molesters, also if the alleged crimes were committed abroad.
With a record increase in tourism in Colombia over the past ten years, the country also saw a rise in foreigners coming to the South American country to take advantage of weak law enforcement when it comes to child prostitution, which is most prevalent in Cartagena and Medellin, two of the country’s tourism hotspots.
“One of the things that worries us is the link between business conferences and the illegal sex trade,” public prosecution official Luis Gonzalez told the Miami Herald.
Sex tourism providers who talked to Colombia Reports have indicated that traveling business representatives are regular clients of Medellin’s sex industry.
According to Salazar, US authorities inform foreign countries when a convicted child-sex offender travels abroad. Salazar said Colombia is “one of the highest” destinations on the list of travel alerts.
The renewed efforts to persecute child prostitution rings will hopefully curb the number of child-sex tourists to Colombia, a Homeland Security agent said.
“I think you’ll see over the course of the next couple of years Colombia will be viewed as a place that’s not safe to come and commit these crimes and you are going to be getting in trouble if you come here to do that,” the cited official said.
- Authorities seek U.S. links after Colombian child-sex sting (Miami Herald)