EL SALVADOR: Tier 2
The Government of El Salvador does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous period; therefore El Salvador remained on Tier 2. These efforts included investigating an allegedly complicit government official, convicting and sentencing more traffickers to significant prison terms, and providing services to girl victims. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government lacked formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, including individuals in commercial sex. Victim services for adults, boys, and LGBTI persons were severely lacking. The government offered few long-term support or reintegration services to victims, leaving them vulnerable to re-trafficking.
Observers reported law enforcement and prosecutors lacked sufficient funding and personnel to pursue cases, and judges required additional training to understand the dynamics of trafficking cases, non-testimonial evidence used by prosecutors to corroborate victim testimony, and threats of reprisal from traffickers, all of which impeded efforts to hold traffickers accountable. Officials reported the absence of an electronic case management system hindered the collection, sharing, and analysis of law enforcement information. Experts expressed concern over the court’s acquittal and affirmation on appeal of several defendants accused of knowingly patronizing a child sex trafficking victim to perform a commercial sex act despite compelling evidence. Law enforcement and prosecutors participated in specialized trafficking training provided by foreign governments and international and non-governmental organizations. The government cooperated with law enforcement bodies from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States but did not report any concrete results related to this cooperation.
El Salvador’s laws allowed judges to order convicted traffickers to pay restitution; however, the courts did not order restitution in any cases in 2018. The government provided witness protection and support to identified victims, including disguising victims’ identities in court and allowing victims to provide testimony by deposition. Government officials and NGO representatives stated police need additional procedures and training to properly identify, interact with, and protect victims, who were often mistaken for criminals and may have been punished for such crimes. Furthermore, civil society organizations reported the government treated as criminals children forced to engage in illicit activity by criminal groups, rather than providing them protection as trafficking victims. Criminal groups restricted the access of authorities and NGOs in neighborhoods they controlled, impeding victim protection and assistance efforts. The 2014 trafficking law provided foreign trafficking victims the right to seek residency status, which would allow them to work legally, but authorities did not offer such protection to any foreign victims in 2018, compared to four foreign victims in 2017 who ultimately requested to be repatriated to their country of origin.