Juvenile delinquency has been on the rise in recent years in Venezuela, criminal groups recruit adolescents, boys and girls for their criminal organizations, but not only as victims but also as perpetrators.
Jesús Albino / Correspondent lapatilla.com
Although there are no official figures on the participation of adolescents or children in criminal groups, there are more and more arrests made by security forces related to crimes such as robbery, theft, prostitution, trafficking and sale of drugs, among other related activities.
But in many cases these criminals are not strangers or alien to the family environment of the victims. In Anaco, Anzoátegui State, approximately two weeks ago a woman and her partner were arrested for sexual exploitation of her niece, only 12 years old.
Youths For Sale
According to the lawyer José Santoyo, the Sotillo and Guanta municipalities, in the north of Anzoátegui, are the jurisdictions where there are important centers for sexual exploitation of minors. However, he assured that this type of crime is also often committed in Barcelona, and this has been gaining momentum in the last two years.
The lawyer recalled that a few months ago, the port city had a critical moment with this problem, when drivers formed long queues with heavy-duty vehicles full of scrap, waiting to be allowed to enter the Port of Guanta to unload their cargo.
“Neighbors came to tell me that adolescents and children were seen selling alcoholic beverages. There is talk of drug trafficking in addition to child prostitution. Even inside the trucks the drivers took the opportunity to commit lewd acts.”
Mr. Santoyo specified that the victims are usually girls between the ages of 11 and 17, who have not yet reached majority, the age of consent. Likewise, he pointed out that it is difficult to know how much an exploiter asks for the services of young women.
He stated that some victims are direct relatives of those who sell them, but they are not normally on the site as such.
“Some parents and representatives of these adolescents, knowing practically everything, do nothing to avoid it, but prefer to turn a blind eye, even support or promote the activity based on a need for food, family, etc.”
In relation to the places where crimes are usually committed in other cities, the lawyer pointed out that Paseo Colón is the site that is the greatest locus of sexual exploitation of minors in Puerto La Cruz, while in Barcelona the critical point is what is known as the “Plaza del Hambre” (Hunger Square), located in the vicinity of the governor’s palace.
Action Of The Authorities
Santoyo added that the lack of official pronouncements on the subject by the Mayors of Sotillo, Nelson Moreno, and Guanta, Natalí Bello, leaves the uncertainty of whether or not they are working to reduce these crimes.
“It is not known if the authorities are working to reduce these type of crimes, and if they do, there are no visible results. Even if they are taking the pertinent measures, these are not having the necessary reach, which is why these crimes are aggravated and continue to be committed,” he emphasized.
Mr Santoyo, who is also a regional political leader, called on the local police chiefs and the Governor of Anzoátegui State, Luis José Marcano, to address this problem with preventive work that the state police must carry out.
“You must work preventively. The goal has to be to prevent this type of situation from continuing to occur. It is also necessary that the statistics of the complaints be made official through the Councils for the Protection and Municipal Rights of Boys, Girls and Adolescents, in addition to the Regional Law Council of the state.”
In the same way, he urged the authorities to declare if they have carried out repressive actions, such as the dismantling of gangs or any police procedure. “They have to make public whatever they are doing, because recently we have not seen it.”
Prostitution In The South Of Anzoátegui State
In the Simón Rodríguez Municipality there are currently several points where adolescents gather to prostitute themselves.
According to information provided by residents, some of the main areas would be the central area, El Luchador, the Puente Ayala Market, the surroundings of Plaza Revenga and on Libertador Avenue, near a franchise pharmacy.
It was learned that the girls began to post themselves in these last two places during the first semester of 2022, the Simón Rodríguez Mayor’s Office, through the “Street Educators” program, which coordinates the first lady’s office, dismantled a child prostitution ring led mainly by teenagers.
This gang, which operated in the Simón Rodríguez Municipal Market, was mostly made up of girls from 12 to 17 years of age.
It was learned that in that same food market, agents of the Scientific, Criminal and Forensic Investigation Corps of the Municipal Delegation of El Tigre, through intelligence work, arrested three young women aged 13, 16 and 18, when they offered sex work.
But the biggest surprise that the officers got was that during the investigations, they managed to determine that the 13-year-old girl was the one who commanded the rest.
A police source reported that this girl used to run away from her residence, where she lived with her parents in the Guanipa Municipality to work as a prostitute in the aforementioned market.
The informant assures that on many occasions the parents are fully aware that their daughters are carrying out this type of illegal activities. The official stressed that the girls usually charge their services in foreign currency.
Another point in the city where they have begun to gather is Plaza Revenga, according to resident Enderson Echeverría.
The man stated that from early hours the girls are observed in “very sexy” clothing, hanging around the place and talking with different men.
“They take advantage of this area a lot because it is crowded and there is almost never good police patrol, that is, the police go by, but they don’t get off. They don’t stay or do tours on foot,” said Echeverría.
Given these facts, it was learned that currently the agents of the scientific police carry out intelligence work would allow them to completely eradicate this type of crime.
Likewise, they articulate with inhabitants of different communities so that they report in a timely manner if they observe these type of irregularities.
Fake Modeling Agencies
“They promised us a modeling career in Colombia, we were excited, they covered everything for us, but it was all a trap,” said one of the victims of these human trafficking networks.
Criminals take advantage of the need or desire to improve their economic conditions through beauty contests or modeling to attract their victims.
“Imagine, they give you the tickets, clothes, shoes, makeup, hairdressing… You think they are serious, but when you arrive, they take away your papers and threaten you. One thinks that either you do what they want you to do, or they kill you,” continues the victim, who managed to escape from her captivity in Bogotá.
The Seduction Of Money
In an unstable economy like Venezuela’s, with a monthly minimum wage equivalent to 13 dollars on average after the latest devaluations, offers to participate in these networks have become a very attractive option, but also an extremely dangerous one to overcome the crisis.
For example, in the “Aldea de Pescadores” (Fisher’s Village), near “Los Boqueticos” in Puerto La Cruz, a subject who led a male adolescent prostitution ring was arrested.
The case raised alarms. It was unofficially known that the subject captured his victims through social networks: he offered them clothes, shoes, liquor and presumably even narcotics to youngsters between 14 and 17 years of age belonging to a very humble social status. With these offers, he managed to gain the trust of the youngsters.
Later, he arranged sexual encounters with older men, who paid between $20 to $100, depending on the complexity of the sexual act.
The leader of the group was arrested, according to unofficial information, after complaints from the victims who claimed that the subject refused to pay them for “their work.”
Defenders of the rights of children and adolescents ensure that the supervision of young people by their parents or guardians is important to prevent them from being victims of these type of crimes.