By Gustavo Arias Retana/Diálogo November 15, 2018 In September 2018, Costa Rican and Panamanian authorities dismantled a human trafficking ring that smuggled people from China to Latin America. Wálter Espinoza, head of the Costa Rican Judicial Investigation Agency, a unit of the Costa Rican Supreme Court, told the press that the two-year investigation led to a ring linked to criminals in other Latin American countries, such as Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador. “There was a group of Chinese nationals who had ties in Asia, Europe, and South America. The criminals had contacts that facilitated the arrival of a significant number of people to our country,” Espinoza said. “Victims had two possible fates: Some would stay in Costa Rica, while others would be sent to other places, especially the United States and Canada. Those who remained in our country were sent to commercial businesses, mainly to suppliers [to supermarkets] and restaurants.” According to authorities, the Chinese citizens were transported from China to Europe by air. From there, they were taken to Ecuador, Peru, or Colombia, with Costa Rica as their final destination for a $22,000 to $45,000 fee. Most migrants entered via Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José, Costa Rica, with the complicity of some state officials, now under arrest. In Costa Rica, merchants exploited Asian migrants and “bought” them, while those smuggled to Panama paid to be taken to the United States or Canada. In most cases, they indebted themselves to criminal organizations and had to pay their debt with work. In Costa Rica, authorities detained 29 people connected to this case. Among the detainees were three Chinese nationals who led the smuggling ring, 10 immigration officials, a lawyer who forged documents, and 15 people in charge of logistics. Authorities also rescued two victims. In Panama, David Mendoza, head of the Public Prosecutor’s Office against Organized Crime, told the press that authorities detained 10 members of the human smuggling ring and rescued six victims. “We were after an organized group engaged in migrant smuggling, in which all victims were of Asian origin. The smuggling ring in Panama consisted of Panamanian citizens and foreigners,” Mendoza told the press. Not isolated cases The dismantling of the criminal gang compares to other similar cases, which clearly points to a human trafficking/smuggling route from China to Latin America. In late September 2018, Colombian authorities arrested a Nepalese national who led a gang that smuggled people from Asia, some of whom were from China. Smugglers charged about $10,000 to move people from the Colombian-Ecuadorean border to Panama, where they would head to the United States on their own. The Colombian National Police’s Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Interpol said in a press release that the gang moved about eight migrants daily. In this case, authorities detained 32 people. Insufficient control from China The U.S. government denounced the problems China poses concerning human trafficking in its Trafficking in Persons 2018 Report: Country Narratives, published in June. “The government of the People’s Republic of China does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of [human] trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” the report states. According to the report, China is urged to update the legal framework to completely criminalize all forms of trafficking and establish formal procedures to identify and protect human trafficking victims. Statistical management of these cases should also be improved as current figures make it difficult to measure the real impact of the problem. The report estimates that Chinese men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor, as well as labor and sex trafficking, in at least 57 countries. “Men, women, and children are forced to work in restaurants, shops, agriculture, and factories. Chinese men experience abuse at construction sites, in coal and copper mines, and in other extractive industries, where they face conditions indicative of forced labor. Chinese women and girls are subjected to sexual exploitation throughout the world,” the U.S. Department of State report concludes.
“In the health sector, he was known for the establishment of the Puskesmas [community health centers], as well as the development of public housing complexes [Perumnas] across Indonesia. He was also relatively able to maintain the availability and price stability of important commodities.”He went on to say that Soeharto had left an indelible mark on the development of national infrastructures, such as roads, bridges and dams across.“However, freedom and democracy were lacking [under Soeharto],” Qodari said.Soeharto, a former Army general, ruled the country for 32 years before being forced to resign following massive protests and rioting in 1998. His New Order regime was marked by widespread corruption and political repression. Graft watchdog Transparency International ranks him as the most corrupt leader in history, estimating he embezzled between US$15 billion and $35 billion during his rule.Nevertheless, Soeharto remains popular in many circles of Indonesian society. T-shirts and other paraphernalia bearing a smiling portrait of the former president and the Javanese slogan Piye kabare, isih penak jamanku, tho? (Miss me, yet?) are still widely available for sale.Despite the Soeharto’s still favorable public reception, Qodari noted that his popularity had declined somewhat over the years, citing previous Indo Barometer polls.Around 32.9 percent of respondents surveyed in 2018 said Soeharto was their favorite president, while 36.5 percent had picked Soeharto in a similar poll held in 2011. (rfa)Topics : Late president Soeharto scored .4 percentage points higher than Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in a survey of the country’s favorite presidents by Jakarta-based pollster Indo Barometer.Conducted from Jan. 9 to 15 involving 1,200 participants across 34 provinces, the survey found that 23.8 percent of respondents are most fond of Soeharto, followed by current president Jokowi with 23.4 percent of the vote and first president Sukarno with 23.3 percent.“Soeharto may be regarded as the most well-rounded president throughout the country’s history. In the education sector, for example, he is remembered as the founder of Inpres elementary schools,” Indo Barometer executive director M. Qodari said during a presentation in Jakarta on Sunday, referring to schools established in remote areas for children from low-income families.
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