Salvadoran Police Investigate Possible Human Trafficking Connection

Yesterday the New York Times published an article about Dominican Republic citizen Jorge Puello and his alleged connection to an international human trafficking ring that transports women and girls from Nicaragua to El Salvador. As with many instances of human trafficking, the women involved in this ring are promised employment and then forced to work as prostitutes after arriving in El Salvador.

Mr. Puello has been providing legal advice and serving as a spokesperson for the 10 US missionaries, dubbed the “Idaho 10,” detained in Haiti since January 29 on charges of child abduction and criminal conspiracy. The group is accused of attempting to take 33 children out of the country without permission, and is currently being held in Port au Prince while awaiting trial. Mr. Puello began working with the group after their former lawyer, Edwin F. Coq Jr., was dismissed, allegedly for offering bribes to government representatives. Mr. Coq claims he resigned voluntarily after a fee dispute.

Salvadoran police have begun investigating Mr. Puello to see if the legal advisor to the Idaho 10 is the same as the leader of a known human trafficking ring. Currently there is no evidence to support or negate this accusation, and further investigation is taking place. However, suspicion has increased since the personal information Mr. Puello provided to reporters was discovered to be fictitious or unverifiable.

Human trafficking was established as a specific offense in El Salvador in 2004. The Policia Nacional Civil has established a special department to investigate these crimes. The majority of the victims are from El Salvador, with Nicaragua as the second most common place of origin. According to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, in 2007 there were 59 reported victims of trafficking and 17 individuals were prosecuted for trafficking in persons in El Salvador.

For more on the Jorge Puello and the Idaho 10, see the following articles:

The New York Times- Advisor to Detained US Citizens is Investigated.

The New York Times- Americans Held in Haiti are Divided over Leader

La Prensa Grafica- Estadounidenses vuelvan ante un juez en Haití con abogado dominicano

For more on human trafficking in El Salvador see:

Global Report on Trafficking in Persons- UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking

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