Spotlight falls on Peru’s record on child sexual exploitation as pedophile ring led by U.S Citizen is broken up
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Spotlight falls on Peru’s record on child sexual exploitation as pedophile ring led by U.S Citizen is broken up

Peruvian Police broke up a pedophile ring this Tuesday, freeing 36 victims of sex trafficking. Amongst the victims were 11 minors, one as young as four-years-old. Five Peruvian nationals and one American citizen named as Joshua David Brown, alias “The Beast”, were arrested at the crime scene.

According to Peruvian National Police General Oscar Gonzales, Brown had set up an illicit website through which clients would pay around 1000 soles ($300) for sexual liaisons. Clients could choose from children whose pictures depicting them engaged in sexual acts were profiled in an online catalogue. Brown would then facilitate contact with the children in a number of exclusive hotels throughout Lima.

The four-year-old was being offered for $7000.

Sex-tourism network

According to Gonzales, Brown had been running the sex tourism network for as long as 12 years. hiding his illicit activities under the cloak of legitimate business interests that he held in Peru.

The operation covering six districts of Metropolitan Lima, followed months of surveillance and was conducted in cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs’ Homeland Security Investigations Attaché. In a statement on the ICE’s website, Andean region Attaché Luis Sierra provided the following statement:

“We commend the government of Peru and the PNP for their swift action in bringing this case to fruition. The children and adults rescued as part of this case lived a horrible nightmare at the hands of these monsters. Our message is clear: if you’re abusing the innocent, we will not rest until you’re found and put behind bars.”

Brown currently being held in a cell in downtown Lima will be brought before the courts on Friday. If convicted he can expect a maximum sentence of 25 years. U.S authorities are considering their own prosecution under extraterritorial child abuse laws.

Although Reuters reports that it is the “first major bust of a child sex trafficking operation allegedly led by a foreigner in the South American country in recent years,” sex trafficking is widely recognised as an increasingly endemic problem in Peru.

Cases on the rise

Official figures on child sexual exploitation are hard to come by in a country that does not record it as a specific crime, however, Peru’s Public Ministry has recorded between 2009 and 2014 1,600 cases of trafficking involving minors.

The NGO CHS Alternativo an organization dedicated to preventing child sexual exploitation estimates that the true number of child sexual exploitation cases is over 10,000 a year.

Most cases are reported to occur in the cities of Lima, Arequipa and Cusco and increasingly the country’s Amazon region, where the authorities lack the resources and understanding of the problem to deal with it effectively.

Girls from remote areas are easy prey for traffickers who force them into sex work using threats of violence, false promises of work in the cities and debt bondage. There have also been reports of parents being complicit in the trafficking of their children in return for money.

In recent years, the problem has begun to overlap with illegal mining issues, where young girls are forced into providing sexual services in remote illegal settlements, lacking police presence amid  squalid conditions.

Tackling the issue

All this, along with Peru’s poor record in prosecuting this type of crime has led to it being classified as a Tier 2 country in the U.S State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons report.

The report does note, however, Peru’s recent progress in recognizing and implementing measures to deal with the problem such as increasing staff in the anti-trafficking police unit and the establishment of a dedicated prosecutorial unit in Lima in 2014.

It can only be hoped that this increased effort to tackle child sexual exploitation ensures that pedophile networks, similar to that which Joshua David Brown is accused of establishing, will never again be able to flourish with such impunity and for so long.

See also:

Colombian authorities bust child sex-trafficking ring