December 27, 2022 Update: 3 additional arrests, 6 more girls freed!
The victories we shared in this case in November were only the beginning of our Latin American investigators’ work in this dangerous port city. As they continued to investigate leads in partnership with national law enforcement, our team was able to identify 6 more teenage girls who were being psychologically manipulated and trafficked for sex.
Police entered the brothels where these girls were being exploited, freeing them and arresting 3 additional traffickers!
The continued disruption of trafficking in this deeply dangerous and corrupt area is one of the ways that The Exodus Road’s team continues to champion freedom, through your support.
The coastal air was heavy with nighttime humidity, a sticky seasalt darkness shrouding the outlines of battered buildings. Beneath the blanket of the darkness, the port city seethed with activity. Some of that activity was legal; much of it was not.
Like many port cities, this particular one is a notorious staging ground for drug and human trafficking. The run down buildings standing in the darkness hold bars where customers buy drinks, drugs, and time to sexually exploit women and girls.
This was the hive of illicit activity that The Exodus Road’s Latin American team was invited to infiltrate.
Law enforcement heard rumors that some of the girls being sold on these streets were minors. They reached out to The Exodus Road’s team: can you find out the truth?
The neighborhood was one of the most dangerous places The Exodus Road’s team has ever gone. But they knew that if they could end the exploitation of even one girl, it would be worth the risk.
In the course of three months of investigation, the team built a relationship with a trafficker who worked as a taxi driver. He offered them a digital catalog of girls, their pictures laid out in rows like products instead of people.
That’s how they first saw Amalia* and Maura.*
These two teenage girls were far from home. Raised in Venezuela, they fled the precarious political and economic situation in their country to find stable work. But the men who had transported the girls from the border of their home country to this port town had lied. Instead of the safety they’d hoped to find, Amalia and Maura were being rotated between hotels in a dangerous neighborhood, sexually abused by customers in order to earn meager food and shelter from their trafficker.
The deeper investigators dug, the more they understood that Amalia and Maura’s situation was likely shared by many other girls in these dark buildings by the sea. One of The Exodus Road’s investigators grimly wrote: “in these brothels, terror is the common denominator.”
As heavy as the situation was, the team refused to become paralyzed by fear. They delivered the information they’d gathered to the authorities. Law enforcement moved on the brothel and found Amalia and Maura, arresting the trafficker who was selling them.
The operation wasn’t done yet. In the course of gathering evidence, The Exodus Road’s team had also become aware of Renata,* another teenage girl who was being trafficked. Renata was being held nearby, kept in a dilapidated building where the room she slept in was open to the weather. Law enforcement freed Renata, bringing her to safety. They will continue to work towards justice for those who trafficked her.
These three teenagers have all been placed in government aftercare services to heal and receive support as they take steps toward a new life. Freed from trauma and terror, Amalia, Maura, and Renata are finally safe.
The Exodus Road’s Latin American team will not stop until all who are being trafficked and exploited are free. You can be a part of helping them find more girls and support law enforcement in bringing justice to the darkest criminal operations.
Our teams need consistent support to continue this work. Our Search + Rescue community gives monthly to ensure rescue for more girls like Amalia and Maura. Will you commit to a monthly gift so that girls currently trapped in the terror of trafficking could be found and freed?