Ambassador Luis CdeBaca leads the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. State Department. Today he offers his views of the nature of human trafficking as a crime and why the various forms of modern slavery, and the people who perpetrate it, pose a unique challenge to law enforcement.
Ambassador Luis CdeBaca:
It’s organized crime, but I think that it’s important for folks to realize that organized crime circa 2010 is certainly not organized crime circa 1960. Neither are corporations, for that matter. If you look at the market capitalization of Google or Facebook, as compared to some of the more hierarchical corporations in this country, I think that we’ve seen a shift to things that are much more decentralized, things that could be described as nodal. Traditionally, we’ve thought of organized crime as a pyramid with someone at the head — whether it’s a “family,” or the shadowy figure that you see in fiction, or something. What seems to be the emerging pattern in organized crime — some of the scholars actually call it crime that is organized as opposed to the old style hierarchical, multigenerational, often ethnic-based organized crime. The American la cosa nostra is a perfect example of what we tend to think of when we think about organized crime, when in fact organized crime, just like businesses, have dispersed. You don’t necessarily just have the one phone company in the United States, anymore. You have multiple service providers. So what we see is — we see a mixture, whether it’s an opportunistic abusive employer who is on a farm somewhere who sees that they can keep their people through the next growing season if they only threaten them.
Then, at the same time you have actual organized crime groups that are also working with drugs and guns and other things. But then you might have — down the street there might be a wealthy person — God forbid a diplomat, perhaps — that has one victim and is enslaving them as a domestic servant. So this is one of the things that makes it hard to have a kind of one-size-fits-all response to human trafficking, is that it manifests itself in so many different ways. If you’re only thinking of it as a transnational organized crime problem, you start looking for Mr. Big, and it takes you into a cul-de-sac that doesn’t find those two victims being held in a barn somewhere by a farmer, or the one victim being held behind closed doors as a domestic servant. We have to look for all of them simultaneously. Not just anybody can do it, but if you look at the United States’ record on this, “anybody” is doing it. We’ve had everybody from Russian organized crime figures to suburban, two-doctor couples be convicted of this crime. This is an easy enough crime to carry out, if you have someone under your control like that, that it’s not simply criminals who do it; it’s people who normally would not be engaging in criminal activity.
This podcast is produced by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs. Links to other Internet sites or opinions expressed should not be considered an endorsement of other content and views.