U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement today on the release of the State Department's 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report:
"In our own hemisphere, Cuba is the only country to receive the worst, Tier 3, designation. That badge of shame is well-earned, as the Castro regime has been deliberately promoting Cuba as a destination for sexual tourism, exploiting large numbers of Cuban girls and boys. This year, the brutal Syrian regime joined Cuba and other tyrannical regimes such as Iran and North Korea on the Tier 3 list.
"It is unfortunate that the Administration upgraded Venezuela from the Tier 3 to the Tier 2 Watch List based on the Chavez regime's commitment to take action in the future. I am also extremely skeptical that China was granted a waiver, based on unfulfilled pledges, that allows it to remain on the Tier 2 Watch List, where it has been parked for the past 8 years. Real progress, not paper promises, should be required to keep abusive regimes from receiving deserved Tier 3 designations.
"Overall, this report underscores how pervasive slavery remains even in the 21st century. Twelve years after Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, 17 nations still fail to uphold basic standards for preventing this scourge. The report illustrates the bleak realities still facing tens of millions of people who fall victim to forced labor and sex trafficking. Most victims are women and girls.
"I am also concerned by a growing scourge that is not covered in this year's report. With the rising global demand for transplant organs, the horrific practice of trafficking for organ harvesting is a significant and growing problem that threatens the basic health of the world's most vulnerable populations. I am working on a bill to ensure that global anti-trafficking efforts also combat this growing plague."