Human trafficking is quickly becoming a trend in Venezuela, as scores of young women are looking for food and work in the face of growing poverty.
Sixteen-year-old Yoskeili Zurita ran away from home and was promised work and food from a group of men. Instead, they smuggled her on a boat, headed for a brothel in Trinidad. Dozens of other women had been crammed into this fishing boat, including the girl’s cousin, which soon capsized under the weight and growing waves from the ocean. Women tried to bail out water with their shoes but with little effect.
Some of the women didn’t know how to swim, but some, like Zurita, clung to the ship for two days before fishermen found her. Before the girl was rescued, she remembered her cousin, who couldn’t swim, saying, “I can’t do this.” Those that couldn’t swim started to climb on top of those that could, trying to breathe. The boat started with 38 passengers, most of them women, and only 9 survived. Some waited days to be rescued, and grew more and more desperate. As one survivor said, “We went on our knees, we prayed to God, screaming.”
The tragedy was felt across Venezuela, even though the nation frequently faces hunger, hyperinflation, and other crimes. In the case of 4 million Venezuelans over the last four years, the only way out is to leave the country, whatever the risks may be.
Some cross through the dangerous trails of the Andes mountains. Others sell their hair and stay in refugee tents in Brazil and Colombia. Some head out in leaky, old boats without much gas or even all of the parts. Many of these boats are lost at sea.
As far as the women victims of the human trafficking ring, government support is extremely lacking. It was nearly impossible for the Venezuelan government to come up with the fuel to launch a rescue party. Besides that, two soldiers have been charged as part of a criminal group trying to smuggle the women to Trinidad.
This isn’t the first time tragedy has fallen upon a boat full of smuggled women. In May of this year, another smuggling boat sank with 33 passengers on board. Only the captain survived, disappearing before he could be questioned.
Zurita now spends her time sitting at home, replaying that night, wondering why she survived and so many did not. Some of these women had lost their jobs, then their children. She remembers the women taking off their clothes in a desperate attempt to help stay afloat.
The victims’ fathers watched their entire families slowly disappear. As the men lost their jobs and food and money became more scarce, they felt that the only option was to send their daughters abroad for a chance at a better life.
With the lack of government support, basic supplies, and growing desperation, it is unlikely that the situation in Venezuela will change any time soon. Women are in danger and the government needs to get rid of the corruption to help these women.