[Translations of two articles from May 8, 2012, one by the Spanish news agency Efe as published in Crítica of Panama, the other by Agence France Presse as it appeared in La Prensa of Panama. See originals here and here.]
Persecution of prostitutes denounced
After the scandal involving United States Secret Service agents and sex workers, Colombian authorities have unleashed a witch hunt against sex workers, a regional organization defending their rights charged today in Panama.
On the eve of the Summit of the Americas held in Cartagena de Indias in April, Secret Service agents hired prostitutes but then refused to pay what they had agreed to for their services, Elena Reinaga, president of the Red de Trabajadoras Sexuales de Latinoamérica y el Caribe (Redtrasex – Network of Sex Workers of Latin America and the Caribbean) declared on Tuesday.
“The girls did nothing more than denounce the abuse and a witch hunt started… not only against them (those directly involved) but the police came out persecuting many others,” Reinaga stated in a press conference.
The activist believes that this situation has “reversed all the work” done in recent times in Colombia by organizations struggling for the rights of sex workers, which “had gained a little more respect” for the group.
As an example, Reinaga asserted that Colombia is the “first and only Latin American country” in which a sex workers has won a labor ruling, in a case filed two years ago after she was fired from a brothel where she worked.
“They issued a ruling and the sister won, so Colombia has that now, that contradiction: on the one hand the sisters are persecuted for protesting against the abuse of these gentlemen (of the United States Secret Service) because they wanted to leave without paying for the services, and on the other hand, they recognize one of the most fundamental rights, which is the right to work,” Reinaga stressed.
Redtrasex, founded in 1997, is currently present in Agentina, where the Secretaría Ejecutiva is located, and in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay.
The Cartagena scandal involved 12 Secret Service agents, there in advance of the arrival of President Barack Obama in that Colombian city on April 13, of whom at least nine have been punished.
According the Washington Post, the 12 agents hired an equal number of prostitutes in Cartagena but the decision by one of them, a supervisor, “not to pay one of the women, led the manager of the hotel and the local police to alert members of the US embassy on their inappropriate conduct.”
According the United States press, one of the prostitutes “was expecting 800 dollars in cash for a night with the presidential body guard” but he “offered her only 30 dollars” after the service was performed, although in the end the transaction was settled for “225 dollars.”
Diana Londoño, the 25-year-old prostitute at the center of the scandal, stated last weekend to Colombian media that she agreed to have sexual relations with one of the agents, whose name she says she does not remember, in exchange for the 800 dollars.
Prostitutes to ask OAS to legalize their work
Panama – The prostitutes of Latin America will ask the next general assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) to recognize the legality of their work and to promote punishment for violence directed against them in the region, a representative of their union has announced in Panama.
“What we want from the OAS is that they recommend to member countries that they sign (a declaration) recognizing sex work as work and that the violence end once and for all,” declared Elena Reynaga [sic], leader of the Red de Mujeres Trabajadoras Sexuales de Latinoamérica y el Caribe [sic], which includes organizations from 15 countries of the region.
The OAS will hold its next general assembly from June 3 to June 5 in Cochabamba, Bolivia, with the principal theme of food sovereignty in the Americas.
“We want recognition of the sex work of adult women who are in this work by our own consent. We want to have the same rights that other workers in our region have,” asserted Reynaga in a statement to the press.
The leader declared that sex workers are willing to pay taxes, which can be spent on public policies of a social nature.
She believes nevertheless that “this (the legalization of prostitution) does not suit many people because it (illegality) is a tremendous business.”
The prostitutes charge that on many occasions they are obliged illegally to pay the police or judicial authorities exorbitant fines in order not to be detained or, if they are foreigners, to be expelled from a country.