- The Washington Times - Monday, June 6, 2005

Caracas condemned

Venezuela denounced the State Department for placing it on a black list of countries that fail to take even minimum steps to prevent forced child labor and the sexual exploitation of women.

The Venezuelan Embassy complained that the department’s move is a “sad demonstration of how the [Bush] administration has politicized its work on human rights.”

The inclusion of Venezuela as a “tier three” country, the worst category in the annual Report on Human Trafficking, increases the tension between the United States and the government of left-wing President Hugo Chavez, a champion of anti-American causes in Latin America.

The State Department placed Venezuela on a list that includes Cuba, North Korea and other major violators of human rights.

“Venezuela is a source, transit and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor,” said the State Department report, which was released last week.

Smugglers sell women and children from Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guyana and Peru to brothels and sweatshops in Venezuela, the report said.

“Traffickers lure victims with promises of lucrative jobs or educational opportunities and take advantage of lax border controls or move victims using illegally obtained Venezuelan or false travel documents,” the report said.

The State Department blamed the Venezuelan government for failing to “fully comply with the minimum standards for elimination of trafficking” and the report cited “widespread” corruption among immigration officials and border patrol agents.

The embassy, however, insisted the government has initiated public awareness programs, assisted private charities that try to rescue the exploited women and children and placed undercover agents in motels and hostels in the capital, Caracas, to try to unmask the smugglers.

“The issue is whether Venezuela is working actively and with a seriousness of purpose to combat human trafficking,” the embassy said. “The answer, as demonstrated by our deeds, is a clear and cogent, ‘Yes.’”

Pakistan piqued

Pakistani Ambassador Jehangir Karamat is complaining about “extraordinary delays” Pakistanis face trying to get visas to work or study in the United States.

Mr. Karamat met last week with Maura Harty, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, who promised to try to reduce the red tape facing citizens from a country seen as one of the most important U.S. partners in the war on terrorism.

The ambassador said Pakistanis in Canadian border cities also face problems commuting to jobs in the United States and asked that they be given visa waivers.

He cited delays in the issuance of H1B work visas, F1 student visas and J1 visas for doctors, scientists, researchers and teachers in U.S.-Pakistani exchange programs.

“The assistant secretary … assured the ambassador that her bureau was making efforts to speed up the process,” the Pakistani Embassy said. “She said that students and businessmen are being given priority for the issuance of visas, but at time delays occur due to security clearance requirements, which in some cases take longer time.”

Indian visit official

The meeting next month between President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will mark “the next stage” in the expanding relationship between the United States and the South Asian powerhouse, the White House said in officially announcing the July 18 visit.

“The two leaders will discuss all aspects of U.S.-India bilateral relations, including energy, economic and strategic elements,” the White House said on Friday.

Embassy Row last week noted Indian press reports of Mr. Singh’s plans for a three-day Washington visit, beginning July 18. His supporters here are trying to arrange for him to address Congress.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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