Trafficking models

Venezuelan modelling agencies linked to trafficking and prostitution.

Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis has resulted in an increase in human trafficking, reported the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which emphasised that the problem has significantly worsened since 2018 due to the collapse of the country’s GDP.

A recent scandal in the seemingly legitimate Sambil modelling agency revealed the scale of the problem. Jenny Rosales, head of Sambil, was arrested while preparing to travel to Dominican Republic with a number of models intended to be delivered to an illegal mining gang in the state of Bolívar.

Insight Crime reported that the Sambil Model scandal is not the first time modelling agencies have faced such accusations in Venezuela. Three executives from the Belankazar modelling agency were arrested for child exploitation in 2019 and in 2018 Osmel Souza, the founder and director of the Miss Venezuela beauty competition, was accused of running an alleged prostitution ring.

We spoke to a human rights activist who has investigated sex trafficking in the country, “Venezuela became famous for the success of its women in international beauty contests. However, in 2018, a series of complaints involving prostitution were made public relating to the Miss Venezuela competition, owned by the Cisneros Organisation, which led to the removal of Mr. Osmel Sousa from the presidency of Miss Venezuela.”

“In 2018, a series of complaints were made public that related the Miss Venezuela Organisation, owned by the Cisneros Organisation, with prostitution.”

Human rights activist, Venezuela

The same activist elaborated, “According to our sources, in Miss Venezuela quotas were reserved for businessmen linked to the Chavista regime. Thus, for example, a businessman decided who represented a certain region of Venezuela and was responsible for all the expenses of that candidate’s participation. The existence of these quotas has been linked to high-end prostitution cases and the questioning of the results of these contests. There are even candidates who after participating in Miss Venezuela have married or have become partners of important public officials of the Chavista regime. There are also reports of sexual abuse or even rape by famous people who have been in charge of preparing these candidates. An emblematic case is that of the businessman Diego Salazar (now detained) and that of Miss Claudia Suárez, who was involved in a money laundering case at the Banca Privada D’Andorra.”

“There is a network of modelling agencies around Miss Venezuela, […] some of these agencies are used as recruitment centres for prostitution.”

Businessman, director, producer and actor, Venezuela

We also spoke to a businessman, director, producer, and film, television and theatre actor in Venezuela with deep, first-hand knowledge of the entertainment industry, “There is a network of modelling agencies around Miss Venezuela, which prepare young women to compete or to enter the world of entertainment, mainly television. Some of these agencies are used as recruitment centres for prostitution. Owners and directors of television channels are also targeted to induce or provide female talent for high-end prostitution for businessmen and politicians.”

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