Argentine forces crack down on massive slavery ring
June 13, 2013 -- Updated 0028 GMT (0828 HKT)
- NEW: 23 people have been arrested for alleged connections to a trafficking ring
- Forces conduct raids in more than 70 locations in 10 provinces across Argentina
- Officials say they rescued more than 200 Colombians working in subhuman conditions
- In one province, raids target furniture-making workshops
(CNN) -- Argentine authorities raided sites across the country Wednesday as part of what they called a nationwide slavery ring crackdown.
Hundreds of agents swarmed more than 70 locations in 10 provinces, rescuing more than 200 Colombians who had been working in subhuman conditions, officials said.
Authorities detained 23 people accused of recruiting victims into the human-trafficking scheme that investigators say brought Colombians to Argentina and then forced them to work to pay off their travel debts.
"We are looking at a case of slave labor, but in the modern concept of the term," said Carlos Sanchez, Argentina's director general of social security.
"They are not in chains," he said, according to a government statement. But Sanchez said the workers were subjugated and manipulated psychologically to participate in the criminal organization and work in subhuman conditions.
In Cordoba province, the raids focused on furniture-making workshops in working-class neighborhoods, the state-run Telam news agency reported.
The investigation, which lasted more than two years, started when a victim spoke with an Argentine customs agent about the trafficking ring, officials said.
Authorities at Cordoba's international airport also followed leads when they observed the arrival of groups of young Colombians without luggage or money.
A year ago, dozens of Catholic bishops from throughout South America said human trafficking had seen "alarming growth" in the region.
Sixty bishops from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay called the practice "a shameful and outrageous reality" and pledged to do more to fight it.
"We warn of the existence of organized mafias," the bishops said, "that use smaller networks that are present in nearly all of our cities and towns."
Those accused of human trafficking in Argentina face possible prison sentences of between four and 14 years, if convicted, federal officials said Wednesday.
CNN's Jose Manuel Rodriguez contributed to this report from Buenos Aires.
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0948 GMT (1748 HKT)
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1054 GMT (1854 HKT)
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1431 GMT (2231 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.