Mercy Joins Anti-Trafficking Efforts in Argentina
By Sister Deborah
Over 150 people in the small border city of Clorinda, Formosa, Argentina, signed a declaration this spring promising to combat the trafficking of persons. The action concluded a workshop sponsored by various organizations including the Sisters of Mercy and Ñande Roga Guazú, the women and children’s center we sponsor in a poor barrio of Clorinda.
Martha Pelloni, a Carmelite Sister and iconic figure in the fight against violence and corruption, presented the two-day workshop with her colleague Wanda Candal. Members of law-enforcement, judicial, child protection and other government agencies participated along with a number of non-governmental organizations and private persons, including a large group of college students. Themes of trafficking of persons and the related problems of violence, corruption, and addictions were presented.
The city of Clorinda sits on the trafficking route connecting its poorer neighbor Paraguay with Buenos Aires and points beyond both in Argentina and internationally. Mercy Sister Estela Gomez and others concerned about the growing problem decided to take action. Somewhat naively, Estela and two others prepared posters and fliers and went to two border crossing sites to distribute them. The reaction of immigration officials was less than friendly. And the posters immediately disappeared. However, many others they met –taxi drivers, stevedores, money changers, etc.—were eager to share what they experience on a daily basis.
Estela would comment later: “I felt like a little rabbit in the midst of wild beasts. It was suddenly so clear that the trafficking of one young woman takes place within a system of organized corruption.”
The small group of concerned persons continued to gather and to strategize. Estela and I crossed over to Asunción, Paraguay, to consult with the municipal agency handling problems of trafficking. Two staff members later journeyed to Clorinda to be part of an initial consciousness raising day in which 70 people participated. An Argentine documentary entitled “Nina” was viewed. It recounts the terrible journey of two young girls who are trafficked from the area around the Paraguay-Argentine border. The film depicts well the socio-economic situation of the women which causes them to be so vulnerable. It also presents the complexity and corruption of the process of ensnaring and transporting these women.
Subsequently, the longer workshop with Sister Martha Pelloni and her non-governmental organization Infancia Robada (Stolen Childhood), resulted in the formation of a network and a Clorinda-Formosa chapter of the NGO. Unfortunately in the face of strong criticism with regard to government inaction, agencies withdrew for political reasons.