I would first like to welcome the U.S. Ambassador-At-Large to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Luis CdeBaca, Brad Riley, Producer of Be Relentless and his team, and of course, Norma Bastidas.
Thank you all for coming here this morning, and a special thanks to the nonprofit organization FAIR Girls which brought this incredible project to the eyes of our Consular Section.
When preparing for this event, we agreed to meet Norma somewhere in the middle. So, we drove the three short miles here from the Embassy and Norma ran, swam and biked 3,500 miles.
All joking aside, we are all here to acknowledge an extraordinary achievement by an inspirational woman and talk about an ongoing struggle that affects us all, regardless of where we live.
Almost every country in the world has been touched by the problem of modern slavery. There are between 20 and 30 million such victims in the world today. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, globally, women and girls together account for about 75 per cent of them. Most of the exploitation is sexual, forced labor and domestic servitude, and is frequently linked to transnational organized crime.
Human trafficking is also one of the most lucrative illicit businesses in the world. The illicit enterprise accounts for around US$25 billion annually. But the crime of human trafficking is also closely linked to counterfeiting, illicit drugs and illegal arms. So, all in all, it is a global business worth $US 687 billion.
Mexico is keenly aware of the problem of human trafficking. Many Mexican men, women and children are, as we speak, exploited in forced labor in agriculture, domestic service and in the informal economy, either in Mexico, the US and or other countries.
It is for this reason that our country has increased law enforcement efforts at the federal and state level to combat human trafficking. As a result of the anti-trafficking law in June 2012, states in Mexico now have an obligation to adjust their state laws in accordance with federal law, and they are working to do so.
The federal government also created a group of analysts to coordinate efforts among institutions to combat trafficking in persons (and Ambassador CdeBaca can tell us more about the interagency group he leads in the US with the same goal) as one of many concrete actions to confront the issue.
But there is more to be done and it is crucial to recognize that everyone has a role to play. Norma knows this. She also knows that it is not impossible to make a difference.
Who would have thought that a human being could cross two countries, from Cancun to DC, on her own, biking, running and swimming over a two month period? That is around 58 miles a day.
She made it. Her inner will, courage and persistence helped her overcome all obstacles, in order to give the voice to millions of women like her. She is inspiring them as well as all of us who watch her feat, to break the silence and walk the talk –or run the talk- on an issue that involves us all and has no borders.
Her triathlon is a reminder to all of us to do our part, by raising awareness and bringing this as a governmental utmost priority. If we all contribute, and exhibit even a small part Norma’s relentlessness, we can make a difference against one of the greatest global plagues – human trafficking.
Please join me in applauding Norma for her determination and everything she stands for.