Tags: Marco Rubio | Robert Menendez | State Department | human trafficking | report

Rubio, Menendez Blast State Dept.'s 'Political' Human Trafficking Report

Image: Rubio, Menendez Blast State Dept.'s 'Political' Human Trafficking Report
(Richard Ellis/Getty Images; Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 27 Jul 2015 04:55 PM

Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey's Sen. Robert Menendez tore into the State Department Monday for playing politics in its annual black list on human trafficking, saying the Obama administration had "turned it back" to victims in Malaysia and Cuba.

Both nations were upgraded in the report, getting bumped from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List allowing Malaysia to stay in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

The Trade Promotion Authority, also known as fast track, passed in May with a provision denying expedited congressional consideration of any trade deal with a country listed in Tier 3, Roll Call reports.

"The administration has turned its back on the victims of trafficking, turned a blind eye to the facts, and ignored the calls from Congress, leading human rights advocates, and Malaysian government officials to preserve the integrity of this important report," Menendez said, Roll Call reports.

He noted his "profound disappointment" that the administration "elevated politics over the most basic principles of human rights," Roll Call reports.

Malaysia has faced international criticism over the trafficking of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladesh aboard overcrowded boats. Dozens of graves as well as pens likely used as cages for migrants have been found in abandoned jungle camps on both sides of the Thai-Malaysian border.

Rubio, a GOP presidential hopeful and Cuban-American, also took heated exception to the upgrade for Cuba.

"It is important that this report be a true reflection of the trafficking situation on the ground and that a country's rating not be determined by political considerations but by the country's record on this issue," Rubio said, Roll Call reports. "I find it difficult to believe that Cuba has been elevated this year from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List solely based on the Cuban regime's record."

Under Secretary of State Sarah Sewall cited progress in addressing sex trafficking in Cuba, but conceded the island nation's government has yet failed to recognize the problem of forced labor. Cuba, which had been on the blacklist for several years, has denied allegations of coerced labor on Cuban government work missions abroad.

Secretary of State John Kerry formally launched the annual U.S. assessment of how 188 governments around the world have performed in fighting the flesh trade and other forms of exploitative labor, which he described as a "battle against money."

He said the report was not intended to "name and shame" but to galvanize action against an illicit trade that the U.N. estimates generates $150 billion in profits each year, in industries also including mining, construction and domestic service.

President Barack Obama now has 90 days to determine whether to apply sanctions against Tier 3 governments.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey's Sen. Robert Menendez tore into the State Department Monday for playing politics in its annual black list on human trafficking, saying the Obama administration had "turned it back" to victims in Malaysia and Cuba.
Robert Menendez, State Department, human trafficking, report
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2015-55-27
Monday, 27 Jul 2015 04:55 PM
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