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Adela, a wispy adolescent-looking girl with braces and a blonde ponytail, recently ventured to the tourist hub of Cartagena from her hometown on the other side of Colombia to try sex work for the first time. She claimed on a recent day that she was of age to work — prostitution is legal in Colombia starting at 18 — but would not share an ID to prove it.
All she wanted to do, she said, is support her baby by servicing wealthy travelers in Colombia's tourist capital. Due to the sensitive nature of the business, she and several other subjects asked VICE News not to publish their last names.
VICE News visited Cartagena recently to examine why so many youths are being drawn into sex work, and found a highly organized scheme serving lusty foreigners while pumping profits to tourism agencies, taxi drivers, and other entrepreneurs.
Finding sex for pay is easy here. Prostitutes fill the main square nightly in Cartagena, and line police-patrolled streets. A network of taxi drivers and candy vendors profit from matching new visitors with the youth of their desire, sources said. Buenaventura: Dismemberment and Displacement. Watch the full-length documentary. He drives the girls to clients and takes passengers to the girl of their choice. Impoverished youths often feel pressure to enter the lucrative field.
Underage sex workers can also be manipulated by organized prostitution rings, as a bust in October demonstrated. Suarez had promised the fake American tourists that she "had experience preparing, recruiting and controlling girls," an investigator who participated in the sting, Matteo, told VICE News. As he and Suarez discussed the sex party, the "dolled-up" former beauty queen sat between a year-old and a year-old girl on a couch in a working-class Cartagena neighborhood.