Bonita woman, Anna Rodriguez, inducted into Florida Women’s Hall of Fame

Bonita Springs activist Anna Rodriguez, a local leader in the fight against human trafficking, is being inducted Tuesday into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.

She certainly hasn’t dedicated more than a decade of her life to combating human trafficking for the money – she hasn’t drawn a salary in over a year.

“This is not about who’s famous and who gets more money,” said Rodriguez, 57, the founder and executive director of the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking. “This is about people that are suffering.”

Still, the Bonita Springs resident took time out of her schedule this week to drive to Tallahassee, where she was one of two women inducted Tuesday night into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.

“These are human beings. These are children,” Rodriguez said during an emotional ceremony in the Capitol courtyard. “Not only international, but now our domestic, our U.S. kids, are now victims of this horrific crime. Please, I beg of you, I beg of our governor, our attorney general, everyone please help me, help me find these victims. Help me rescue them.”

Rodriguez, a native of Puerto Rico who moved to Florida in the 1970s, is the first Southwest Florida woman inducted into the hall. She said she was nominated by a former employee of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

“What’s impressive is the fact that here’s an individual who took it upon herself to change history,” said Gov. Rick Scott, who made the final hall of fame selections. “I mean, human trafficking is a big problem in our state, it’s a big problem in our country, and it’s a big problem world wide. She, on her own, got started and had a dramatic impact.”

Tuesday’s other inductee was the late Mary Brennan Karl, a WWII-era educator from Daytona.

About 150 people attended the ceremony, including Brennan’s now elderly son, Fred Karl, the former Hillsborough County administrator.

Rodriguez and Brennan join 80 other women – businesswomen, journalists, politicians, scientists and athletes – in the hall of fame; their plaques adorning a wing of the first floor of the Florida Capitol. Famous inductees include singer/songwriter Gloria Estefan, tennis player Chris Evert, the nation’s first female attorney general, Janet Reno, and authors Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

“When I saw all the names that were listed I was like ‘oh my God, and here me,’ ” she said. “But I was very honored and very humbled, and very shocked.”

Rodriguez was described Tuesday as an “indomitable force in the global fight against human trafficking.” She started her work against human trafficking in the late 1990s, while working as a victim’s advocate with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

While working in Immokalee, Rodriguez came across her first human trafficking case – a Guatemalan girl who had been kidnapped and sold into a life of domestic servitude.

“I could not understand how human beings were treated worse than animals,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez established the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking in 2004. She is also an international liaison for the U.S. Department of State and a trainer for the Organization of American States.

In 2004, Rodriguez was honored by President George W. Bush for her work rescuing human trafficking victims.

Rodriguez most recently made news when she traveled to Dallas in February on the hunt for child prostitutes and sex slaves brought in for the Super Bowl. Her coalition identified 48 leads during their time in Dallas, and six girls were eventually rescued by law enforcement, she said.

The Florida Women’s Hall of Fame began in 1982, and became permanent, by law, in 1992.

The Florida Commission on the Status of Women, a diverse group of women appointed from around the state, accepts nominations from April 1 to July 15 every year. The commission then narrows the list down to 10 finalists, and from that list the governor selects up to three inductees.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist allowed Scott to make this year’s selections.

“When we narrowed it down to 10, (Rodriguez) really stood out among those 10 because human trafficking obviously is a huge issue in the state of Florida,” said Claudia Kirk Barto, a member of the commission.

Naples was slated to have its first inductee in 2007.

However, Kathy Herrmann Catino, the former CEO of the Shelter for Abused Women and Children of Collier County, asked that her name be withdrawn after she was accused of pushing an employee and voter intimidation. She was eventually arrested.

However, investigations into the accusations against Catino were eventually dropped.

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© 2011 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Golden Gate man arrested on 30 counts of child porn charges

— A 42-year-old Golden Gate man was arrested Tuesday after deputies found images and videos of child pornography on his home computer.

Julio R. Marin-Rios, 5048 28th Place S.W., was charged with 30 counts of possession of child pornography.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation after receiving a cybertip from the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children.

According to the tip, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office had identified an Internet Protocol address suspected of posting child pornography to a Google Groups site. The pornography contained male children under the age of 12 engaged in sex acts with adults and alone.

Further investigation by a detectives traced the IP address back to Marin-Rios.

A preliminary forensic analysis of Marin-Rios’ home computer turned up 30 pictures and video files of pre-pubescent boys involved in sex acts with each other or alone.

© 2011 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Human Rights Crusader

Anna I. Rodriguez of Bonita Springs is considered by many to be an indomitable force in the global fight against human trafficking. A native of Puerto Rico, she immigrated to Miami in late 1974. She is the founder and Executive Director of the Florida Coalition against Human Trafficking, an organization whose mission is to eradicate human trafficking locally, nationally, and internationally. Ms. Rodriguez works tirelessly to raise the consciousness of communities and professionals throughout Florida in an effort to inspire others to join the fight to combat human trafficking. She also serves as an international liaison between the U.S. Department of State and has been asked to meet with and provide valuable information to visitors from Uzbekistan, India, United Arab, Germany, Russia, Italy, UK, Haiti and other countries. Ms. Rodriguez also serves as a trainer for the Organization of American States and has conducted trainings in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean since 2006. On July 16, 2004, Ms. Rodriguez was publicly recognized by President George W. Bush for her dedication to rescue human trafficking victims. U.S. Congressman Mario Diaz Balart presented Ms. Rodriguez with an American flag flown from the U.S. Capitol in recognition of her efforts. She was also recognized by Congresswoman Stella Marie Cordoba on behalf of the Congress of Argentina for her support and assistance in the creation of Argentina’s human trafficking law. Ms. Rodriguez’s passion continues to inspire others to become bridge builders uniting to rescue victims of human trafficking, the “invisible slaves of the 21st century”.
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Delta Air Lines Signs Tourism Code of Conduct, Joining ECPAT-USA in Fight Against Child Trafficking

This is excellent news!! Good job Delta!! It is good to see large companies joining the fight against human trafficking. unfortunately many victims of trafficking, whether they are sex trafficking , labor trafficking or domestic servitude victims, are on being transported via airlines. What people may not take into consideration that the person sitting next to you on the plane may be a victim of human trafficking. This will be good and our hope here at FCAHT is that airline stewardess will be able to learn the indicators of a potential victim and begin reporting their concerns.

First Major Airline to Combat Global Child Trafficking in the Travel Sector

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Mar 10, 2011 – New York, NY – ECPAT-USA, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies to protect sexually exploited children, announced that Delta Air Lines has become the first major airline in the world to enter the fight against the commercial sexual exploitation of children by signing the tourism Code of Conduct (The Code). The Code specifically focuses on the protection of children from sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism industries. While The Code has been signed by almost 1,000 travel industry members worldwide, Delta is the first U.S. air carrier and the third U.S. organization to sign.

As a subscriber to The Code, Delta will implement policies that condemn child trafficking and provide training to help their employees identify and report trafficking activities. Delta will also raise awareness among customers by including information about ECPAT and the Code in its Sky magazine and website.

According to Carol Smolenski, Executive Director of ECPAT-USA, the purpose of The Code is to prevent and mitigate child trafficking, as well as encourage a socially responsible, child-wise tourism industry.

“All travel companies could unwittingly be facilitating the sex trafficking of children. If they do nothing to raise awareness or to prevent child trafficking, they risk becoming an indirect and unintentional conduit for the abuse that takes places,” said Smolenski. “We applaud Delta Air Lines for taking the first step toward helping fight the sex trafficking of children that has become a global epidemic.”

Other U.S. organizations that have signed The Code include Carlson Companies, which owns the popular Radisson Hotels, and Global Exchange’s Reality Tours. Smolenski noted that Delta’s signing of The Code is an important milestone in ECPAT’s ongoing efforts to reach U.S. travel companies and create awareness of their need to provide leadership in tackling child trafficking incidents that can happen within their premises.

“On behalf of Delta and its leadership team, Delta is proud to be the first U.S. airline to sign The Code. We look forward to playing a role in ECPAT’s important mission to raise awareness about and combat child trafficking. Delta prides itself on doing what is right, and this is the morally right thing to do,” said Richard Anderson, CEO, Delta Air Lines.

Smolenski added: “ECPAT-USA is grateful for the work of Sister Valerie Heinonen of Mercy Investment Services for helping create this new partnership with Delta Air Lines.”

ECPAT-USA, the U.S. arm of ECPAT International, is focused on protecting children trafficked into the U.S., American children trafficked for sexual exploitation, and foreign children exploited by American tourists traveling abroad. ECPAT International is a global network of organizations working together for the elimination of child trafficking, child prostitution and child pornography. The network is comprised of 81 groups in 74 countries around the world. All ECPAT groups are independent grassroots organizations, working to combat child exploitation at the local level. For more information, visit