USA: Senators probe political motives for upgrade of some countries in trafficking report

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stop-human-trafficking.jpgThe top Republican and top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are raising questions about the integrity of the State Department's annual report on human trafficking, pointing to the upgraded status of Cuba and Malaysia as cause for concern.

The report...lifted both Cuba and Malaysia from Tier 3, considered the worst offenders, to the Tier 2 Watch List. It said both countries are making progress in battling sex trafficking and various forms of forced labor...But the upgrade for Cuba comes as the Obama administration has renewed diplomatic ties and is pursuing more cooperation with the communist-led island nation.

The upgrade for Malaysia, where mass graves of migrant workers have recently spurred alarm, also makes it legally easier to include the country in a massive Asia-Pacific trade pact...The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but officials have previously insisted political considerations were not a factor in ranking the countries in the report. The TIP rankings can have tangible effects on the countries named by leading to a reduction in certain forms of U.S. assistance for the poor performers.