Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Cuba

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 4 June 2008
Cite as United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Cuba, 4 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/484f9a0f2d.html [accessed 21 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

CUBA (Tier 3)

Cuba is principally a source country for women and children trafficked within the country for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Some families push child victims to prostitute themselves as a means of increasing family income. Cuban children and adults also may be exploited for forced labor. The full scope of trafficking within Cuba is difficult to gauge due to the closed nature of the government and sparse non-governmental or independent reporting. However, by all accounts, the country is a destination for sex tourism, including child sex tourism, which is a problem in many areas of the country. Cuba's thriving sex trade caters to numerous European, Canadian, and Latin American tourists every year. State-run hotel workers, travel employees, cab drivers, and police steer tourists to prostituted women and children and facilitate their commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes extorting money or pay-offs from victims. Limited sex trafficking of Cuban women to Mexico, The Bahamas, and Western Europe has been reported. Some Cuban nationals willingly migrate to the United States, but are subsequently exploited for forced labor by their smugglers. Cuba also is a transit point for the smuggling of migrants from China, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Lebanon, and other nations to the United States and Canada. Some of these migrants may be trafficking victims, who are subject to forced labor, sexual exploitation, and abuse.

The Government of Cuba does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Exact information about trafficking in Cuba is difficult to obtain because the government does not publicly release information, and U.S. attempts to engage officials are viewed as politically motivated. Nonetheless, the Government of Cuba does not appear to have made tangible efforts to prosecute offenders, protect victims, or prevent human trafficking activity during the reporting period.

Recommendations for Cuba: Acknowledge the nature and extent of human trafficking in Cuba; amend anti-trafficking laws to prohibit all forms of trafficking; increase law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders; provide greater legal protections and assistance for victims; develop procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; increase anti-trafficking training for law enforcement; take greater steps to prevent child prostitution and child sex tourism; and rescue children from the commercial sex trade.

Prosecution

The Government of Cuba prohibits some forms of trafficking activity through various provisions of its penal code. Prostitution for persons over the age of 16 is legal. Article 316 bans transnational trafficking in minors or persons younger than 16 for the purposes of forced labor, prostitution, and pornography, prescribing penalties of seven to 15 years' imprisonment. Article 302 prohibits a defendant from inducing, promoting, or benefiting from prostitution. Such an offense carries penalties of up to 20 years in prison; if the crime is committed across international boundaries, penalties may be increased to 30 years. A second statute, Article 17 of Law Number 87, similarly prohibits the promotion or inducement of prostitution, and carries penalties of four to 10 years in prison; penalties increase to 10 to 20 years if the defendant uses force or threats against the victim. All the above penalties are sufficiently stringent, and commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. However, trafficking of adults for forced labor is not currently prohibited under Cuban law. No official data relating to Cuban investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of trafficking offenders in 2007 has been made available, and Cuban law enforcement actions may be more focused on disrupting alien smuggling networks, rather than curbing human trafficking activity. However, reporting from other sources indicates that some foreign nationals, including two American citizens, were convicted in Cuba last year for trafficking-related crimes. At least one sentence of ten years was imposed for the sexual exploitation of a minor. The government also assisted the U.S. Coast Guard with investigating potential human trafficking and alien smuggling activity, particularly cases of migrants compelled to work for smugglers or drug gangs. No investigations or prosecutions of public officials for complicity with human trafficking were noted, although some police officers reportedly accept and solicit bribes in connection with Cuba's sex trade.

Protection

Efforts by the Government of Cuba to aid trafficking victims were not officially reported over the last year, but appeared weak. Strong evidence suggests that victims are punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Although prostitution for persons over age 16 is legal in Cuba, women and children in Cuba's sex trade, including those who may be trafficking victims, are occasionally rounded up and sent to "reeducation" programs; many are sentenced to lengthy prison terms for "dangerousness" or other vagrancy crimes. Detention and rehabilitation centers for women and children in prostitution, some of whom may be trafficking victims, are not staffed with personnel who can provide adequate care, and conditions at these detention centers are reported to be harsh. Trafficking victims who are not detained have access to services available through Cuba's health system, although these services may not be adequate to deal with trafficking-related trauma. According to the British government, however, Cuba and the United Kingdom jointly fund and operate a center for sexually abused and exploited children that is accessible to child trafficking victims. The center works closely with a British NGO run by a former policeman and utilizes updated treatment techniques. It also helps children to prepare for court testimony against perpetrators through use of video technology and other victim-sensitive approaches. The government did not show evidence of employing formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as criminal detainees or people exploited in prostitution. It is not known if Cuban authorities encourage trafficking victims to assist with the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. Cuba does not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution. NGOs report that Cuban diplomatic missions do not provide assistance to Cuban women who state they were forced to travel overseas and coerced into prostitution.

Prevention

The government does not acknowledge or condemn human trafficking as a problem in Cuba, and therefore made no significant efforts to prevent incidents of trafficking throughout the year. There were no known information campaigns to prevent sex or labor trafficking, although the government ran newspaper campaigns against prostitution. In addition, police have reportedly cracked down on prostitution in tourist areas during the past year. As noted earlier, the government may have taken steps to reduce demand for commercial sex acts by prosecuting individuals engaging in sexual acts with children. In general, however, the government's efforts appear more focused on arresting women in prostitution rather than punishing clients or consumers. Cuba has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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