[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

CUBA (TIER 3)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Cuba is principally a source of women and children trafficked within the country for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Some Cuban children are reportedly pushed into prostitution by their families, exchanging sex for money, food, or gifts. Cuban nationals voluntarily migrate illegally to the United States, and there have been reports that some are subjected to forced labor or forced prostitution by their smugglers. 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. State-run hotel workers, travel employees, cab drivers, and police steer some tourists to women and children in prostitution – including trafficking victims – though this appears to be on the decline.

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. It is difficult to assess the true extent of trafficking in Cuba. Observation and independent reports suggest that the Cuban government is taking steps to address the problem of child sex tourism, though this information cannot be verified. The government will not release information about anti-trafficking activities it may have engaged in during the past year, viewing U.S. attempts to engage officials on trafficking issues as politically motivated.

Recommendations for Cuba: Acknowledge that child sex trafficking in Cuba is a problem; provide greater legal protections and assistance for victims; develop procedures to identify possible trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; increase anti-trafficking training for law enforcement; and, take greater steps to prevent the trafficking of children in prostitution.

Cuba prohibits most forms of trafficking activity through various provisions of its penal code. While prostitution for persons over the age of 16 is legal, Title III, Section First Article 310 provides that using children under 16 in prostitution, corruption, pornographic acts or other illegal conduct may be punishable by from seven to 30 years' imprisonment or death. Article 316, on the selling of minors, bans internal and transnational trafficking in children under the age of 16 for forced labor, prostitution, trade in organs, and pornography, and prescribes penalties of between four and 20 years’ imprisonment. Articles 302 and 87 prohibit inducing an adult into prostitution and prescribe penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment. All these penalties are sufficiently stringent, and commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. Trafficking of adults for forced labor, however, is not prohibited under Cuban law. No official data relating to Cuban investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of trafficking offenders in 2008 or any other year has been made public. An NGO in Cuba reports that a number of Cubans were convicted for human trafficking in the past year, but the majority of the crimes appear to be alien smuggling without an element of exploitation. The government continued to assist the U.S. Coast Guard with investigating potential human trafficking cases within alien smuggling groups, particularly cases of illegal migrants forced to work for smugglers or drug gangs. Corruption remained a problem throughout the government. Reports continued of individual police officers accepting bribes and profiting from the commercial sex trade. No investigations or prosecutions of public officials have been confirmed.

Efforts by the Government of Cuba to aid trafficking victims were not officially reported over the last year, but appeared weak. Evidence suggests that victims are punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. Although adult prostitution is legal in Cuba, police occasionally rounded up women and children in Cuba’s sex trade and charged them with vague crimes such as “dangerousness” without attempting to identify trafficking victims among the detained persons. Adolescents found in prostitution were sent to either juvenile detention facilities or work camps emphasizing politicized rehabilitation. Personnel in most detention and rehabilitation centers which may house trafficking victims cannot provide adequate care, and conditions at some of these detention centers appear to be harsh. Trafficking victims who are not detained may access the limited services available through Cuba’s health system. Two sexual abuse treatment centers run by the government with assistance from an NGO which provide advanced care and counseling to child sexual abuse victims and child witnesses are available to trafficking victims. Trained law enforcement and court personnel record videos of interviews and testimony, practices which could reduce children’s court appearances in trafficking cases if they were to be so used. The centers’ staff also provided specialized victim protection training to treatment professionals, police, prosecutors, and judges. The government did not show evidence of employing formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as people exploited in prostitution. Cuba claims to have a policy of encouraging victims of any crimes to participate in investigations and prosecutions, though there were no victims of trafficking known to be so encouraged during the reporting period. Cuba did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution. NGOs report that Cuban missions in foreign countries routinely refuse assistance to Cuban women who state they were forced to travel overseas and coerced into prostitution.

The government does not acknowledge or condemn human trafficking as a problem in Cuba. No known information campaigns to prevent sex or labor trafficking took place during the reporting period. The government has taken steps to reduce demand for commercial sex acts by prosecuting child sex offenders. U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals are currently serving lengthy sentences in Cuba for sexual exploitation of a minor; in the one new case this year, a Cuban-American was arrested in March 2008 and charged with corruption of minors, an offense usually involving sexual exploitation of children under 14. This case has not yet gone to trial. The government collects information on identified child sexual predators; immigration officials at ports of entry use this information to deny them entry to Cuba. Cuba has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.