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Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                                   

Republic of Cuba

The government continues to balance the need for economic loosening against a desire for firm political control. It has rolled back limited reforms undertaken in the 1990s to increase enterprise efficiency and alleviate serious shortages of food, consumer goods, and services. The average Cuban's standard of living remains at a lower level than before the downturn of the 1990s, which was caused by the loss of Soviet aid and domestic inefficiencies.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Cuba

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.   - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009   Check out a later country report here or a full TIP Report here



CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Cuba.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to verify their authenticity or to validate their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Cuba in Revolution --- Escape From a Lost Paradise by Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.

Book Review by Russell L. Blaylock, MD -- Source:, Jan. 11, 2002

[accessed 17 July 2013]

The stories of immense human courage, while bringing you to tears, also fills you with hope for the world, knowing that there are still men left in the world of such a caliber. Particularly touching was the story of the young Pedro Luis Boitel thrown in a prison where he was starved, beaten daily and tortured beyond human endurance for the crime of disagreeing with the supreme leader. During imprisonment his legs became infected secondary to the torture wounds. At that point he weighed a mere eighty pounds. He was denied medical attention and eventually both of his legs had to be amputated. He still refused to yield to his torturers. Not satisfied, Castro ordered him thrown in an even worse dungeon where he soon died. This story was to be repeated thousands of times.

As proclaimed by Hillary Clinton in her book, It Takes a Village, Castro also boldly stated that the children belong to the State. Forced labor and indoctrination disguised as education was enforced with a gun. Children were forcibly taken away from their parents at a tender age and made to do hard labor in the cane and tobacco fields. The American media saw it as Cuban patriotism, as did the useful idiot American students who travel to Cuba with the Venceremos Brigades.


*** ARCHIVES ***

Cuban Ambassador reacts to US human trafficking allegations

[Cstegory – Contesting the TIP Report ]

Sharefil Gaillard, Caribbean News, 6 July 2020

[accessed 9 July 2020]

Cuban ambassador to Saint Lucia, Alejandro Simancas Martin, has responded to allegations that the nation is using its medical missions programme as a form of human trafficking.

According to the US State Department: "The Cuban government keeps most of the wages earned by its doctors and nurses while serving on its international medical missions and exposes them to atrocious working conditions.

Cuban doctors were sent to several countries around the world to assist in the fight against the coronavirus.   Saint Lucia was among these countries and received 100 medical personnel from Cuba.   According to the Cuban ambassador, the accusations seem to be a political stunt by the United States.

U.S. human trafficking report: China, Iran, N. Korea worst offenders

Nicholas Sakelaris, United Press International UPI, 20 June 2019

[accessed 20 June 2019]

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday human trafficking is a strain on humanity that violates basic human rights. He named China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and Cuba among the worst offenders.

Those countries all scored the lowest on the 2019 Trafficking in Person report released by the U.S. State Department.

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cuba

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 1 June 1, 2021]


Medical workers formed the largest sector of the government’s labor exports. The NGO Cuban Prisoners Defenders collected testimony from 622 former medical workers that documented the country’s coercive and abusive labor practices within this sector. The workers described how they were forced to join the program and were prevented from leaving it, despite being overworked and not earning enough to support their families. Former participants described human trafficking indicators, including coercion, nonpayment of wages, withholding of their passports and academic credentials, and restriction on their movement. The government denied all of these allegations. Similar practices occurred in the tourism sector.


The government used some high school students in rural areas in the Escuela al Campo (school to countryside) plan to harvest crops on government farms during peak harvest time. Student participants were not paid but as compensation received school credit and favorable recommendations for university admission. Ministry of Education officials used the Escuela al Campo plan to make students ages 11 to 17 work in the agricultural sector with no pay. Students were expected to work 45 days during the first academic quarter. Failure to participate or obtain an excused absence reportedly could result in unfavorable grades or poor university recommendations, although students were reportedly able to participate in other activities (instead of the harvest) to support their application for university admission. Children who performed agricultural work under the Escuela al Campo plan were not given proper tools, clothing, footwear, or food. Deficient and unsanitary living conditions, coupled with poor infrastructure, exposed them to diseases such as dengue fever, zika, and chikungunya.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 26 April 2020]


Average official salaries remain extremely low. The national currency is very weak, encouraging an exodus of trained personnel into the private and tourism sectors, where the convertible peso—pegged to the US dollar—is used. Cubans employed by foreign firms are often much better remunerated than their fellow citizens, even though most are contracted through a state employment agency that siphons off the bulk of their wages and uses political criteria in screening applicants.

Rights & Wrongs: Nigerian Justice, Gender Violence, UAE and Cuba

Juliette Terzieff, World Politics Review,  03 Mar 2008

[partially accessed 30 January 2011 - access restricted]

CUBA SIGNS HUMAN RIGHTS TREATIES - Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque signed two major international human rights treaties Feb. 28 that former Cuban leader Fidel Castro opposed for more than three decades.  The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees protections for numerous rights, including the rights of self-determination, peaceful assembly, freedom of religion and equal protection under the law, while the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights requires signatories to protect rights to work, to join or form labor unions, to fair wages and to education. Both treaties are legally binding on signatories and part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Refugee Admissions Program for Latin America and the Caribbean

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Fact Sheet, February 6, 2009

[accessed 17 July 2013]

CUBAN PROGRAM - At present, the bulk of U.S. refugee processing in the region is conducted in Cuba. The refugee program is a component of the U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords under which the U.S. has agreed to issue a minimum of 20,000 travel documents annually to Cubans for permanent resettlement in the United States. Over 4,100 Cubans arrived in the United States last year through the refugee program. Cubans eligible to apply for admission to the United States through the in-country refugee program under the Priority 2 (P-2) category include:

  • Former political prisoners;
  • Members of persecuted religious minorities;
  • Human rights activists;
  • Forced labor conscripts during the period 1965-1968;
  • Persons deprived of their professional credentials or subjected to other disproportionately harsh or discriminatory treatment resulting from their perceived or actual political or religious beliefs; and
  • Persons who have experienced or fear harm because of their relationship – family or social – to someone who falls under one of the preceding categories.

Cubans outside Cuba may be considered for resettlement if referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or a U.S. Embassy

Cuba's International Human Rights Obligations

Human Rights Watch, Cuba's Repressive Machinery - Human Rights Forty Years after the Revolution, June 1999

[accessed 30 January 2011]

ARBITRARY ARREST, DETENTION, AND EXILE - Cuba frequently subjects nonviolent dissidents to arbitrary arrests and detentions. Human rights activists and independent journalists are among the government's most frequent targets, along with independent labor organizers, religious believers, members of independent political parties, organizations of independent academics and medical professionals, environmental activists, and others. These improper arrests and detentions, which serve as intimidating measures designed to silence dissent, violate Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Cuba often ratchets up pressure on government opponents by subjecting them to repeated arrests, short-or long-term detentions, or criminal prosecutions. In many cases, the government then presents activists with the "choice" to go to prison, or continue serving a prison term, or be exiled from their homeland. This practice violates the UDHR, which explicitly prohibits governments from exiling citizens from their own country.




Trafficking in Persons Report 2003: Country Narratives

U.S. Department of State, Office To Monitor And Combat Trafficking In Persons, June 11, 2003

[accessed 17 July 2013]

[accessed 26 April 2020]

CUBA (TIER 3) - Cuba is a country of internal trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labor. Minors are victimized in sexual exploitation connected to the state-run tourism industry. Despite occasional measures by the Government of Cuba to crack down on prostitution, state-controlled tourism establishments and independent operators facilitate and even encourage the sexual exploitation of minors by foreign tourists. Government authorities turn a blind eye to this exploitation because such activity helps to win hard currency for state-run enterprises. Opponents of the Cuban government, often arrested under the crime of "dangerousness," are forced to carry out state-run construction and agricultural labor that profit the state. Laborers are coerced to work on foreign investment or government priority projects without adequate compensation, which is retained by the state. Children are coerced to perform agricultural work.

Letter about Cuba from R. Perez

R. Perez

[accessed 30 January 2011]

The Cuban government is one of the most represive regimes in modern history. You are right that Cubans are very friendly and social people, but their spirit today is not the same. One of Fidel's first tasks when he came to power was to install block leaders whose task it was to spy on their fellow citizens and report to the government. I remember a small Cuban boy who came to my house after Mariel and we asked him about conditions on the Island. Crying he told us that he could not say anything bad about the government because the "walls had ears." Cubans on the island are afraid to tell you what is truly going on.

New threat of sanctions against Cuba is called symbolic

Nancy San Martin, The Miami Herald, September 12, 2003

[accessed 3 September 2014]

A Bush administration announcement that Cuba will face economic sanctions for failing to curtail the sexual exploitation and forced labor of Cuban minors will have little impact beyond public humiliation, several experts say.  ''Leverage is minimal,'' said DamiᮠFernᮤez, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. ``This really is more symbolic than anything else.''.

A Criticism of FIU’s "Humanities in Cuba"

Laida A. Carro, President of the Coalition of Cuban-American Women, 2004

[accessed 31 January 2011]

As thousands of Cuban artists have paid a very high personal and professional price for choosing not to become instruments of an official "political culture," other Cuban artists, used as spokesmen of the regime, create their work in an atmosphere of double standard and self-censorship, given that "privileges" such as publishing a book or traveling abroad are granted only to those who obey and applaud "the Revolution."

Will the course discuss those artists subjected to forced labor for their "anti-social" behavior at the infamous UMAP Cuban prison camps?  Will the FIU course mention the book "Out of the Game" by the Cuban poet Heberto Padilla, imprisoned and subjected to a "Stalinist" trial in 1970 for questioning Cuban society through his verse?  Just last March and April, seventy-five peaceful Cuban citizens, among them writers and poets, were arrested, tried summarily, and condemned to prison sentences of up to 28 years. Will this FIU course mention two of these poets, Raul Rivero and Manuel Vazquez Portal, serving prison sentences of twenty and eighteen years, respectively, for publishing dissenting views of the government?

Fidel’s The One Who Owes Reparations

Jamie Glazov - - September 6, 2001

[accessed 31 January 2011]

Ever since Castro came to power in 1959, Cubans have been denied the right to travel freely in and out of their country. They have not had the right of free association, nor of forming political parties, independent unions, or any religious and cultural organizations.    Freedom of expression has been non-existent, and the regime has consistently controlled and censored the means of publications, radio, television, and film.

Since 1959, more than 100,000 Cubans have experienced life in Cuba’s prisons or forced labor camps for their political beliefs. More than 15,000 have been executed for the same reason. Torture has been institutionalized. This reality is best epitomized by the Camilo-Cienfuegos plan, a forced labor camp program that was founded in 1964 on the Isle of Pines. Working conditions there were barbaric. Prisoners had to work almost naked. They were forced to cut grass with their teeth or to sit in latrine trenches for long periods of time. Torture was routine.

Forced Labor Continues To Make History With Cuban Tobacco

Orestes Martín Pérez, Cuba Free Press, March 17, 2000

[accessed 31 January 2011]

So that the injustice is made feasible, a legal mechanism exists that can be deemed diabolical. There is only one buyer inside Cuba: the government, with the prerogative, moreover, of establishing an absolute price for the farmers.

Other regulations exist which place today's harvesters in a condition not far removed from that of forced-labor slaves. One example is the fines that can be levied if the planting schemes imposed by the government are not fulfilled. Another is that if a farmer does not fulfill his duties as prescribed by government, it will take back land that had been "loaned" for his use.

Sending Boy Back To Cuba Means A Return To Slavery

John C. Eastman, Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, The Claremont Institute, May 1, 2000

[accessed 31 January 2011]

[accessed 22 January 2018]

The argument for not returning Elian to Cuba is grounded in the contention that, as a totalitarian communist regime, we would be returning Elian to a life that is tantamount to slavery. In Cuba, as in other communist regimes, property is owned by the state. You work for the state and keep only what the state allows you to keep. You speak what the state tells you to speak. You do what the state tells you to do. If you try to leave that condition of virtual slavery, you do so at great peril, as those gunned down in 1994 by Fidel Castro's police while trying to leave discovered. The victims' families were not even allowed to bury the bodies.

Political Prisoners' Forced Labor Seven Days a Week

Héctor Trujillo Pis, Cuba Free Press, Caibarien, November 9, 1998

[accessed 31 January 2011]

The forced labor plantation managed by the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) along the highway to Maleza is obliging the political prisoners to work without hourly limits seven days a week, according to Danilo Santos Méndez, member of the Pro Human Rights Party of Cuba. This group is affiliated with the Andrei Sakharov Foundation.

Legal Changes in the Area of Labor Relations

Efrén Córdova, Florida International University, Miami, Florida -- "Legal Changes in the Area of Labor Relations", CUBA IN TRANSITION: Volume 3 - Proceedings of the Third Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE), held at Florida International University Miami, FL. on August 12-14, 1993

[accessed 20 April 2012]

[accessed 22 January 2018]

I. THE PRESENT SYSTEM - Any discussions of the labor law and labor relations problems that may arise in Castro's Cuba, should begin by defining the nature of the existing industrial relations systems. Unitl two years ago, that definition was a relatively simple one: the Cuban system was a prime example, or perhaps as I have argued on other occsions, an exacerbated version of the Stalinist model.

According to the Stalinist model, the actors of industrial relations, i.e. the employers and the workers organizations, lose their autonomy and become entirely subordinated to the State and the communist party. Employers are nothing more than subservient bureaucrats who adhere to government policies and follow the instructions of the planning agency. Labor unions are deprived of the right to draw up their by laws and programs of action and become organs of the state and transmission belts of the communist party.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 6 June 1997

[accessed 30 January 2011]

[23] With regard to the issues of drug abuse and trafficking, child labor, child prostitution and suicide, the Committee takes note of the information provided by the State party that cases involving children are few and isolated. Nonetheless, it wishes to express its concern that, in light of the considerable social and economic problems facing the country, insufficient efforts are being taken by the State party to devise preventive strategies to ensure that such problems do not become more prevalent, thereby endangering future generations of children.

Human Rights Overview

Human Rights Watch

[accessed 30 January 2011]


Freedom House Country Report

2018 Edition

[accessed 26 April 2020]


State salaries remain extremely low at about $27 per month, and the national currency is very weak, encouraging an exodus of trained personnel into the private and tourism sectors, where the convertible peso—pegged to the U.S. dollar—is used. Cubans employed by foreign firms are often much better remunerated than their fellow citizens, even though most are contracted through a state employment agency that siphons off the bulk of their wages and uses political criteria in screening applicants. Economic opportunity in general is severely constrained by the inefficient and unproductive state sector.

State employees who express political dissent or disagreement with the authorities often face harassment or dismissal. Professionals dismissed from their jobs in the state sector have difficulty continuing their careers, as licenses for professions are not available in the private sector.

2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 20 April 2018

[accessed 20 March 2019]

[accessed 25 June 2019]


The law does not prohibit forced labor explicitly. It prohibits unlawful imprisonment, coercion, and extortion, with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment, but there was no evidence that these provisions were used to prosecute forced labor cases. The use of minors in forced labor, drug trafficking, prostitution, pornography, or organ trade is punishable by seven to 15 years’ incarceration. The government enforced the laws, and the penalties appeared sufficient to deter violations.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 7 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – Trafficking victims came from all over the country, and most worked in the major cities and tourist resort areas. Anecdotal information indicated that victims came from poor families; in many cases, families encouraged victims to enter into prostitution.  There was no information available regarding traffickers and their methods.

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