News and Facts about Cuba

Prostitution in Cuba: Denied at Home, Enabled from Abroad

Prostitution in Cuba: Denied at Home, Enabled from Abroad

March 30, 2013

Graham Sowa

HAVANA TIMES — In Cuba the denial of prostitution is a lie of omission:

the government doesn't really talk about it. At the same time American

politicians promote a ban that seriously damages United States

efforts to identify and prosecute child sex .

Few people in Cuba want to talk about prostitution. I've been here for

three years and I have yet to see any type of campaign against

prostitution or sex tourism. Denial that prostitution is rampant in the

sector is an outright lie. Anyone who disagrees is invited to

walk down Obispo Street with me (this is a serious offer). You will

think the only services offered to tourists in Havana Vieja are taxis

and blowjobs.

are often witness to the solicitation. I've never seen them

intervene. I'm left to wonder if they are paid in-kind or in cash for

their see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil approach to their job.

I know right now those readers who defend Cuba out of reactionary habit

are preparing their anecdotal story about how sex crimes with minors are

prosecuted in Cuba. And those stories are probably true. But they don't

originate from the official news here.

Not the crime, not the societal problem, not the obvious police

corruption and not even the successful (of what I am left to

imagine are a very small percentage of cases) are addressed at any level

higher than street gossip among neighbors.

Child sex tourism (or child rape tourism as it should be known as) not

only exists, but is literally killing Cuban children. I refer here to a

good piece of journalism from the Miami Herald about a 12 year old girl

who was statutorily raped to death by European and Cuban tourists.

The Cuban authorities acted appropriately and tried and jailed the

rapists. Of course we read nothing in the local newspapers about the

crime or punishment.

In a problem this grave both Cuba and the United States share blame. And

while I would like to see both countries take a much more hard-line

approach to child rape tourism that involves civil society; as a United

States citizen I'm going to appeal to my homeland.

In the United States the story ran one day in the Miami-Herald and I

could not find any syndication in other newspapers, not even the

European ones. So I can't say my society is very interested in making

this problem known either.

The same day the Toronto Star ran an article about child rape tourism in

Cuba originating from after a lengthy Canadian Government

investigation of the sick enterprise.

But the Cuban problem in Cuba is only one half of the picture. As far

as the United States is concerned the extreme right Miami-Cuban

community continues to support a travel ban that has made it all but

impossible to track and prosecute child rapists for their pedophilic

visits to Cuba.

The octagenarian anti-Fidelistas will sometimes harp on prostitution as

a reason why the Revolution has failed. (Even though I have no idea how

they would ban it if they somehow took power again. I can only imagine

it would get worse with floods of Cuban-Americans returning to the island.)

But the Cuban-Americans never take the discussion about sex tourism

further than superficial criticism because that would mean either

stiffening the travel ban to unconstitutional proportions or ending it

outright. They don't have the courage or political capital to do the

former and completely lack the intelligent foresight to do the latter.

An apt example is the Junior United States Senator from Florida (who

knows just as much about Cuba as anyone else who has never been there)

Marco Rubio. Senator Rubio recently spoon fed some tired rhetoric to a

lobby group about how American travelers to Cuba treat the country as a

"zoo".

Obviously aside from knowing nothing about Cuba outside of Miami hearsay

and gossip, Senator Rubio also knows nothing about American tourists. So

let me tell Senator Rubio what most of us Americans know about

ourselves: we, as Americans, pretty much treat everywhere we travel to

like a zoo. (I encourage any doubters to watch the movie National

Lampoon's European Vacation.)

We even treat local tourism, within the United States, like a zoo. Look

at Senator Rubio's beloved Miami; whose tourist fueled party culture,

fleeting decadence, silicon beauties, and millions of people stuck in a

sad cultural limbo are as worthy as comparison to an animal as

any Communist Caribbean island.

Few people in Cuba want to talk about prostitution. I've been here for

three years and I have yet to see any type of campaign against

prostitution or sex tourism. Denial that prostitution is rampant in the

tourist sector is an outright lie. Anyone who disagrees is invited to

walk down Obispo Street with me (this is a serious offer).

Instead of making predictable observations about American travel

attitudes I think Senator Rubio would have been better off having a

discussion on how the United States could do something to prevent child

rape tourism to Cuba. Because as it stands we are probably facilitating

more than we are prosecuting.

travel to Cuba under the current United States travel ban

usually involves passing through Mexico first, followed by the final leg

to Cuba. Upon arrival in Cuba the Cuban Passport Control does not stamp

United States passports. Instead they stamp a piece of paper inside of

the passport.

Without a passport stamp the traveler is left with plausible deniability

that they never traveled to Cuba. And with Cuban-American relations kept

dismal by petty disputes perpetuated by feuding octogenarian neighbors

there is no reason to expect Cuban cooperation in a United States

investigation into crimes committed by a U.S. Citizen in Cuba.

So the situation, made possible by both Cuban and United States

policies, is that a pedophile can travel to Cuba from the United States

knowing that their home country will not be able to prosecute the crime.

In a problem this grave both Cuba and the United States share blame. And

while I would like to see both countries take a much more hard-line

approach to child rape tourism that involves civil society; as a United

States citizen I'm going to appeal to my homeland.

As a country we need to decide if we are going to continue letting our

differences with the Cuban government set the limits to the actions we

will take to do what is right. If we know that people can use the travel

ban to fly under the radar and rape children with little to no fear of

getting caught shouldn't we talk about ways to prevent that, regardless

of what the Cubans are doing?

I think that legalizing all travel to Cuba, with the understanding that

Cubans would stamp all United States passports and cooperate with United

States law surrounding sex tourism, would help make child rape tourism

to Cuba feasibly prosecutable as a federal crime under the PROTECT Act

of April 2003. I hope other people will offer their thoughts, opinions

or original ideas.

http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=90370

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