Cuba is a source country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking, and possibly forced labor. Child prostitution and child sex tourism occur within Cuba. Cuban authorities report that young people from ages 13 to 20 are most vulnerable to human trafficking in Cuba. Cuban citizens have been subjected to forced prostitution outside of Cuba. There have been allegations of coerced labor with Cuban government work missions abroad; the Cuban government denies these allegations. Some Cubans participating in the work missions have stated that the postings are voluntary, and positions are well paid compared to jobs within Cuba. Others have claimed that Cuban authorities have coerced them, including by withholding their passports and restricting their movement. Some medical professionals participating in the missions have been able to take advantage of U.S. visas or immigration benefits, applying for those benefits and arriving in the United States in possession of their passports—an indication that at least some medical professionals retain possession of their passports. Reports of coercion by Cuban authorities in this program do not appear to reflect a uniform government policy of coercion; however, information is lacking. The government arranges for high school students in rural areas to harvest crops, but claims that this work is not coerced. The scope of trafficking involving Cuban citizens is difficult to verify because of sparse independent reporting, but in 2013 the Cuban government, for the first time, provided information to U.S. authorities regarding human trafficking in Cuba.
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. While the government has yet to establish a legal and policy framework prohibiting all forms of human trafficking and providing explicit victim protections, the government advised that it intends to amend its criminal code to ensure that it is in conformity with the requirements of the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, to which it acceded in July 2013. For the first time, the government released and reported concrete action against sex trafficking, including 10 prosecutions and corresponding convictions of sex traffickers in 2012 and the provision of services to the victims. Also, the Cuban government launched a media campaign to educate the Cuban public about trafficking and publicized its anti-trafficking services.
Recommendations for Cuba:
Revise existing anti-trafficking laws to incorporate a definition of trafficking that is consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; adopt a definition of a minor for the purposes of human trafficking consistent with the Protocol (under 18 years); continue and strengthen efforts, in partnership with international organizations, to provide specialized training for police, labor inspectors, social workers, and child protection specialists in identifying and protecting victims of sex trafficking and forced labor, including by having in place clear written policies and procedures to guide officials in the identification of trafficking victims, regardless of age or gender, and their referral to appropriate services; adopt policies that provide trafficking-specific, specialized assistance for male and female trafficking victims, including measures to ensure identified sex and labor trafficking victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to sex trafficking or forced labor; enact and implement policies to ensure no use of coercion in Cuban work-abroad missions; provide specialized training for managers of work-abroad missions in identifying and protecting victims of forced labor; criminally prosecute both sex trafficking and forced labor; and continue funding and expand the victim-centered practices of three government facilities for collection of testimony of young children.
The Government of Cuba prosecuted and convicted sex trafficking cases, but its overall effort was hampered by the absence of a comprehensive legal framework that criminalizes all forms of human trafficking. Cuba prohibits some forms of human trafficking through the following laws: Article 299.1 (pederasty with violence); Article 300.1 (lascivious abuse); Article 302 (procuring and trafficking in persons); Article 303 (sexual assault); Article 310.1 (corruption of minors for sexual purposes); Article 312.1 (corruption of minors for begging); and Article 316.1 (sale and trafficking of a child under 16). The Cuban penal code’s definition of sex trafficking appears to conflate sex trafficking with prostitution and pimping. The law criminalizes adult sex trafficking achieved through force, coercion, or abuse of power or a position of vulnerability, although the use of such means is considered an aggravating factor (to a crime of inducing or benefitting from prostitution), not an integral part of the crime. It does not explicitly include the use of fraud and physical force within the list of aggravating factors that make coercion of prostitution a crime. The provision addressing corruption of minors encompasses many of the forms of child sex trafficking, but its definition of a minor as a child under 16 years old is inconsistent with the definition under the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, which defines a child as any person under the age of 18; this means 16- and 17-year-olds engaged in prostitution for the benefit of a third party would not necessarily be identified as trafficking victims. Although anyone inducing children between the ages of 16 and 18 to engage in prostitution would not be identified as traffickers under Cuban law, forced prostitution is illegal irrespective of age of the victim, and the government has prosecuted individuals benefitting from the prostitution of children. Victims under 18 were clearly identified by the Cuban government in 2012 as trafficking victims, and the perpetrators of these crimes were punished more severely in some cases when the victim was younger than 16. Both adult and child sex trafficking provisions fail explicitly to criminalize recruitment, transport, and receipt of persons for these purposes. Cuba became a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol during the reporting period and has indicated that it is engaged in the process of generally revising its criminal code, including so that it will meet its obligations as a State Party.
In a positive step toward greater transparency, in 2013, the government presented official data on investigations and prosecutions of sex trafficking offenses and convictions of sex trafficking offenders. In 2012, the year covered by the most recent official Cuban report, the government reported 10 prosecutions and corresponding convictions of sex traffickers. At least six of the convictions involved nine child sex trafficking victims within Cuba, including the facilitation of child sex tourism in Cuba. The average sentence was nine years’ imprisonment. The government reported that a government employee (a teacher) was investigated, prosecuted, and convicted of a sex trafficking offense. There were no reported forced labor prosecutions or convictions. Child protection specialists reportedly provided training to police academy students. Students at the Ministry of Interior academy and police who were assigned to tourist centers reportedly received specific anti-trafficking training. The government reported that employees of the Ministries of Tourism and Education received training to spot indicators of trafficking, particularly among children engaged in commercial sex. The government demonstrated its willingness to cooperate with other governments on investigations of possible traffickers.
The government made efforts to protect victims during the reporting period. Authorities reported that they identified nine child sex trafficking victims and four adult sex trafficking victims linked to the 2012 convictions; authorities reported no identified labor trafficking victims or male victims. Though the government had systems in place to identify and assist a broader group of vulnerable women and children, including trafficking victims, the government did not share any documentation of trafficking-specific procedures to guide officials in proactively identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable groups and referring them to available services. For example, the Federation of Cuban Women, a government entity that also receives funding from international organizations, operates 173 Guidance Centers for Women and Families nationwide and reported that these centers provided assistance to 2,480 women and families harmed by violence, including victims of trafficking. These centers assisted the women from their initial contact with law enforcement through prosecution of the offenders. Social workers at the Guidance Centers provided services for victims of trafficking and other crimes such as psychological treatment, health care, skills training, and assistance in finding employment. The four adult trafficking victims identified by the Cuban government reportedly received services at these Guidance Centers. Authorities reported that the Ministry of Education identified other sex trafficking cases while addressing school truancy incidents. The government did not operate any shelters or services specifically for adult trafficking victims.
The police encouraged child trafficking victims under the age of 17 to assist in prosecutions of traffickers by operating three facilities where law enforcement and social workers worked together to support the collection of testimony and the treatment of sexually and physically abused children. These victim-centered facilities gathered children’s testimony though psychologist-led videotaped interviewing, usually removing the need for children to appear in court. In addition to collecting testimony, government social workers developed a specific plan for the provision of follow-on services. The facilities assisted the nine identified child trafficking victims and reportedly referred them to longer term psychological care, shelter, and other services as needed.
The government asserted that none of the identified victims were punished, and authorities reported having policies that ensured identified victims were not punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. There were no reports of foreign trafficking victims in Cuba.
The government reported on its anti-trafficking prevention efforts. During the year, state media produced newspaper articles and television and radio programs to raise public awareness about trafficking. Senior public officials, including the Minister of Justice, publicly raised the problem of trafficking. The government maintained an Office of Security and Protection within the Ministry of Tourism charged with monitoring Cuba’s image as a tourism destination and combating sex tourism. The government did not report the existence of an established anti-trafficking taskforce or structured monitoring mechanism. A formal, written report on the government’s anti-trafficking efforts was released to the public in October 2013.