CUBA: Tier 2 Watch List
The Government of Cuba does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by prosecuting and convicting sex traffickers; providing services to sex trafficking victims; releasing a written report on its anti-trafficking efforts; and coordinating anti-trafficking efforts across government ministries. In addition, the government investigated indicators of trafficking exhibited by foreign labor brokers recruiting Cuban citizens. However, the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. The penal code does not criminalize all forms of human trafficking. The government did not prohibit forced labor, report efforts to prevent forced labor domestically, or recognize forced labor as a possible issue affecting its nationals in medical missions abroad. Because the government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards, Cuba was granted a waiver per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3. Therefore, Cuba is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CUBA
Draft and enact a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that prohibits and sufficiently punishes all forms of human trafficking, including forced labor, sex trafficking of children ages 16 and 17, and the full range of trafficking “acts” (recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, or receiving persons); vigorously investigate and prosecute both sex trafficking and forced labor offenses; provide specialized training for managers in state-owned or -controlled enterprises on identifying and referring victims of forced labor for services; implement policies to prohibit force, fraud, or coercion in recruiting and retaining employees in such enterprises; train those responsible for enforcing the labor code to screen for trafficking indicators and educate workers about trafficking indicators and where to report trafficking-related violations; implement the 2017-2020 national anti-trafficking action plan in partnership with international organizations; implement formal policies and procedures on the identification of all trafficking victims and their referral to appropriate services, and train officials, including first responders, in their use; and 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.
The government maintained law enforcement efforts by prosecuting and convicting sex traffickers, but took no new action to address forced labor. The penal code does not criminalize all forms of trafficking, in particular forced labor and sex trafficking of children ages 16 and 17. In January 2017, the government reported it continued its work to amend the criminal code to address trafficking as defined in international law, but it had not amended the criminal code by the end of the reporting period. Cuba prohibits some forms of trafficking in its penal code provisions, including article 302 (procuring and trafficking in persons); article 310.1 (corruption of minors younger than 16 for sexual purposes); article 312.1 (corruption of minors younger than 16 for begging); and article 316.1 (sale and trafficking of a child younger than 16). The penal code’s definition of sex trafficking conflates sex trafficking with prostitution and pimping. The law criminalizes inducement to or benefiting from prostitution, but treats force, coercion, and abuse of power or vulnerability as aggravating factors rather than an integral part of the crime. These provisions prescribe penalties ranging from four to 10 years imprisonment with more severe penalties for complicit government officials, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Legal provisions addressing “corruption of minors” criminalize many forms of child sex trafficking but define a child as an individual younger than 16 years of age, below the age set in international trafficking law, which is 18. Forced prostitution is illegal irrespective of the victim’s age, and the penal code enables the government to prosecute individuals benefiting from sex trafficking. Provisions for adult and child sex trafficking do not explicitly criminalize the acts of recruitment, transport, and receipt of persons for these purposes. Article 346.1 of the criminal code mandates sentences of five to 12 years imprisonment for various crimes, including for laundering funds obtained from trafficking in persons. The penal code prohibits the deprivation of freedom (article 279.1), coercion (article 286.1), extortion (article 331), and arbitrary exercise of rights (article 159.1). Labor code article 116 prohibits entities from directly establishing labor relations with adolescents younger than age 17. However, Cuban law does not prohibit forced labor as defined in international law.
In January 2017, the government publicly presented official data on prosecutions and convictions of sex traffickers during calendar year 2015, the most recent data available. Authorities reported 10 prosecutions and 17 convictions of sex traffickers, compared with 13 prosecutions and 18 convictions in 2014. At least six convictions in 2015 involved suspects accused of subjecting children to trafficking within Cuba, including the facilitation of child sex tourism in Cuba. The average sentence was 12 years imprisonment, compared to seven years in 2014. The government investigated 37 cases and prosecuted four cases of Cubans and foreign nationals recruiting and transporting women with false promises of employment and fraudulent work contracts to subject the victims to debt bondage and forced prostitution. The government did not report any domestic labor trafficking investigations, prosecutions, or convictions.
Students at the Ministry of Interior academy and police assigned to tourist centers reportedly received specific training in anti-trafficking and victim assistance. The government maintained bilateral cooperation agreements and extradition agreements with more than 15 countries demonstrating its willingness to cooperate with other governments on criminal investigations; however, these agreements are not specific to trafficking. The Cuban government cooperated with foreign law enforcement in investigating foreign citizens suspected of sexual crimes against children, including child sex trafficking. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking in 2015.
The government maintained efforts to identify and protect sex trafficking victims, but did not make efforts to identify or protect victims of forced labor. Authorities identified at least seven child sex trafficking victims and four adult sex trafficking victims in 2015, compared to 11 and four, respectively, in 2014. The government did not identify any labor trafficking victims or male sex trafficking victims inside Cuba. The government reported it provided assistance to the 11 identified sex trafficking victims but did not provide detailed information on assistance provided. The government reported having procedures to proactively identify sex trafficking victims; police and medical professionals identified and evaluated potential sex trafficking victims and referred them to other professionals for medical, psychological, psychiatric, educational, family, or social services. Other government-organized NGOs, like the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), the Prevention and Social Assistance Commission, and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, referred trafficking victims to state authorities and provided victim services. Independent members of civil society expressed concern about the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and limited information on the scope of sex trafficking and forced labor in Cuba given sparse independent monitoring by NGOs and international organizations.
The government did not report having procedures to identify victims of forced labor. In 2015, Cuba reinstituted restrictions on travel for specialized doctors and some medical personnel, requiring them to obtain an exit permit from their superiors before leaving the country. On September 9, 2015, the government agreed to reinstate medical personnel who had left their positions while abroad. As of April 1, 2016, the Cuban authorities claimed that 274 medical professionals who returned to Cuba and were rehired at the same salary and level of responsibility they had before leaving. More recent data was not available.
The government provided funding for child protection centers and guidance centers for women and families, which serve all crime victims, including trafficking victims. These centers had the ability to screen cases, make referrals to law enforcement, assist with arranging cooperation with law enforcement in preparation for prosecution, and provide victim services. The FMC continued to receive funding from international organizations and operated centers for women and families nationwide to assist individuals harmed by violence, including victims of sex trafficking. These centers provided services such as psychological treatment, health care, skills training, and assistance in finding employment. The government developed a process to refer trafficking victims to law enforcement to secure evidence for prosecutions and provide victim services and follow-on care. Neither the government nor the government-organized NGOs operated shelters or provided services specifically for male trafficking victims. Police encouraged child sex trafficking victims under the age of 16 to assist in prosecutions of traffickers by gathering testimony through psychologist-led videotaped interviewing, usually removing the need for children to appear in court. There were no reports of the government punishing sex trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. The government reported some foreign sex trafficking victims in Cuba, but did not report whether it offered these victims repatriation or services.
The government maintained prevention efforts to combat sex trafficking; however, authorities did not make efforts to prevent or address the demand for forced labor. The government worked across the ministries of justice, information and communications, health, education, tourism, and the attorney general’s office to combat trafficking and for the fourth consecutive year published an annual report of its efforts in the areas of prosecution, protection, prevention, and partnerships. The government and the FMC continued to operate a 24-hour telephone line for individuals needing legal assistance, including sex trafficking victims, but did not report whether any calls related to potential trafficking cases in 2015 led to investigations or identifying victims. State media continued to produce newspaper articles and television and radio programs to raise public awareness about sex trafficking. Authorities maintained an office within the Ministry of Tourism charged with monitoring Cuba’s image as a tourism destination, combating sex tourism, and addressing the demand for commercial sex acts; that office also trained law enforcement officials assigned to the tourism sector on trafficking indicators. Under Cuban law, authorities may deny entry to suspected sex tourists and expel known sex offenders, but reported no related convictions in 2015. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. In March 2015, authorities invited the UN special rapporteur on trafficking in persons to visit, and the visit took place in April 2017, after the conclusion of the reporting period. The government did not report specialized training for labor inspectors to screen for indicators of potential forced labor.
As reported over the past five years, Cuba is a source and destination country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Child sex trafficking and child sex tourism occur within Cuba. Cuban authorities report people from ages 13 to 20 are most vulnerable to human trafficking in the country. Traffickers also subject Cuban citizens to sex trafficking and forced labor in South America, the Caribbean, and the United States. Traffickers recruit Cuban citizens through promises of work abroad, providing fraudulent contracts and immigration documents for a fee, and subsequently coercing these individuals into prostitution to pay off these debts. The government reported foreign national sex trafficking victims in Cuba. The government is the primary employer in the Cuban economy, including in foreign medical missions that employ more than 84,000 workers in more than 67 countries, including Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. These medical missions constitute a significant source of Cuban government income. Some participants in foreign medical missions as well as other sources allege that Cuban officials force or coerce participation in the program; the government has stated the postings are voluntary, and some participants also have stated the postings are voluntary and well paid compared to jobs within Cuba. The Cuban government acknowledges that it withholds passports of overseas medical personnel in Venezuela due to security concerns; the government provided ID cards to such personnel in place of passports. There are also claims about substandard working and living conditions in some countries. In the past, there have been claims that Cuban authorities coerced participants to remain in the program, including by allegedly withholding their passports, restricting their movement, using “minders” to monitor participants outside of work, or threatening to revoke their medical licenses or retaliate against their family members in Cuba if participants leave the program. The government uses some high school students in rural areas to harvest crops and does not pay them for their work but claims this work is not coerced.