State: Cuba Remains Major Child Sex, Forced Labor Violator

Friday, June 20, 2014
Today, the U.S. State Department released its 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report ("Report").

Cuba received the lowest ranking (Tier 3), as a country that does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

The only other country in the Western Hemisphere to receive a Tier 3 rating was Venezuela. Other Tier 3 violators include Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic and Congo.

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which mandates this Report, countries ranked in Tier 3 may not receive funding for participation by officials or employees of such governments in educational and cultural exchange programs.

In light of the Administration's continued focus on educational and cultural exchanges with Castro's Cuba, the question remains:

Will the Obama Administration adhere to these sanctions, or will it (once again) give the Castro regime a waiver?

According to the Report:

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.