CUBA: Tier 2 Watch List
Cuba is a source country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Information on the scope of sex trafficking and forced labor in Cuba is limited. 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 Cuba. Traffickers also subject Cuban citizens to forced prostitution in South America and the Caribbean. In the Cuban economy, the government is the dominant employer, including in foreign medical missions, which employ more than 51,000 workers in over 67 countries and 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 Cuban government denies these allegations. Some Cubans participating in these work missions have stated the postings are voluntary and well paid compared to jobs within Cuba. There have also been claims that Cuban authorities coerced participants to remain in the program, including by allegedly withholding their passports, restricting their movement, or threatening to revoke their medical licenses or retaliate against their family members in Cuba if participants leave the program. There are also claims about substandard working and living conditions and the existence of “minders” to monitor victims outside of work. Some medical professionals participating in the missions are in possession of their passports when they apply for and obtain special United States visa and immigration benefits, indicating passport retention is not a consistent practice across all work missions. The government arranges for high school students in rural areas to harvest crops, but claims this work is not coerced.
The Government of Cuba does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. For the second consecutive year, the government reported efforts to address sex trafficking, including the prosecution and conviction of 13 sex traffickers in 2013 and the provision of services to victims in those cases. The Cuban government reported at the beginning of 2015 that the Ministry of Labor and Social Security assumed the lead role in a committee responsible for combating gender and sexual violence, including sex trafficking. The penal code does not criminalize all forms of human trafficking, though the government reported continuing efforts to amend its criminal code, including bringing it into conformity with the requirements of the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, to which it acceded in July 2013. The government did not recognize forced labor as a problem within Cuba and did not report efforts to prevent forced labor. The government did not report any trafficking-specific shelters, but offered services to trafficking victims through centers for women and families harmed by violence. The Federation of Cuban Women, a government-affiliated non-governmental organization, provided some outreach and education about human trafficking within the context of violence against women, but did not specifically address it as a crime involving sex trafficking and forced labor or affecting men and boys.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CUBA:
Consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, draft and pass a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that prohibits all forms of human trafficking, including an offense of forced labor, a definition that makes minors under the age of 18 sex trafficking victims regardless of the use of force, fraud, or coercion, and the full range of “acts” (recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, or receiving persons) as part of those crimes; vigorously investigate and prosecute both sex trafficking and forced labor offenses; schedule a visit and engage in robust discussions with the UN special rapporteur on trafficking in persons on all forms of human trafficking; provide specialized training for managers in state-owned or controlled enterprises in identifying and protecting victims of forced labor and implement policies to verify the absence of coercion 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; strengthen efforts, in partnership with international organizations, to provide specialized victim identification and referral training for first responders; establish formal policies and procedures to guide officials in the identification of all trafficking victims and their referral to appropriate services; expand upon the Ministry of Labor and Social Security’s anti-trafficking responsibilities to include all forms of trafficking and male as well as female victims, and develop an action plan to address sex trafficking and forced labor for males and females; 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 sustained law enforcement efforts by prosecuting and convicting sex traffickers, but took no action to address forced labor. The penal code does not criminalize all forms of trafficking, but the government reported it was in the process of amending the code, including making revisions to bring it into conformity with the requirements of the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. Cuba prohibits some forms of trafficking through several laws, including: Article 302 (procuring and trafficking in persons); 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). Cuban law does not criminalize forced labor as required by the 2000 UN TIP Protocol and the Cuban government did not report any labor trafficking prosecutions or convictions. The penal code’s definition of sex trafficking conflates sex trafficking with prostitution and pimping, although Cuban prosecutorial officials understand the distinction for the purposes of the 2000 UN TIP Protocol definition and for reporting anti-trafficking law enforcement data. The law criminalizes 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 benefiting 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. Although anyone inducing children between the ages of 16 and 18 to engage in prostitution would not be identified as a trafficker under Cuban law, forced prostitution is illegal irrespective of age of the victim, and the government has prosecuted individuals benefiting from the prostitution of children. Both adult and child sex trafficking provisions do not explicitly criminalize the acts of recruitment, transport, and receipt of persons for these purposes. Cuba became a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol in 2013, and the government reported it began the process of revising Cuba’s criminal code in 2012. The government did not provide an update on this process in 2014, but in December 2013 amended Article 346.1 of the criminal code to mandate sentences of five to 12 years’ imprisonment for various crimes, including for laundering funds obtained from trafficking in persons.
In 2014, the government publicly presented official data on prosecutions and convictions of sex traffickers secured during calendar year 2013. Authorities reported 13 prosecutions and convictions of sex traffickers, compared with 10 in 2012. At least seven of the convictions involved suspects accused of trafficking seven child victims within Cuba, including the facilitation of child sex tourism in Cuba. The average sentence was seven years’ imprisonment. Traffickers were punished more severely in some cases when the victim was younger than 16. In addition, the government was known to have assisted one foreign government’s investigation of a child sex tourism case. There were no reported forced labor prosecutions or convictions. The government also identified a group of Cubans living or traveling abroad involved in recruiting and transporting women who used false promises, paid for travel expenses, and subjected the women to debt bondage while exploiting them in forced prostitution. This case was still being investigated and had not yet resulted in prosecutions or convictions of suspected traffickers in Cuba. Students at the Ministry of Interior Academy and police assigned to tourist centers reportedly received specific anti-trafficking training and victim assistance. The government demonstrated its willingness to cooperate with other governments on investigations of possible traffickers. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking in 2014.
The government sustained efforts to protect sex trafficking victims. Authorities identified seven child sex trafficking victims and seven adult sex trafficking victims linked to 2013 convictions; it did not identify any labor trafficking victims or male sex trafficking victims. Identified sex trafficking victims received government assistance; detailed information on assistance provided to the 14 identified victims was unavailable. The government reported informal procedures to proactively identify sex trafficking victims, whereby first responders identify potential cases and refer them to law enforcement. The government did not report having procedures to proactively identify victims of forced labor. Employees of the Ministries of Tourism and Education received training to spot indicators of sex trafficking, particularly among children engaged in commercial sex. The Federation of Cuban Women received 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. Authorities did not report how many sex trafficking victims were assisted by these centers. The government did not operate any shelters or services specifically for adult victims of trafficking. Police encouraged child sex trafficking victims under the age of 17 to assist in prosecutions of traffickers by operating three facilities that 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. 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. There were no reports of foreign trafficking victims in Cuba.
The government sustained anti-trafficking prevention efforts. The attorney general’s office operated a 24-hour telephone line for individuals, including sex trafficking victims, needing legal assistance. State media produced 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; however, authorities did not make efforts to address the demand for forced labor. Authorities reported four foreign nationals continued serving sentences ranging from 13 to 30 years’ imprisonment for child sex tourism in Cuba; and two foreign nationals awaited hearings. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security coordinated national anti-trafficking efforts, but did not address all forms of trafficking. The government did not report whether it provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. A formal, written report on governmental anti-trafficking efforts was released to the public in November 2014. In March 2015, authorities invited the UN special rapporteur on trafficking in persons to visit. The government did not report specialized training for labor inspectors to screen for trafficking indicators of potential forced labor.