“A for Effort” Gesture Takes Cuba Off Human-Trafficking Blacklist

Cuba is on the “Tier Two Watch List,” one up from the worst tier, in the US Department of State’s 2015 report. (Cjaronus)

EspañolOne week has passed since Cuba opened its embassy doors in Washington, DC, and the communist nation is no longer on the black list of countries lacking significant efforts to comply with minimum standards in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).

On Monday, July 27, the US Department of State revealed the Trafficking in Persons Report 2015. According to the report, each country is ranked onto a four-tier system based “more on the extent of government action to combat trafficking than on the size of the country’s problem.” Among other nations, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, and Iran are ranked in lowest tier for not making significant efforts to eradicate human trafficking.

Cuba, ranked in lowest tier three for over 10 years now, has moved to the Tier Two Watch List — one up from the lowest and alongside Costa Rica, Bolivia, and Jamaica. This means that the country does not comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards to fight this crime, but the regime “making significant efforts” to reach compliance.

Luis Enrique Ferrer, international representative at the dissident Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), commented to PanAm Post that the fact that the United States made this determination is due to “economic interests, and among many other things, is politically-driven.”

He maintains that from the time when secret conversations began between US President Barack Obama’s administration and the Castro dictatorship, the direction has been pointed towards Cuba “washing its face” and selling an image of greater tolerance.

“The US government has been taking steps towards this. First, by eliminating Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism, now with this report on human trafficking. We know the dictatorship will welcome anything that will bring some type of economic or political benefit. [They are] a group of mafiosos willing to do anything,” he stated.

In terms of the human-trafficking situation, Ferrer stated that the present economic situation drives 14- and 15-year-olds to prostitution.

“The Cuban regime puts many of these jineteras (prostitutes) in jail to show they are trying to put a stop to the problem. On the other hand, there are high-end prostitutes in tourist resorts that they don’t go after, precisely because they need them to attract more sex tourism and to continue seeing money from that.”

He also said that the Cuban regime is a “specialist” in fraud and manipulation: “they use an image of improving conditions for Cubans in propaganda campaigns, when what they truly want is to keep their grip on power.”

The 384-page document (PDF) contends that in the case of Cuba, employees in the tourism and education sectors receive training to identify signs of sex trafficking, especially among children who may be associated with the sex industry.

To this vein, it continues, the country has shown efforts in eradicating trafficking for two consecutive years. Among those efforts are 13 prosecutions and convictions of individuals associated with this crime in 2013. The report also highlights videotaped interview services offered to victims under the age of 17, to prevent them from having to appear in court.

Though the Cuban penal code does not criminalize all forms of human trafficking, according to the report, the regime informed that efforts continue to reform it.

“We remain concerned in the case of Cuba … the failure to recognize forced labor as a problem or to act to combat it. And so this will be very much a topic in our dialogue with Cuban officials,” stated Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Under Secretary Sarah Sewall, in a special briefing to press.

According to the US Department of State, this report is the main tool used to establish dialogue with other nations on human trafficking. It represents an up-to-date, global view on the nature and effects of human trafficking and the wide range of actions governments can take to confront and do away with this crime.

Translated by Vanessa Arita.

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