“The police and other officials appear to treat sex crimes, particularly those against children, seriously and professionally,” noted the RCMP report from 2011, obtained by The Toronto Star.
But the government’s news monopoly has published almost nothing on underage prostitution. Cuban diplomats in Washington did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
“They treat this issue as a matter of revolutionary purity,” Garcia said.
Former ruler Fidel Castro cracked down on prostitution after he seized power in 1959, and boasted his country was no longer a U.S. brothel. But the sex market blossomed again after Moscow cut off its subsidies and plunged the island into crisis in the early 1990s.
Cuba’s response was to throw its doors open to mass tourism. Travel agencies made no bones about the island’s attractions: white sand beaches, cheap prices, hot weather and dark-skinned women.
A Spanish airline advertisement for travel to Cuba showed two black women in bikinis with a white baby who sang, “mulatas … take me to my crib.” Complaints from a Spanish consumer group forced the airline to pull the ad.
But Cuban officials never complained publicly about the ad, and Castro himself seemed to accept sex tourism in a 1992 speech.
Cuban women are not “forced to sell themselves to a man, to a foreigner, to a tourist. Those who do so do …without any need for it,” he declared. “We can say that they are highly educated hookers and quite healthy, because we are the country with the lowest numbers of AIDS cases…Therefore, there is truly no prostitution healthier than Cuba’s.”
A shocking death
One State Department dispatch on underage prostitution in Cuba from 2009, also made public by Wikileaks, lists the following “Recommendations for Cuba.”
“Acknowledge that child sex trafficking … is a problem; provide greater legal protections and assistance for victims; develop procedures to identify possible trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; increase anti-trafficking training for law enforcement; and, take greater steps to prevent the trafficking of children in prostitution.”
That advice has clearly fallen on deaf ears, and Raúl Castro, who succeeded ailing brother Fidel in 2008, continues to officially say nothing about the sex predators among the more than two million tourists who visit the island each year.
The shocking death of the 12-year-old girl in Bayamo, for instance, generated no coverage in the national media and only a couple of brief reports in the provincial media announcing the sentences imposed on the three Italians and 10 Cubans.
Cuba meanwhile jailed Spanish journalist Sebastian Martinez Ferraté for 18 months when he returned to Havana following the 2008 release of his television documentary, Cuba: Child Prostitution.
The documentary reported that he easily found 15 Havana prostitutes under the age of 16. It showed four girls, provided by one 16-year-old pimp, talking frankly about their sex work and swimming topless in a private pool, as well as cops and teachers who took bribes to facilitate the encounters.
Martinez said he was convicted on charges of incitement to child prostitution because his documentary showed that “everyone knows Cuba is a brothel.”