Detective Sgt. Kim Gross, who heads the Toronto police’s sex crimes unit, has been investigating the case of 78-year-old James McTurk, convicted in 1995 and 1998 of possession of child pornography that he filmed in Cuba.
One of his victims was estimated from photos to be 4.
Gross said Toronto police want to reach out to help McTurk’s victims. In Canada, authorities can make sure that the abuse stops and that the victims receive counseling and other social services.
But Cuba’s political system makes it nearly impossible to cooperate with the police or other authorities without triggering fears of possible reprisals against the families or even the victims themselves, she added.
“I can’t help them when I’m here,” Gross said. “We have to find a non-profit group working there who are familiar with the problems to get them the help they need. I’m not convinced they’ll get it through the police.”
Cuba does not allow non-government organizations to operate on the island, but U.S. diplomatic cables list the government ministries and groups that on paper are supposed to address the issue.
The Interior Ministry, which includes police and border guards, has the lead in criminal cases while the Communist Party, Federation of Cuban Women, Union of Young Communists and Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, can provide various types of support.
Three government-run sexual abuse treatment centers “reportedly provide state-of-the-art care and counseling to child sexual abuse victims and child witnesses, some of whom may be trafficking victims,” one U.S. cable noted, giving no further details.
‘I’m here for him’
Cuba’s well-educated sex workers include a pretty young woman who called herself Chachi when she approached two foreign men out for a night stroll on Havana’s seaside Malecón boulevard.
Born and raised in a neighboring province, she attended two years of university, studying to become a veterinarian. Then she became pregnant. Now she rents a Havana apartment for a month at a time so she can be available for tourists.
“I can cook, I can do dishes, I can clean the house, I can do whatever you want,” she tells the two foreigners. Like Michael the Canadian, Chachi did not give her last name.
Over a beer, she opens up on why she walks the streets.
“He is beautiful,” Chachi says of her 3-year-old boy, her eyes welling up. “I am here for him. I wait for money from tourists so I can send it to him and my mother.”