US Upgrades Cuba on List of Human Traffickers


By Progreso Weekly

HAVANA TIMES – The State Department has removed Cuba from its list of countries that do nothing to deal with human trafficking, upgrading the island from Tier 3 in its 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report to Tier 2.

The TIP report is the State Department’s annual overview of actions taken by other countries to combat modern slavery. Cuba had been on Tier 3 for 12 years, accused by Washington of ignoring instances of prostitution and forced labor. The Cuban government has consistently rejected the charges.

At a press conference at the State Department on Monday (July 27), Sarah Sewall, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, explained that “a Tier 2 ranking means […] that a country failed to comply with the minimum standards but made significant efforts to do so.”

Sarah Sewall, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights
Sarah Sewall, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights

In the estimation of the State Department, “Cuba was upgraded to the Tier 2 Watch List because of the progress that the government has made in addressing and prosecuting sex trafficking, as well as the commitments that the Cuban government has made to become compliant with the minimum standards.”

However, she pointed out that “a Tier 2 Watch List ranking does not mean that a country is free from problems or free from human trafficking.”

One of the criteria followed to upgrade Cuba, Sewall said, was that the Cuban government “reported significant efforts to address sex trafficking, including the conviction of sex traffickers, the provision of services to sex trafficking victims, and continued efforts of the Ministry of Tourism to address sex tourism and the demand for commercial sex.

“We also recognize the commitments the [Cuban] government has made to reform its laws to become compliant with the U.N. Palermo Protocol [to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons], which is a significant step, as well as the Cuban government’s willingness to welcome the U.N. special rapporteur to the island.”

Washington still has concerns, the official said, “such as 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 as we work over the next year to try to help Cuba make more concrete progress in the realm of human trafficking.”

Cuba rejects charges that its medical missions to countries in distress are a form of "slave labor."
Cuba rejects charges that its medical missions to countries in distress are a form of “slave labor.”

The report itself says on Page 135 that “some participants in foreign medical missions […] allege that Cuban officials force or coerce participation” in the nation’s program to aid other countries in distress, such as Chile and Nepal after natural disasters or African countries experiencing various epidemics. However, “the Cuban government denies these allegations.”

[For the full text of the U.S. report, click here.]

While “the Government of Cuba does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, […] it is making significant efforts to do so,” the report continues.

“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.”

Although “the penal code does not criminalize all forms of human trafficking, […] the government reported continuing efforts to amend its criminal code.”

“The government did not recognize forced labor as a problem within Cuba and did not report efforts to prevent forced labor.”

Following are some of the recommendations the U.S. report made to Cuba:

–“draft and pass a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that prohibits all forms of human trafficking, including an offense of forced labor;

–“vigorously investigate and prosecute both sex trafficking and forced labor offenses; schedule a visit and engage in robust discussions with the U.N. 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.”

4 thoughts on “US Upgrades Cuba on List of Human Traffickers

  • It seems the US State Department pressured the people writing the report to go easy on Cuba (and other countries) and upgrade their status from Tier 3 to Tier 2.

    “by the time the report was released on July 27, Malaysia and Cuba were both removed from the “Tier 3″ blacklist, even though the State Department’s own trafficking experts believed neither had made notable improvements, according to the sources.”

  • Obama has granted Cuba yet another unearned concession. Anti-trafficking groups have expressed concern at the “transparent” political motivations of this year’s rankings, which they claim call the integrity and impartiality of the report into question.

    Melysa Sperber, director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking had this to say, “We are very surprised by this year’s report, which seems to be making blatantly political decisions that we consider will have a really detrimental impact on both the integrity of the report and progress in the global fight to end modern slavery,”

    In 2008, Curaçao Drydock Company of the Dutch Antilles were fined $80 million by a Florida court in a case involving the forced labour of over 100 Cubans, sent to the port to work off Cuba’s debt to Curaçao Drydock Company. Ironically, the Cuban slaves worked on repairs to US cruise ships. Court documents also show that the dock’s production manager was Manuel de Jesus Bequer Soto Del Valle, the nephew of Fidel Castro’s wife, Dalia Soto Del Valle. Slavery is the family business!

    Perhaps if Obama’s new Cuba policy moves forward as planned, Cuban slaves won’t have to travel to other islands to toil for the Castro regime They can look forward to slave work repairing American cruise ships in Cuban dry docks.

  • I am loath to agree with anything nidal shehadeh writes. But on the subject of US agricultural labor she is correct. As one who negotiated the MEXSAWP agricultural labor program between Alberta, Mexico and the Canadian Government, I became fully aware of the labor conditions of the American horticultural sector. As Alberta horticultural producers were in direct competition with US producers, my role was to endeavor to ensure a so-called level playing field. The Canadian Government’s interest was in ensuring that the Mexicans did not replace Canadians, but eventually accepted that Canadians just would not do field work. However in their innocence about the commercial world they maintained that US growers only used Mexicans with green cards and complied with labor laws. I had a meeting with the Director of the Mexican Farmers Union (average acres 4) and also examined the position of Mexican field labor in California. The farmers avoided prosecution under the labor laws by not directly employing the Mexicans, but by paying “gangers” who in turn paid the Mexicans at rates well below any minimum. Child labor ought to be prevented by law and growers inspected!
    Under the MEXSAWP program Alberta growers paid 50% of the return air fare, provided free inspected accommodation including cooking facilities and guaranteed 18 weeks employment. The wage rate was 25 cents per hour above the legal minimum and if paying piece rates the earnings per hour had to exceed the hourly rate. Many of the Mexicans returned year after year often seeking to be allocated to the same grower that they had previously worked for.
    I apologise for a non-Cuban content contribution, but nidal touched upon the reality of the US agricultural industry.

  • Leave Cuba alone United States of America is not a democracy it is a hypocrisy ,
    How many of you no that 12 year old children working in American farms picking up vegetables and fruits , talk about slave labor ,US agricultural labor law exempts commercial farms from employing children , all for what ? so they could shave off your panties here and there .
    let’s say for the sake of argument that’s UN decide to generate a list under the title ” hypocrisy ” the US will be in first place , after all look at all the misery the US involved in .
    Why short the US be alone to be define what’s humanity is ?

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