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Posted October 17, 2003 by I-rlee66 in Castro's Cuba

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The Bush Administration recently intensified persecution of Americans who dare visit Cuba. Unleashing the Homeland Security Department on Cuba travelers is strictly about avoiding re-defeat in Florida in 2004, whatever the rhetoric. If Bush’s people were serious about impeding sex tourism, they could start in several other countries in the region where they have influence and could actually change things. But are these charges against Cuba really true?

In October of 2003, President George Bush declared his intent to use the Department of Homeland Security to catch U.S. citizens who dare visit Cuba, our nearby neighbor to the south. Attempting to breathe life into a 40-year-old moribund embargo that tries to isolate the island, the president announced in a recent televised address that the latest official reason for rushing toward regime change in Cuba is to protect young women there who are being sexually exploited.

Until now, the underfunded Office of Foreign Assets Control has been tasked with taking down dangerous American traveler-criminals who insist on their right to visit the island. But with little money to spend, OFAC has not even set up courts to hear cases let alone actually tried anyone for the heinous crime. Hence, the beauty of the Administration’s “aggressive
accounting” scheme, to curry favor with Florida’s Cuban-American community by raiding Homeland Security’s coffers

Does sex tourism exist in Cuba? Of course it does, as in all countries in the tourist-dependent and economically-depressed Caribbean. The more critical and intelligent question is this: does the Cuban government actively or passively promote the activity, as the Bush Administration and a June 2003 State Department paper claim? The answer is a resounding NO.

Starting in 1999, I have have had the opportunity to visit Cuba many times for firsthand observation of the situation there. In January of that same year, the Castro regime began a crackdown on sex tourism that has slowly gathered momentum ever since. Hence, I cannot speak to the dark days of what Cubans call the Special Period, roughly from 1993 to 1996. During those years of great economic depression until the 1999 crackdown, my friends on the island tell me it was considerably worse than it is now. I only know the current situation, and my conclusions constitute neither a puff piece for Castro’s police state nor propaganda for the Miami exile community.

The current Bush Administration distortions about Cuba are truly Orwellian. Actually, rather than sponsering sex tourism, the Castro government is doing just the opposite: they have decided it’s existence is a national crisis. Their response has been to unleash their own homeland security apparatus in sweeping repressive dragnets to round up any Cuban they even suspect of prostituting themselves to foreigners. In their zeal, they routinely violate due process for the detainees.
Much has been made by the media here in the U.S. of the 75 prominent Cuban dissidents jailed last Spring, but less known is that a concurrent repression has filled prisons with all sorts of so-called “antisocial elements,” not just politicals. Making these Cuban abuses of basic civil liberties even worse has been an extremely unjust policy to leave sex tourists in relative peace, while prosecuting Cubans involved in the trade to the full power of the law. And jail sentences on the island—like in the United States—are draconian.
The “Guadas” (spelling?—I’ve only heard this word spoken) are reeducation camps that exist throughout the island specifically for young women getting into this type of behavior; they are separate from criminal jails. A friend of mine from a small town outside Holguin spent two years in one in the late 1990s, and told me it was like a strict boarding school surrounded by barbed wire. (Sadly, as I write this, the latest wave of repression has swept her up again and she is back in Holguin’s Guada until the summer of 2004.)

Is this heavy-handed control of the population problematic from a civil libertarian point of view? Of course it is. But does it constitute active or passive participation by the Cuban government in prostituting the island’s young women to foreigners? Hardly.
Let’s be clear about this: whatever their rhetoric, the Bush Administration’s decision to sic Homeland Security on Cuba travelers is about avoiding defeat in Florida in the 2004 election, period. If his people were serious about impeding the mass sexual exploitation of a generation of impoverished Caribbean “comfort women,”  they could start with half a dozen other countries in the region where they have real influence and could actually change things.

Like everything about Cuba, the fight against sex tourism taking place there is complicated. In their own way, the hick cops who hassle innocent citizens on the streets—or the more sophisticated Havana-trained jefes interrogating them back in the police station—are trying to defend their society’s girls and boys from being preyed upon by lecherous first-worlders. The problem is they are doing it in a irresponsible fashion that trashes personal autonomy, and plays right into the hands of their enemies across the Florida Straits.

The Cuban government has seized the immense power of mass arrest and not tempered it with a responsibility to use all means at its disposal to figure out who is who. They have a nasty tendency under stress to toss everyone in the clink and let the cockroaches sort it all out. Obviously, concern for individual human rights in Cuba isn’t as much a priority for the state as building new cafeterias and hotels to catch desperately needed tourist dollars.

No Caribbean government is unaware of rampant sex tourism in what used to be called the American Lake. And few governments in the region expend as much energy fighting the quixotic battle against it as do the Cubans. Castro’s regime sincerely worries over what rampant “jiniterismo” (jockeying: literally, to ride foreigners for their dollars) is doing to Cuban society. A concrete indication of their concern is that in several locations across the island, the government has made major investments in the last few years building schools of social work. I personally watched one massive campus go up from start to finish outside of Holguin in 2001-2002.

The state sees what is happening as well as the citizenry: by opening up the country to tourism—and the resulting increase in economic stratification of society that comes with it—they are encountering classic social problems that dollar dependency brings. If they want to maintain the remarkable social peace on the island, a quality of life that makes Cuba a particularly unique place, they figure they’d better start training large numbers of social workers, fast.
The Cubans also have political reasons to lock up young “jiniteras.” According to official doctrine, taught in the schools and shown on frequent television documentaries, prostitution is closely associated with pre-revolutionary Cuba. Then, the island was a brothel for American weekenders and U.S. Navy sailors. The Cuban state has stressed this for 40 years, and as the people have watched Caribbean sex tourism creep back into their society, government prestige has suffered.
However crude and repellent it is to set up detention camps to solve social problems, understanding that the Cuban state’s goal in this case is to impede an international scourge of exploitation is to expose the falsity of the current media campaign of the Bush Administration and State Department.
One can appreciate the ticklish economic position the Cuban government is in. Middle-aged and elderly men, the sex tourist demographic, spend a lot of money; but so do families and young couples of the more crucial package-tourist demographic.

Sex tourists are important niche customers, but the lifeblood of the Caribbean vacation industry is mass-marketed package tourism. In most places, these “turo-dollars” are spent by couples and families in well-guarded hotel compounds on beaches that are cleansed of seedy natives. The predatory males who venture out of these enclaves to play out their sexual fantasies with local teenagers are a small percentage of the visitors, and spend their money mostly in the black market, making it more difficult for the state to get their hands on it. Those are the fiscal facts.

The catch is, if your nation’s currency reserves are filled by milking this cash cow, and you then decide to protect your youth by harassing the bad apples who arrive with the package tourists, word gets back quickly to their home countries. There is plenty of competition in the Caribbean for the vacation dollar: soon, not only the men, but the package tours, too, start tlooking elsewhere, and you go bust. Because of this unwavering economic law, most other tourist-supported states of the Caribbean don’t even go through the pretense of cracking down on the sexual foreign exchanges of their citizens.
It should be noted that, along with the recent massive expansion in training social workers, the Castro government has also started to apply criminal penalties to predatory foreigners and not just to the Cuban girls and boys involved in these financial trysts. Cuba has recently barred return, and even prosecuted and jailed the most egregious visitors violating laws against the corruption of minors. Thus far, these punishments have only been handed out in instances when the offender was caught red-handed; the trickier problem of identifying the perps preemptively and intervening without triggering criticism and economic disaster is still daunting, but at least this latest government action begins to address obvious inequities in the old policy.
The reality is that Cuba is making a flawed but sincere effort to deal with the spread of Caribbean-style sexual exploitation that returned to the island in the 1990s, when it again opened up to tourism. If we really want to be friends with our neighbors, the Cuban people, our government should be asking helpful questions about the situation, rather than wallowing in libel and slander.

For example, will the island once again become a playground of lust for gringos jetting over from Florida when U.S. capital finally re-penetrates the nation? Because of Cuba’s proximity to the American mainland, the more real threat for massive sexual exploitation there are cheap flights across the Florida Straits that could turn the entire nation into a U.S. sex bazaar. This is exactly what happened in the 1950s, the last time Cuba was in the U.S. economic orbit.

The latest accusations by Bush and his people have almost nothing to do with the imperfect efforts of Cuba to avoid this fate, and everything to do with never-ending demonization of the island for the benefit of Cuban exile leaders. This displaced ruling elite and their offspring are arguably Washington’s most powerful lobby, and they walk point on the long march to retake the country with U.S. economic muscle.
If we “norteamericanos” are prevented from traveling to our nearby island neighbor, and U.S. citizens must rely solely on Cuban exile propaganda or State Department pronouncements like the 2003 Trafficking In Persons Report for news, then who here can challenge the distortions?

  1. Follow up post #1 added on March 20, 2004 by danny ramirez

    Is Castro aware of this ever growing problem regarding prostitution in Cuba? Is prostitution being used as a means of attracting wealthy older men
    into the island as a means of obtaining the American dollar?

    Danny Ramirez

  2. Follow up post #2 added on July 25, 2004 by mick connelly

    I have friends in Chile who regularly go to Cuba and “enjoy the company of beautiful women” for $10 US a day. They implied it was an outragious value.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on July 27, 2004 by Dee


    ... Read all ... (comments, posts ... and “Havana Journal”.)

    Hmmmmmmmm the mind (wits mentality, brain power, and psyche intellect) ponders ... within the absence of moral-distray or dis-course”

    “Who is THE AMERICA that JUDGES? - lest not forget all the prostitution that occurs(ed) within the mighty-red-white-and-blue-states - “

    History - albeit HIS story - (categorized, and pre-sent-ed for mass-human consumption) is all but that.

    An acclamation of individual(s) personal experience

    Yet “pre-empts dishonorable play lies in the VIAL of the MISGIVINGS”:


    The Po on Li Tics

    “PO”: by mouth, orally; petty officer, postal order, post office, purchase order

    “Li”: exquisite imagery, rich language, allusions,
    cadence of lyric
    - (an ancient biographical name of a 701-762 Chinese poet) -

    “Tics”:“Po”: by mouth, orally; petty officer, postal order, post office, purchase order

    “Li”: exquisite imagery, rich language, allusions, cadence of lyric
    (an ancient biographical name:701-762, Chinese poet)

    “Tics”: local and habitual spasmodic motion (pre-noted in particular muscles of the face) - (behavior or speech)

    >>> THE"You Knows”(or, politically speaking You Should, Would, Could of Known - and I Will Tell You Now So That You Do Well Know” is a verbal tic >>>

    Swimming With Many On The Shores of Americas Dream Team.

    In Love and Pure Light,

    Sinceres - D

    (Second Generation Polish American, which ...

    in the line of descent from ancestory (Hmmmmmmmmmmm)
    Merriam-Webster Incorporate/in lien of
    Merriam Websters Privacy Policy:
    Grouped, Individual - On contemporaneous status VIA the type/class process of producing offspring : PROCREATION &
    PRODUCTION ... is still alive ... and kicking ...

    Please Post-Opinion-Input - me heart of hearts gratefully
    awaits the venue of words word - fertilize me, if you will ...

    Hugs & Major Luvs
    Always - D

  4. Follow up post #4 added on August 17, 2004 by Victor B.

    “The Reality” 

    I have issue with much of what was posted regarding the article, “Sex, Lies and Tourism:” Specifically, I propose to anyone who reads the above titled article to reexamine the following quote listed below. 
    “The reality is that Cuba is making a flawed but sincere effort to deal with the spread of Caribbean-style sexual exploitation that returned to the island in the 1990s, when it again opened up to tourism.”

    Where is the evidence to support this preposterous notion? At best, Fidel Castro is making perhaps, a thinly veiled effort in order to “appear” to curtail the rampant prostitution in Cuba. Let us not disregard the fact that Fidel does retain his precious U.S dollars through BOTH the resort and prostitution industry.
    Furthermore, it is simply reckless uninformed commentary to make the claim that Fidel Castro is not retaining a significant portion of these illicit tourism dollars. 

    Please don’t be fooled by this blatant leftist rhetoric
    that paints Fidel Castro as a “Do gooder: who is makeing a
    “sincere effort”  to put a stop to this foul activity.
    Come on give us all a break huh…

    Signed, Informed Cuban-American
    Have a nice day  

  5. Follow up post #5 added on June 27, 2009 by Dan

    I´m glad the Cuban government recognizes that prostitution exists because of the women and not the men.  Distorted Western ideas try to impose on us the belief that women are the victims.  It´s actually men who are the victims.  Foreign men who go to Cuba looking for sex do so because women in their countries do not provide them with sex or they do at a veru high price $$$.  For decades men have been demonized by Western media for using prostitution.  I´m glad the Cuban government is criminalizing these women since they do it because they like it or because they want to earn money to buy expensive things.  No one in Cuba is starving so these girls do not do it because of poverty.  Also, the only teenagers I saw in prostitution were all over 18.  And they´re not victims, the real victims are the men who use their services.

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