Dear Ms. Giammarinaro,
We truly welcome your visit this week to Cuba and, in this regard, wish to express our willingness to assist your efforts in any way you may deem appropriate. While we are aware that you will face significant challenges in your task we are confident that your integrity, professionalism, and experience on these matters will for the most part ensure the successful outcome of your mission. But it will not be an easy one.
Allow us to respectfully offer some concise comments on this matter that may be useful to you.
- Presently speaking, Cuban society has developed an enabling environment for state institutions and non-state third parties to foster and benefit from various forms of human trafficking. Some of the relevant features that facilitate those criminal activities are the lack of basic freedoms such as expression, press, and organization.
The Cuban political system doesn't allow its people to establish free unions, or any other citizen organization to be free of government control.
The combination of growing poverty and lack of basic liberties push many citizens to adopt various survival strategies such as prostitution, and also allows state institutions to engage in criminal practices – such as the human trafficking of labor.
- The Cuban penal code does not criminalize all forms of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and disregards criminal acts involving children between 16 and 18 years old since they are not considered minors by the Cuban laws.
- The present penal code includes an acceptable alibi that authorizes an individual or the state to exert forms of repression against anyone that may deemed as “inconvenient” under the pretext of ensuring citizen security: The so-called “Dangerousness Law" similar to those applied in Mussolini’s Italy.
Social “dangerousness” or behavior considered to be pre-criminal danger to society is considered a valid legal charge under Cuban law, which allows the authorities to detain and incarcerate without a trial any person whom they think is likely to commit crimes in the future. The charge carries a penalty of up to four years in prison.
Thousands of women have gone to jail exclusively on the basis of a whimsical assessment by a policeman who decided they were likely to become prostitutes because they were wearing an attractive dress or were talking to a tourist.
A new group of women (Movimiento Dignidad) that is demand the removal of these legal aberrations and the immediate release of those already arbitrarily incarcerated, is currently being forcefully repressed ever since the group’s existence became public.
- The lucrative state export of medical and other professional services to other countries shares features that characterize modern slavery.
Cuban authorities pay only a fraction (less than 20%) of the revenues obtained through exported labor, which is usually destined for risky locations; and the participants are forced to remain in the “volunteer” program via threat tactics that claim consequences such as revoking their medical licenses if participants choose to leave.
Doctors and nurses working in these programs have provided reports of substandard working and living conditions, and the presence of “minders” who retain their passports and monitor the medical professional’s activities and relations closely outside of work.
To accept that they enter these contractual programs on a voluntary basis would disregard the strenuous circumstances of their involvement: that they are joining the program under extreme political pressures from Cuban authorities and under the economic coercion of their already low income in Cuba. The salaries paid to them by the Cuban intermediary state company that exports their services (and pockets about 80% of what it charges to the other government) are still attractive in comparison to the ridiculous average salaries they earn while residing in Cuba (about $26 to $67 U.S. dollars per month).
Dear Ms. Giammarinaro, we noted a report indicating that independent Cuban lawyers and other civil society associations had only learned of your upcoming visit next week as of last Friday, and the details were learned exclusively via the Cuban media. That is worrisome.
The Cuban power elite is incapable of making the economy viable, but is quite efficient at repressing independent voices. They are adept at bringing celebrities and VIPs to a Magical Mystery Tour of the island in which they will try to impress them with “Potemkin Villages” showcases such as CENESEX.
Please, be aware that you are not visiting an open society. The key messages that you will hear have been carefully scripted and rehearsed in advance to your visit. Access to your delegation will be closely monitored and filtered.
The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba is ready to assist you in the coordination of interviews with civil society independent representatives, either during your trip or once you are back in Europe. We wish you a successful trip and all the best.
Dr. Juan A. Blanco
Foundation of Human Rights in Cuba