How Cuba became the newest hotbed for tourists craving sex with minors
HAVANA — These stories are the result of a joint investigation by Toronto Star reporters Robert Cribb, Jennifer Quinn and Julian Sher, and El Nuevo Herald reporter Juan O. Tamayo.
The 50-something Canadian steps inside a downtown bar, his left arm wound tightly around the waist of a young prostitute as he flashes a sly grin. A winking bartender welcomes him like an old friend.
“It’s hard not to be inspired by this,” Michael says, looking over his companion for the night. “And that,” he adds, his eyes pointing to one of the other young women in the bar. “This is the promised land.”
Michael, a retiree from Vancouver Island, spends up to six months a year in Havana, where he says he has discovered easy access to young women willing to ignore age differences — in exchange for as little as $30 for the night.
Foreign tourists, especially Canadians and Spaniards, are travelling to Cuba in surprising numbers for sex — and not just with adult prostitutes. They are finding underage girls and boys, a joint investigation by The Toronto Star and El Nuevo Herald has found.
Havana’s conspicuous scenes of street-level prostitution are the outward face of a hidden prostitution trade in minors, some as young as four, some with families complicit in their exploitation, the newspapers found.
Cuba holds unique allure for Western sex tourists. It is closer and cheaper than other sex destinations, such as Thailand. And HIV rates are lower than in other Caribbean sex tourism hotspots, such as the Dominican Republic or Haiti.
While the size of the island’s underage sex market remains a mystery — the communist government denies it is a problem and fosters the image of an island free of the social ills that plague other nations — it clearly goes on.
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