New EU regulation banning goods made by forced labor could affect Cuban products

Cuba has a long history of using forced labor to produce export goods, as well as the sale of Cuban professionals as slave labor. Let’s see if the EU has the morality to apply this new regulation to communist Cuba.

Via Diario de Cuba (my translation):

Cuban products manufactured using forced labor may have its days counted in the European Union

The European ban on any product manufactured with forced labor could mark a turning point in the importation of goods from authoritarian countries such as Cuba and China. That is unless Brussels continues its policy of turning a blind eye to certain regimes.

This week the European Parliament approved by a large majority — 555 votes in favor, six votes against, and 45 abstentions — a new regulation that allows the bloc to “prohibit the sale, import, and export of goods manufactured through forced labor,” even online.

“The decisions to investigate will be based on objective and verifiable information that can be received from international organizations, cooperating authorities, and whistleblowers. Several risk factors and criteria will be taken into account, including the prevalence of state-imposed forced labor in certain economic sectors and geographical areas,” the European Parliament reported.

Socialist MEP Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques (Portugal) reminded everyone that “28 million people are trapped in the hands of human traffickers and states, who force them to work for little or no pay.”

“Europe cannot export its values and import products manufactured with forced labor,” she considered.

Dutch liberal Samira Rafaela described the law as “innovative” because it “shifts power from exploiters to consumers and employees.”

Cuba in the spotlight

“It’s good news. In Cuba, there are sectors subjected to these practices by the State. We have denounced the case of prisoners who work making charcoal for export to Europe. Hopefully, this new reporting mechanism will not be ineffective due to the politicization of the European Commission, which sometimes operates with double standards on human rights issues,” said Yaxys Cires, Director of Strategies at the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH).

A report by DIARIO DE CUBA recently exposed how thousands of prisoners on the island produce marabou charcoal for export to Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and other countries, under conditions of overcrowding, repression, mutilations, and wage theft, while European companies showcase the product as “sustainable agricultural practice” on the island.

Earlier this year, the UN warned the Cuban regime about the persistence of violations, especially among doctors sent on the so-called “internationalist missions,” and warned that the governments of Italy, Qatar, and Spain could be considered complicit in these mechanisms.

In addition to doctors, athletes, coaches, and teachers, other Cubans sent abroad have suffered semi-slavery practices, including cruise ship employees. But the worst part falls on domestic tourism workers, tied up by the government and its recruitment agencies.

“Convention number 29/1930 of the ILO, signed by Cuba, prohibits forced labor. European Union companies on the island must respect their own legislation and pay fair wages to workers, without intermediary employment agencies,” said Joel Brito, Executive Director of the International Group for Corporate Social Responsibility in Cuba (GIRSCC).

Asked about the application of the law, a spokesperson for the European Commission sent this newspaper a document promising “a list of economic sectors” in specific geographical areas where state-imposed forced labor exists.

“A new Single Portal on Forced Labor would be created to help enforce the new rules” and receive reports of irregularities. The spokesperson believes that “a trade union network against products derived from forced labor would help improve cooperation between authorities.”

Joel Brito recalls that the Swedish company IKEA “faced accusations of having used Cuban prisoners to manufacture its products in the 1980s,” but the regime in Havana “has continued with this practice, which provides it with financial resources to maintain repression.”

The new European regulation will enter into force after approval by the Council of the Union, and member states will have to implement it before 2027.

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