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The 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. Foreign tourists, especially Canadians and Spaniards, are traveling to Cuba in surprising numbers for sex — and not just with adult prostitutes.
Cuba holds unique allure for Western sex tourists. It is closer and cheaper than other sex destinations, such as Thailand. More than 1 million Canadian tourists visited Cuba last year. Pimps, cabbies and tourist hotel staffers can procure discreet meetings with underage prostitutes, according to the RCMP report. Orgies, anything. Ivan Garcia, 43, a dissident Havana journalist who has written several articles on prostitution, said the underage prostitutes are typically poor, hopeless and desperate.
Garcia said he knows two year-old girls currently working the streets and has heard of year-olds. The age of sexual consent on the island is 16 but girls can marry at 14 with parental approval, Diversent said. Foreigners caught with prostitutes older than 16 are usually not arrested but the minors can be sent to youth detention centers, she added, although police often take bribes to look the other way.
Most Western countries, including the United States, as well as some international agreements proscribe tourism for sex with anyone under the age of 18, regardless of the laws in the destination country. Cuban laws are tough on those convicted of sexually exploiting girls or boys 14 and younger — if the government chooses to prosecute. They can get up to 30 years in prison and even death by firing squad if there are aggravating factors such as the use of violence or drugs.
Three Italian men were sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for murder and corruption of minors after the death of a year-old girl during a sex party in eastern Bayamo. Court records indicate that the girl was asthmatic and died accidentally. A report on Cuban sex tourism by the global monitoring group End Child Prostitution and Trafficking noted that one Canadian had been sentenced to 11 years for sexually abusing a year-old girl, and another was sentenced to 25 years for abusing a year-old.