Cuba’s most horrifying episode of child sex tourism resulted in a girl’s death
Cuba's most horrifying episode of child sex tourism resulted in a girl's
In May, 2010, Lilian Ramirez Espinosa, along with three other Cuban
adolescents, was part of a sex party involving foreigners. Lilian ended
up dying, though it's still not clear how.
Cuban lawyer Laritza Diversent says the authorities reacted to the fact
children were involved in prostitution only when one of them died.
By: Juan Tamayo Special to the Star, Published on Sat Mar 16 2013
For the two Cuban girls, 12 and 13 years old, it was just another sex
party with foreign tourists — videotaped, fueled by marijuana and
alcohol, and involving sex with both men and women.
But this time, 12-year-old Lilian Ramirez Espinosa, who suffered from
asthma, gasped and blacked out, according to court documents in the
case. Her badly decomposed body was found five days later on the
isolated outskirts of the eastern city of Bayamo.
The girls "had been prostituting themselves for six months, but one of
them had to die before the authorities noticed," says Havana lawyer
Laritza Diversent, who is helping with the appeal by one of the
defendants in the case.
"(The girls) had been prostituting themselves for six months, but one of
them had to die before the authorities noticed."
Lilian's death on May 14, 2010 is the best known and most horrifying
example of child prostitution to emerge from Cuba since sex tourism
began to blossom there in the early 1990s.
Canadian, Spanish and other male tourists are flying regularly to the
communist-ruled island to have sex with minors, a joint investigation by
the Toronto Star and El Nuevo Herald has found.
The Cuban regime "resists discussion of issues that might suggest
weaknesses in the governing and social system," says a report on child
sex tourism written by U.S. diplomats in Havana in 2010.
Part 1: Toronto sex offender could be first Canadian convicted of
child sex tourism in Cuba
Diversent says she was not surprised that girls as young as the ones in
Bayamo were having sex for pay in a country where kids usually start
having sex at the age of 12 or 13 and families face shortages of
everything from tomatoes to lipstick.
"The only thing never rationed was sex," she told Star and El Nuevo
Herald journalists in Havana.
What was surprising, she added, was that three Italians and 10 Cubans
were tried and convicted in Lilian's death.
Simone Pini, 45, and Angelo Malavasi, 48, are serving 25-year prison
sentences for murder and corruption of minors while Luigi Sartorio, 48,
was sentenced to 20 years. The Cubans received sentences ranging from 20
to 30 years.
Diversent, who is helping with Pini's appeal and has copies of all the
documents from the trial in September 2011, said that while a few
aspects of the case remain unclear, she does not doubt that the two
girls were prostituting themselves.
Lilian had already had "love relations" with four Cuban males aged 14 to
25, the lawyers added in a telephone interview, reading from a police
report. And the sex parties had been going on since mid-2009.
Nancy Munoz Yero, the mother of one of the Cuban adults convicted in the
case, said Lilian and a girlfriend were known to hang around with
foreigners visiting Bayamo, as well as adult local men.
Pini said that he did not know any of the girls and nothing about any
sex parties, but added that Bayamo residents had told him during the
trial that the girls "did their little things. They didn't play with dolls."
The court's final ruling in the case never mentions the word
prostitution, Diversent says, although it notes that some of the girls
at the sex parties received cash or gifts such as clothes.
One of three prosecution videos presented at the trial shows one
13-year-old recounting sex encounters with both foreigners and Cubans,
both men and women, with what Diversent called "horrifying casualness."
The videos also show some of the defendants re-creating the events in
the home and bedroom where they took place, as well as the recovery of
Lilian's body. They were posted on the Internet by the dissident news
agency Hablemos Press.
Lilian and a 13-year-old girl were picked up by Pini and a Cuban youth
year a Bayamo middle school for a party, according to one of the videos.
The court ruling indicated two other girls aged 13 and 14 turned up
separately, but it was not clear if they engaged in sex acts, Diversent
Lilian blacked out while being filmed having sex with a Cuban man in his
20s, according to the re-creation video.
Believing that she had died and afraid to take her to a hospital, Pini
and others put her in the trunk of a car and dropped her off in an
isolated spot on the outskirts of Bayamo, the video noted.
The final court ruling indicates that Lilian died of asphyxia but does
not say how, according to Diversent. Her body was found after a dog was
seen chewing on a human hand, according to another prosecution video.
The three Italians and some of the Cubans claim they falsely confessed
or incriminated others under heavy pressure by police interrogators and
after weeks in isolation cells. Pini and Sartorio claim they have
receipts proving they were in Italy when Lilian died.
"They told me they needed my help punishing the bad Cubans who were
abusing the girls, and then they threw me in prison," Pini told El Nuevo
Herald during a lengthy phone interview from the foreigners' wing of
Havana's Combinado del Este prison.
What's more, Diversent said a Bayamo resident recently signed a
notarized declaration for Pini's appeal saying that on the day Lilian
died he saw a young girl and a man in his 30s or 40s walk into the
thicket where her body was later found.
The man, Pedro Medel, said he told police what he had seen and days
later recognized the girl from a police photo of Lilian, but was not
called to testify at the trial, the lawyer added.
Asked what might have happened to Lilian, Pini said he could not speak
freely on the prison telephone.
"I am very much afraid of the Cuban authorities," he said, "because they
can do anything here — make up evidence, erase evidence, erase anything."
Juan Tamayo is a reporter with El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language
sister publication of The Miami Herald.