Prostitution in Cuba
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    Young Cuban women lured to Miami on promises of freedom, forced into prostitution

    Young Cuban women lured to Miami on promises of freedom, forced into
    prostitution
    BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES AND BRENDA MEDINA
    ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

    As a means to flee Cuba, six young women agreed to work in Miami as
    exotic dancers.

    That was the deal to pay off a $20,000 smuggling fee from the island to
    Mexico and ultimately into the United States.

    But instead of simply stripping, they were forced into sex slavery in
    Miami. They were locked up, mistreated and forced into prostitution
    until police rescued them in September, according to federal court
    documents. Their ordeal has become the first known criminal case
    involving Cuban women brought to the United States for sexual exploitation.

    Prosecutors charge that 31-year-old Silvio Clark Morales — who faces
    trial later this month on 16 charges, including sexual trafficking and
    exploitation of women — offered to guide the women out of Cuba and find
    them jobs as strippers in Miami, promising they would not have to have
    sex with clients. In return, the women agreed to pay him $100 a day of
    their earnings until they paid off the $20,000.

    But once here, court documents say, the terms changed. Morales, AKA
    “Jander” and “Silvito,” increased the debt to $55,000 and forced them
    into prostitution, according to court documents.

    The women are 21 to 25 years old. Most of them, like Morales, are from
    Camagüey province in eastern Cuba. They left Cuba in 2015 and 2016, amid
    an exodus from the island that has been increasing since the Obama
    administration announced a change of its policies toward Cuba.

    The legal documents in the case, first reported by Univisión 23, a news
    partner of el Nuevo Herald, indicate that Morales did not work alone and
    moved easily between Florida and Cuba, and perhaps Mexico and Central
    America as well.

    The documents show he traveled to Cuba to meet the women, some of whom
    he first made contact with via Facebook. In one case, Morales picked up
    one woman in Cuba and “transported her to a boat” that took her and a
    dozen other people to Cancun in Mexico, the documents said.

    Yoel Trujillo, who acknowledged that he guarded the women in Miami, told
    Univisión 23 reporter Erika Carrillo in June that the operation was part
    of a people smuggling network that operates between Cuba, Mexico and the
    United States.

    “We took them to the [Mexican immigration] detention center to get them
    papers, made a deal with a lawyer that Silvito has there, then sent them
    money by MoneyGram and he put them on an airplane to the border,”
    Trujillo said.

    One of the women said she met Morales in Honduras when he was introduced
    as a smuggler who could get her to the United States, according to the
    court documents. Another victim said she sent money through Western
    Union to “associates” of Morales in Mexico.

    The documents do not say when Morales came to the United States, but
    Trujillo said he arrived four to five years ago and obtained his
    permanent residence under the Cuban Adjustment Act.

    The case could prove to be a test of new levels of cooperation between
    U.S. and Cuban authorities that began after the reestablishment of
    diplomatic relations. A colonel in Cuba’s Interior Ministry visited
    Miami in February to meet with U.S. officials from the departments of
    Homeland Security (DHS), State and Justice about human trafficking and
    immigration fraud. DHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and
    federal prosecutors in South Florida declined to comment on the case
    because it remains under investigation. They also declined to say
    whether Cuban authorities are cooperating with the investigation.

    Two of Morales’ victims escaped from the apartment in the Allapattah
    neighborhood of Miami on Sept. 6 and went to police, who arrested
    Morales the same day. He was indicted later that month. He faces up to
    life in prison if convicted on the string of charges, which also include
    human smuggling and possession of weapons during criminal activities.
    Morales’ court-appointed attorney could not be reached Thursday.

    The other four women were found in the same Allapattah apartment complex
    where they and Morales lived. Several neighbors told Univisión 23 that
    they knew about the activities going on inside.

    Univisión first aired a report on the case this week, which included the
    June interview with Trujillo. He told the TV channel that he was in
    charge of receiving the young women in Miami, guarding them and
    transporting them to night clubs and hotels to meet clients, all on
    orders from Morales.

    Trujillo said they hid their passports and the food stamps they are
    entitled to as Cuban migrants.

    “I admit that I was guilty, but I had the courage to break with it and
    talk about it because of the women because of their fears, even though I
    know all of this could cost me,” Trujillo told the television station.
    “One day I went to pick up one of them up at a hotel that they use, on
    the edge of the airport, and she was with two men,” he said. “It was
    clear that she came out destroyed, her body, you understand me? That hit
    me pretty hard.”

    Trujillo added that Morales did not allow the women to go to the
    hospital when they were ill.

    The women have said that Morales threatened them, and some declared that
    he beat them. He pointed a pistol at one woman and at the boyfriend of
    another “because they were breaking his rules,” according to the legal
    documents. He drove another to a bridge and threatened to throw her off,
    the women said.

    “You could say they are also sex slaves because they had to be with
    him,” Trujillo said.

    Morales also threatened to kill the women’s relatives in Cuba if they
    left him. The mother of one of the women who escaped confirmed that he
    threatened her on the island.

    Morales went to Cuba “and told the mother that if she ]the young woman]
    did not return in a week he was going to kill the son [she had left in
    Cuba] and was going to have her killed here in the United States, that
    he had the power to do it,” Trujillo said.

    Univisión reported that Trujillo’s information eventually led
    authorities to the Allapattah building where the four women were found
    three months later. His name does not appear in the court documents but
    knowledgeable sources told the channel that he could be called in for
    questioning.

    Sgt. Mary Pérez, with the human trafficking unit of the Miami-Dade
    Police Department, told Univisión that her unit has noticed a recent
    increase in the number of Cuban prostitutes.

    “This year we’ve found many more Hispanics than last year,” Pérez said.
    “This year we’ve had more recently arrived Cubans.”

    The U.S. State Department’s last annual report on people smuggling
    listed Cuba on its “Tier 2” Watch List of countries that don’t do enough
    to combat the crime. It notes that Cuban citizens are victims of sex
    trafficking and forced labor in Latin America and the Caribbean, but
    does not mention Cuban victims in the United States.

    Sens. Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez, both Cuban Americans, alleged that
    the Obama administration pushed the State Department in 2015 to move
    Cuba from its worst classification, “Tier 3,” to the “Tier 2” Watch
    List. Many Cuban American members of the U.S. Congress have repeatedly
    denounced the existence of Cuban criminal networks that operate on both
    sides of the Florida Straits.

    A State Department spokesperson told el Nuevo Herald that Cuba and the
    United States are holding “productive discussions” on human trafficking
    and called it “an area of mutual concern.”

    The spokesperson referred to a January trip to Havana by Susan Coppedge,
    U.S. ambassador-at-large to monitor and combat trafficking in persons,
    “to discuss efforts to combat trafficking in persons with a broad range
    of Cuban officials.

    “We hope to plan another exchange in Washington next year.”

    FOLLOW NORA GÁMEZ TORRES AND BRENDA MEDINA ON TWITTER: @NGAMEZTORRES AND
    @BRENDAMEDINAR

    Source: Young Cuban women lured to Miami on promises of freedom, forced
    into prostitution | In Cuba Today –
    www.incubatoday.com/news/article112362322.html

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