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Thread: Canucks are major customers in Cuba’s child sex trade

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    Canucks are major customers in Cuba’s child sex trade

    by Robert Cribb, Jennifer Quinn and Julian Sher of the Toronto Star, and Juan Tamayo of El Nuevo Herald

    HAVANA—Set against a backdrop of gutted buildings and faded hope, Michael is all smiles.

    He’s fiftysomething, sports a greying moustache last in fashion in the ’70s, and stares out from beneath a ball cap emblazoned with a red maple leaf. Sauntering into a downtown Havana bar, his left arm wound tightly around the waist of an attractive young Cuban woman, he’s in his element. She, meanwhile, is working.

    The Vancouver Island native flashes a grin at two European mates who, like him, have come to regard Havana as a second home. The bartender welcomes him like an old friend. Everyone here, as the song goes, knows his name. “There’s a lot worse places to be,” Michael says, in a toast to shared good fortune. “This is the promised land.”
    Michael is on the inside of a well-kept secret.

    Canadians are travelling to Cuba in surprising numbers to sexually exploit young people trapped in this socialist country’s underground sex tourism industry, a joint investigation by the Toronto Star and El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister publication of the Miami Herald, has found.

    Havana’s conspicuous scenes of street-level prostitution are the public face of a hidden, sordid trade in children as young as four. Many prostituted children in Cuba are second- or third-generation, following in the footsteps of sex-worker mothers to earn money for families complicit in their exploitation.

    Cuban authorities deny the problem. And Canada’s lax oversight suggests any self-proclaimed moral obligation to protect children from abuse stops at our own borders.

    Convicted Canadian sex offenders face little scrutiny leaving the country, little prospect of having foreign authorities warned of their arrival and little chance of being flagged by border authorities upon arrival back in Canada. Canadian border authorities have no access to the country’s sex offender registry and limited access to Canada’s criminal record database.

    In an exclusive interview with the Star, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews acknowledged shortcomings, saying the travel of convicted sex offenders is “one of the very significant issues that does need to be addressed” through better monitoring.

    “Are there additional steps I would like to see taken?” he said. “Absolutely. Am I encouraging the government to move in that direction? Absolutely.”

    Canadian men, generally between 40 and 60 years of age, are among the most numerous sexual predators in Cuba, according to internal government reports, international experts, diplomatic cables and on-the-ground interviews.

    The RCMP, in a confidential 2011 report on child sex tourism obtained by the Star through access-to-information requests, lists Cuba as a top destination in the Americas for Canadian sex tourists.

    “The issue of Canadian travelling child sex offenders is likely greater than previously thought,” the report concludes.
    And one of the key drivers behind any flourishing child prostitution market is “an established and active sex trade.”
    Cuba easily meets that definition.

    For sex tourists, the island holds unique allure. It’s closer and cheaper than destinations such Thailand and Cambodia. HIV rates are dramatically lower than in most countries. And a trip to Cuba for single male tourists is free from the social stigma associated with Phuket or Phnom Penh.

    Furtive negotiations with pimps, cabbies and staff at high-end Cuban hotels can easily procure meetings with young boys or girls, according to undercover conversations with Cuban insiders and hotel security staff last month.

    “That’s prohibited here in the hotel,” a security head at one of Havana’s large hotels told a reporter posing as sex tourist.
    That’s because young Cuban girls appearing at the city’s high-end hotels in the company of men are instantly flagged by security staff, who often demand payment to allow their entry.

    But he carefully described the process for accessing underage girls. “The young girls aren’t on the street. They’re in houses waiting for the call from pimps.”

    The secure — and surreptitious — environment for meeting them is a private lodging called a casa particular, where tourists can rent rooms for about $10 a night. “They don’t care what you’re doing there,” said one hotel security guard. “Whatever you want. Orgies, anything.”

    That advice mirrors the findings of the 2011 RCMP report, which says child sex “facilitators,” including “taxi drivers and/or hotel staff, can sometimes be used to arrange discreet meetings with potential child victims.”

    A Cuban casa particular provides a safe zone where child sex offenders “access children and locals who are willing to facilitate crimes against children in return for financial compensation,” says the report, titled Canadian Travelling Child Sex Offenders.

    “Poor or dysfunctional families may be particularly willing to open their doors to foreigners with the hope of reaping some financial benefits or so they can receive food or material items. Offenders can, and often do, capitalize on this vulnerability to gain sexual access to child victims.”

    U.S. diplomats documented the same money-for-child-sex system operating with the knowledge and permission of families in a 2009 cable to Washington. “Some Cuban children are reportedly pushed into prostitution by their families, exchanging sex for money, food or gifts,” it reads.

    The cost of forbidden youth is startlingly cheap: as little as $30 for the night. Manuel, a lean, 30-something lawyer from Mexico City, is flanked by two scantily clad young prostitutes outside a Varadero hotel as he proudly whispers to an undercover reporter in English: “I got them both for $40. We’re going back to (a casa particular) in Havana. Do you want to stay with us in our house with girls? Come with me. There’s so many!”

    Exploitation thrives where poverty exists, and in that respect, Cuba is no different from Cambodia or Thailand. Ivan Garcia, a dissident blogger and journalist in Havana, says the young girls and boys in the trade are typically poor, hopeless and desperate: “For these people, ‘future’ is a bad word.”

    Parents who usher their children into the sex trade are motivated by something much bigger than money, he says. The real goal, he says, is the hope of securing marriage to a wealthy foreigner. He knows two 12-year-old girls currently working the streets.

    “They see that this girl married some Italian and now she’s dressing nice, fixing up her mother’s house — it’s the illusion that you can get ahead if you prostitute yourself . . . the illusion of leaving the country, the illusion of a visa.”
    That illusion most often ends in exploitation and tragedy.

    In 2011, three Italian men were sentenced to between 20 and 25 years in prison for murder and corruption of minors after the body of a 12-year-old girl was dumped in Bayamo, a city in eastern Cuba.

    The girl — Lilian Ramirez — was a 12-year-old prostitute the men hired for a party along with two 13-year-olds and a 14-year-old, says Laritza Diversent, a dissident Cuban lawyer who worked on the case. The government handles such cases “with a lot of care and closed trials,” says Diversent.

    Diversent considers child prostitution in Cuba “a serious matter because of what I see every day on the street — very young girls and boys with much older foreigners.”

    In her own Havana neighbourhood growing up, she recalls, she had a nine-year-old friend who “was groped lasciviously” by adult men for cash. “There’s a moment when they dedicate themselves to prostitution and there’s somebody who uses them, usually someone from their own neighbourhood.”

    Prostitutes under 16 can be charged with “pre-criminal dangerousness” and be sent to youth interment camps But foreigners caught with prostitutes older than 16 rarely face arrest, she says. And it’s alleged that police accept bribes from prostitutes and pimps to look the other way.

    The Canadian government keeps secret how many Canadians have been prosecuted in Cuba for sex crimes. Concern for the privacy of the Canadians charged or convicted in the Cuban sex trade is the government’s stated rationale. So few have been prosecuted for the crime that releasing even aggregate figures could identify them, the government says. But there’s no question that some Canadians have been prosecuted for exploiting young Cubans.

    “A number of tourists, including Canadians, have been convicted of offences related to the corruption of minors,” the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade notes on its website about Cuba.

    And a study on Cuban sex tourism by the global monitoring group End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) found “much of the literature points to Canadians as being high on the list of offenders.”

    In 2003, ECPAT reported that a 53-year-old Canadian man had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl. Another Canadian man was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the sexual abuse of a 15-year-old.

    James Cason, the top American diplomat in Havana between 2002 and 2005, says Canadians are among the most enthusiastic customers of the Cuban child sex trade. “The ones pouring in were Canadians and Europeans, and that’s where I saw the problem (of child prostitution),” Cason said in an interview.

    (to be continued)

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    (continued)

    While Cuban government action against sex tourists appears to be rare, U.S. cables, released by the activist group WikiLeaks, suggest vigorous punitive actions are taken against victims of the country’s underage sex trade. “Police occasionally rounded up women and children in Cuba’s sex trade and charged them with vague crimes,” reads one 2009 cable. “Adolescents found in prostitution were sent to either juvenile detention facilities or work camps emphasizing politicized rehabilitation.”

    The “Recommendations for Cuba” detailed in the same memo reads: “Acknowledge that child sex trafficking in Cuba is a problem; provide greater legal protections and assistance for victims; develop procedures to identify possible trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; increase anti-trafficking training for law enforcement; and, take greater steps to prevent the trafficking of children in prostitution.”

    That advice has most certainly fallen on deaf ears inside the Cuban government. A request by the Star for an interview with the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa was ignored. Led today by Fidel Castro’s younger brother Raul, Cuba continues to officially deny that sexual predators are among the sun seekers and families pouring into the country. The numbers of arrests and prosecutions for child exploitation are tightly protected, and Cuba restricts the presence of international and domestic NGOs.

    Official denial reaches beyond mere marketing. It is an expression of deeply felt revolutionary pride. Fidel Castro cracked down on prostitution after the 1959 revolution and boasted his country would no longer be the American brothel. “There are no women forced to sell themselves to a man, to a foreigner, to a tourist,” he said in 1992. “Those who do so do it on their own, voluntarily, and without any need for it. We can say that they are highly educated hookers and quite healthy, because we are the country with the lowest numbers of AIDS cases . . . Therefore, there is truly no prostitution healthier than Cuba’s.”

    The sex marketplace in Cuba’s cities and resorts began to emerge after the Soviet Union’s collapse meant billions of dollars in annual subsidies from Moscow dried up. Today, the influx of foreign money may well make prostitution among the most profitable jobs in a country where the average monthly salary officially stands at less than $20.


    Cuba’s well-educated sex workers include a young woman who calls herself Chachi. Cherubic and young, her face is devoid of anything that suggests the broken life that brings her to Havana’s main prostitution strip — the seaside Malecon boulevard — at midnight.

    She was born and raised in a neighbouring province and attended university for two years, studying to become a veterinarian. Then she became pregnant. Now, with a three-year-old boy to look after, Chachi rents a Havana apartment for a month at a time, spending her days and evenings with male tourists like Michael.

    “I can cook, I can do dishes, I can clean the house,” she says through an interpreter. “I can do whatever you want.” Over a beer, she opens up about her humiliation having to walk the streets and the reasons she does it. “He is beautiful,” she says of her little boy, who remains living with her mother in her hometown. “I am here for him. I wait for money from tourists so I can send it to him and my mother.”

    The U.S. State Department consistently classifies Cuba as a “Tier 3” country — the worst in its rankings — when it comes to combating sex trafficking. “Cuba is a source country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour,” the State Department warns in the 2012 edition of its annual review of global human trafficking. “The country’s laws do not appear to penalize prostitution of children between the ages of 16 and 18.”

    The report concludes that the Cuban government has made “no known efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex.”
    Teresa C. Ulloa Ziaurriz, Mexico-based director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women in Latin America, says the problem of exploitative predators from Canada and Europe is likely to grow as Cuba opens its doors to ever more tourism.
    “All the Caribbean islands are really a paradise for child sex tourism,” she says. “We call sex tourism inverse trafficking — instead of taking the victims out of the country . . . the demand travels to where the supply is.

    “Why are they coming to Latin America and the Caribbean to buy sex from those who are in more vulnerable situation? This is the merchandisation of the bodies of women and girls.”

    Back in Havana, Michael certainly appears to be having a marvellous trip. Ask him about the city’s surprisingly open prostitution industry and he’ll launch into an X-rated Frommer’s guide to the most promising marketplaces for women in the city.

    “If you go to places like the (club) Cecilia, then you’re going to see top-of-the-line girls, but they’re going to be charging top-of-the-line prices,” he notes. “I prefer places like the Hotel Deauville where they’re accessible . . . Whores galore.”
    The retired British Columbian spends up to six months a year in Havana, a place he’s been visiting for two decades.
    “It’s hard not to be inspired by this,” he says as he directs his eyes to the young prostitute accompanying him this night.
    “And that,” he adds, his eyes visually pointing to one of several other young prostitutes in the bar with whom he shares warm banter and familiarity.

    With more time on his hands, his travels have been expanding of late to a more well-known sex tourism destination — Cambodia. “The Cambodian people just impress the fuckout of me,” he says. “They’re extremely nice. And you can get a really fucking sexy woman. The sex is great. The beach is fantastic. The food, because it’s got the French influence in it.”
    His travelogue complete, Michael smiles once more and extends his hand: “We’re all Canadians.”

    The Ugly Canadians is a series produced jointly by the Toronto Star and El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister publication of The Miami Herald.

    Canadians and the Cuban child sex trade

    Very interesting article on the Cuban sex trade. After i finished reading the article, i looked up Cuba's legal age of consent and it turns out it's the same as Canada's: 16.

  3. #3
    Go into any club in Havana and any single girl you see is yours for the night for the right price.
    We can all thank Fidel for this.
    Cuba is probably the only country in the world where a maid makes a bigger income than a doctor.

    Imagine what its like for the 18 year old daughter of a doctor, who can make more money in one night with a tourist, than her father makes in 3 months.

    Yup Castro and Chavez are great....great for tourism....sex tourism to be more specific.

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    Cloudy, maybe if the U.S. wouldn't be so stubborn & start doing like other countries such as Canada & Europe, they could get rid of their embargo, start trading with Cuba once again & the people of Cuba might have a better chance to get out of poverty.

    The only thing the USA's embargo against Cuba does is harm the poor people of Cuba. Good thing that Canada & the rest of the civilized world have welcomed Fidel & Raoul Castro (and other Cubans) and are open to doing business with them. Good thing tourists such as yourself don't mind visiting that wonderful country at least once a year & get to help the Cuban economy by spending your hard-earned money there. If it wasn't for good people like yourself, the people of Cuba would have it much worse.

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    This weekend's W5 episode

    This weekend's W5 episode deals with Canadian travellers & their role in Cuba's child sex trade:

    http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/w5-investig...-sex-1.1197763

    Click on the link to watch it or check your tv guide since it'll be rebroadcasted later today.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cloudsurf View Post
    Imagine what its like for the 18 year old daughter of a doctor, who can make more money in one night with a tourist, than her father makes in 3 months.
    The same could be said of a prostitute in any country, including the USA and Canada. I've met hundreds of escorts in Montreal & Toronto who claimed to earn more than their parents. Considering that their revenues from escorting are tax-free, it's not that hard to believe.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Holliday View Post
    The same could be said of a prostitute in any country, including the USA and Canada. I've met hundreds of escorts in Montreal & Toronto who claimed to earn more than their parents. Considering that their revenues from escorting are tax-free, it's not that hard to believe.
    Making more than their hard working parents....easily believable.
    Making a hundred times more ....not so much.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Holliday View Post
    Cloudy, maybe if the U.S. wouldn't be so stubborn & start doing like other countries such as Canada & Europe, they could get rid of their embargo, start trading with Cuba once again & the people of Cuba might have a better chance to get out of poverty.
    SICK DOC,

    I'm talking about the story and...you personally. Here I am reading about sickening barbarity against children beyond belief. Children as young as four being sold for sex. It's so disturbing that my emotional reaction is to have the sellers and buyers shot on sight. This is as ugly as anything can get. Yet what is your first comment. The U.S. is to blame. Twisted Doc.

    First you praise how "great" Chavez was for scorning the U.S. and doing so much to allegedly raise Venezuela and it's people without the U.S., and now with Castro's failure to protect Cuba's most vulnerable people, it's small children, under the same conditions as your hero Chavez faced, you want to blame the U.S. as the Cuban government clearly is turning a blind eye to a known continuing sick evil even tourists can find with relative ease. The article you chose says, "The report concludes that the Cuban government has made “no known efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex." So, you Doc are saying the embargo is preventing the Castro government from doing anything on it's own territory to reduce demand of it's own children for sex. This is what you call greatness? Cuban law enforcement takes bribes and the Canadian government protects the identities of pedophile monsters...yet your only reaction is to blame the U.S. It's sick hypocrisy.

    The mods should be taking notes of a pattern. This article is about Cuban and Canadian failure to take action against monstrous pedophiles each government allows by inaction to indulge themselves at will. Yet the thread starter says nothing about those directly responsible. His first impulse is to blame the U.S. which his own article credits for helping to expose the tragedy.

    I'm sickened by the article and the barbarity against these children...and it's despicable that anyone should use such a tragedy to spew his anti-American views (AGAIN) where no Americans are mentioned in these crimes rather than show direct concern about the children, or outrage at the principle culprits.

    truly,

    Merlot

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    Quote Originally Posted by cloudsurf View Post
    Making more than their hard working parents....easily believable.
    Making a hundred times more ....not so much.
    Not wanting to go off-topic, but what do you suggest should be done in order to improve their conditions? Other poor people around the world, such as in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya & in Palestine might want to know....??

    p.s. Personally, i believe a lot has to do with the fact the Americans refuse to do business with Cuba. Improving relations among the two countries would do wonders for the well-being of the Cuban people.

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    A lot of people are unaware of this but there is an exceptionally large and politically powerful anti-Castro exile Cuban population in Florida (and particularly southern Florida) which steers some of the politics on these matters. One of my former employers is a Cuban American so I am in tune with some of these issues of the anti-Castro forces. Many of these people are wealthy and educated and their families had their assets taken by Castro. See this article which was written in 2006:

    http://www.time.com/time/nation/arti...223316,00.html

    My former employer hoped for the embargo to be lifted not so his family could get their stolen assets back, but so that he could make money off the anticipated business enterprises with Cuban imports flowing into the USA based on his knowledge both of what Cuba was exporting and what the US consumer would want and the international trade issues involved. He had about 6 get rich quick schemes that all hinged on the fall of Castro in the 199os and he went so far as to make a number of business trips to the Florida Keys to lay the groundwork for the anticipated businesses which were all built around Cuban imports coming in to Florida. Had Castro fallen from power and the embargo been lifted at that time, there is a strong likelihood I would be living in Florida and working for one of those businesses he had lined up in the Keys, probably doing their legal work.
    Last edited by EagerBeaver; 03-17-2013 at 04:19 PM.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Holliday View Post
    Personally, i believe a lot has to do with the fact the Americans refuse to do business with Cuba. Improving relations among the two countries would do wonders for the well-being of the Cuban people.[/I]
    First I find it totally humorous that Merlot sets himself up as judge and juror of everyone else. Maybe we should appoint him Pope Merlot.

    Doc, I've noticed that you seem to think everything seems to be the US's fault. If the US chooses not to do business with someone WTF makes it illegal for Cuba to do business with the rest of the world. The Chinese have a nice large economy to do business with. The Panama Canal has been internationalized. The reality is that we just don't let Cuba mooch off the US the way CAD mooches off the US for defense.

    Where's the disgust and condemnation of these scumbag pedifile canucks that drive the trade? No responsibility here huh? Amazing how one justifies and blames it on someone else for their own country's failings. CADs always amaze me with their attitudes. You've got a perfectly good sex industry in CAD, but your own home grown scum bags just have to prey on youngsters. Really Gross!!!

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    V, i attribute the US embargo on Cuba as just one of the many problems that isn't helping that country's people.

    I actually love the United States. If it wasn't for the US, Canadians today would likely speak German or Japanese, as my late grandfather often told me when he'd hear people criticising the US.

    I also agree with what you wrote in the last paragraph. I also do find the whole thing extremely gross & the reason why i decided to post this article was to shed some light at an ongoing tragedy. If the article i posted opened a few eyes & got people to take notice, then it has served its purpose. I share your disgust. Shame on them!

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    Toronto Star article exposed as US-based anti-Cuban propaganda

    There may be more to this story than what meets the eye. The following news story, published today, indicates that the article which appeared in the Toronto Star, which is the first in a promised series of articles, plays loose with the facts, and is actually being published in partnership with El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister publication of the Miami Herald, which is known for editorializing against the Cuban government and for employing journalists paid by the U.S. government to disseminate anti-Cuban propaganda.


    The Toronto Star/El Nuevo Herald article appears to be simply anti-Cuban propaganda from US anti-Cuban sources, based on little or no evidence.

    Here are some relevant extracts from the above reference:

    "There is truly no prostitution healthier than Cuba's," said Fidel Castro in 1992. Or so claims the Toronto Star. But did he really? Not at all. Castro actually said, "There is truly no tourism healthier than Cuba's."

    "Canadians are travelling to Cuba in surprising numbers to sexually exploit young people," the first article in the series says. Just how surprising are these numbers? Well, they can't say. The same article admits that they don't actually know, because the Canadian government doesn't reveal the number of Canadians prosecuted in Cuba for sex crimes.

    The only facts they can point to are in a 2011 RCMP report that lists Cuba as "a top destination in the Americas" for sex tourism. No, not the top. One of them. In the Americas. And where does Cuba rank in this list? The article doesn't say.

    Why do the Cubans quoted happen to be a "dissident lawyer" and a "dissident blogger"? The series on Cuban sex tourism is not being published by the Star alone. Its partner in the series, El Nuevo Herald, is the Spanish-language sister publication of the Miami Herald, known for editorializing against the Cuban government and for employing journalists paid by the U.S. government to disseminate anti-Cuban propaganda.

    In 2004, President Bush similarly warned about child sex tourism to justify his government's travel restrictions on Cuba, without any evidence to suggest the problem is more prevalent on the island.

    With close to one million visitors a year, Canadians are the primary market for the Cuban tourism industry, a major source of funding for the Cuban economy. If anyone wanted to target Cuban tourism, the Canadian market would be the place to start.

    Whatever the intention of playing fast and loose with the facts, it raises questions about the editorial influence of the Herald on this series, and whether the remaining articles will be based on evidence or just conjecture of opponents of the Cuban government.

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    Interesting article, RX. Thank you for sharing.

    On another note, the W5 episode that i spoke about earlier will be re-broadcasted today on CTV @5pm.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vercingentorix View Post
    First I find it totally humorous that Merlot sets himself up as judge and juror of everyone else.
    Doc, I've noticed that you seem to think everything seems to be the US's fault.

    The reality is that we just don't let Cuba mooch off the US the way CAD mooches off the US for defense.

    Where's the disgust and condemnation of these scumbag pedifile canucks that drive the trade? No responsibility here huh? Amazing how one justifies and blames it on someone else for their own country's failings. CADs always amaze me with their attitudes. You've got a perfectly good sex industry in CAD, but your own home grown scum bags just have to prey on youngsters. Really Gross!!!
    Hilarious,

    So you think my extremely harsh position against child exploitation is too severe, since you didn't clarify? It's to judgmental to be outraged by the heinous exploitation of children? Is that your character.

    You criticize me as judge, then proceed to make the exact same point I did criticizing Doc for blaming the U.S., sir judge hypocrisy. Still you go further blasting Canadians for mooching it's defense from the U.S.. Do you really think expanding this to attack Canada as a whole, off subject, isn't exposing your real nature. Do you understand what you say sir double-talking holiness.

    No doubt Cuba would be better off if it could trade with the U.S., especially being so close. But the subject posted was Cuban permissiveness and predatory Canadian pedophiles exploiting children there. Nowhere was the U.S. mentioned as an offender, and nowhere has anyone shown U.S. culpability in this except to go off on an extremely superficial and responsibility dodging tangent.

    RobinX. Thanks for that information. It's hard to believe the Cuban government and their law enforcement would be as heartless and brutal towards it's children as the article depicts. Now we know there may be some agenda by biased sources and the so-called information is tainted.



    Merlot

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