"Working together for a free Cuba"




Bush says Castro welcomes sex tourism.

Miami Fl. July 17 2004 / President Bush on Friday accused Fidel Castro of exploiting Cuba's children by encouraging a sex-tourism industry designed to draw cash to the impoverished nation, comments certain to resonate with Cuban-American voters in the swing state.

"The regime in Havana, already one of the worst violators of human rights in the world, is adding to its crimes. The dictator welcomes sex tourism," Bush said at a conference on "human trafficking" forced labor, sex and military service.

Bush's rival, John Kerry, agreed with the president and the Democratic campaign said human trafficking demands a coordinated international response. The Kerry campaign did take issue with the pace of Bush's response, arguing that the president had waited too long until February of this year to submit an international pact against trafficking to the Senate.

By combining the human-trafficking issue with his hard-line rhetoric against Castro, Bush hopes to bolster his standing with Cuban-Americans in the state that decided the 2000 election. Friday's trip was Bush's 23rd as president to Florida, and recent polls show the race tied.

Last year, the Bush administration imposed sanctions on Cuba, Burma and North Korea for failing to take steps to stop such practices. In a report last month, the State Department listed Cuba among 10 nations that engage in human trafficking.

The president said Castro had "bragged about" Cuba's sex industry and he quoted Castro as saying: "Cuba has the cleanest and most educated prostitutes in the world."

That apparently was a quote from a 1992 speech in which Castro said prostitution in his country was illegal, but nevertheless present.

"There is no cleaner, purer tourism than Cuba's tourism, because there is really no drug trafficking, no gambling houses," Castro told a session of the National Assembly of the People's Government. "There are no women forced to sell themselves to a man, to a foreigner, to a tourist," Castro said. "Those who do so do it on their own, voluntarily and without any need for it."

White House officials did not respond to questions about the source of the Castro quote.

But Bush said Castro has turned Cuba into a major destination for sex tourism, which is "a vital source of hard currency to keep his corrupt government afloat."

"My administration is working toward a comprehensive solution to this problem: the rapid, peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba," Bush said.

The president said an "influx of American and Canadian tourists contributed to a sharp increase in child prostitution in Cuba," a claim he attributed to a report from the Protection Project, a legal human-rights research institute based at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

Bush said the institute had found this was the case. In fact, the institute had cited "general news reports" suggesting that but had not independently concluded it.

Human traffickers bring as many as 17,500 people into the United States every year, trapping them in slavery-like conditions for forced sex, sweatshop labor and domestic servitude, the administration says. As many as 800,000 people were forcibly moved across borders worldwide in the last year, 80 percent of them women.

Bush did not announce any new initiatives Friday, but said his administration is combatting the problem at home and abroad by:

Spending more than $295 million since the start of his term to support anti-trafficking programs in more than 120 countries.

Bringing charges against 110 ringleaders.

Helping foreign victims in America by treating them as refugees instead of illegal immigrants.

Arresting more than 3,200 people who pay for sex slaves and other forced laborers.

Bush's campaign rally in Beckley, West Virginia, another battleground, was his 10th visit to the state as president. Kerry visited a day earlier.

Source: La Nueva Cuba