Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Sordid Tale



I want to tell you a story. It is a story I wish I didn't have to tell, given its sordid nature, and it is one that reflects badly on my own judgment.

Sometimes the world really is too much with us. As some will know, we just returned from a week in Cuba where we stayed at a 3-star resort half-way between Varadero and Havana that we visited once before, in 2010. During the second part of the trip I fell ill with a bug, likely from something I ate. My activities were therefore somewhat limited after that, a detail that seems relevant to the story.

A couple of days into our holiday, my sister-in-law, who accompanied us, told me that she had seen a man, likely in his fifties, with a young Cuban girl who appeared to be about 12 years old. They were sharing a bungalow. I did not actually see them until the day before our departure for home, when I ventured out to a barbecue being held nearby. The girl indeed looked to be about 12, but she could have been, I suppose, as old as 13 or 14. The age of consent in Cuba is 16.

While prostitution is fairly common in Cuba, the girls I have seen in resorts accompanying Canadian and European men have always been at least 18 or older. This is a terrible example of what appears to be child sexual exploitation, something I have never before actually witnessed. I do not blame the Cubans, a resourceful people, some of whom will do almost anything to survive economically. I do, however, blame people like the adult I saw who, I fear, may very-well be Canadian, and someone, likely the management at the resort, who is clearly complicit in this alleged crime, given that the girl was wearing a resort wristband.

And here is where my bad judgment comes into play. Should I have complained to the management? In retrospect, I sincerely wish that I had. My thought at the time was that such a complaint would have yielded nothing, for the above-stated reason. As well, about two years ago we met a Canadian couple at a resort in Holguin we have visited several times, and they told me a story that was quite instructive. The resort's previous manager had come upon a guest and his 'companion' who was clearly underage. She phoned both the girl's parents and the Cuban police. When the parents arrived, they were outraged by the manager's actions, as they had sanctioned their daughter's involvement with the man. The manager was later rebuked by her superiors and told to never do something like that again. As I stated, she is no longer the manager there.

These things, along with what we were told a few years ago by two Holguin friends who we got to know fairly well, convinced me that reporting would have been futile. I realize now that I should have nonetheless gone ahead and done so. To have drawn the conclusion I did was a failure of critical thinking and a failure of my moral duty.

So what did I do instead? Well, I took photos of the 'couple' at the barbecue; my thought was to post them, with the girl's face blurred out, on social media in the hope that someone wold recognize him. I had also intended to post them here for the same purpose, but I have come to realize that the Internet as such is not the answer, and could have set in motion an unfortunate chain of events. I do not want to compound my irresponsibility.

However, I did post a very truncated version of this story both on Tripadvisor and the closed Facebook group devoted to Cameleon Villas Jibacoa. Given the fury that I provoked on the latter, I now wonder exactly what it was I hoped to achieve in that venue. However, one person on that forum chose to offer not his abuse but his help in trying to identify the offender, as he has some contacts among the staff. He was a rare bright light in the midst of some very dark suggestions from others about my character and motives.

On Monday I contacted the RCMP, but got a disappointing response. The local detachment officer told me that the federal force's main mandates right now involve domestic security and organized crime. He suggested I contact our local police force, which, of course, lacks both the authority and the resources to pursue such matters. This morning I was able to reach the appropriate detective on my local police force, and he expressed shock that the RCMP was not interested, as it is their jurisdiction, and they have facial recognition software that might be able to identify the man I took pictures of. Nonetheless, he was quite helpful and is passing on my information to the local human trafficking division, and I am awaiting a call from them.

You might also wonder what the purpose of this post is, other than to serve a somewhat cathartic function for my own failure in this matter. The trajectory of this Cuban child's life is probably set, and nothing will likely change it. However, if this story has any value, it may serve simply as a reminder that we all have responsibilities whether we are at home or travelling outside the country. Since my return, I have tried to educate myself about the problem of child sex tourism, and I recommend the following two links to get you started, should you be interested:

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/03/16/canadians_are_major_customers_in_cubas_child_sex_market.html

http://www.ibcr.org/images/contenu/publications/Tourisme-sexuel-int-lowres-en.pdf

Thanks for reading this story, and I would appreciate it if you not write any comments that suggest I did my best. I know I did not, and ultimately this story is about a much bigger problem than how I might feel about my own bad judgment.

6 comments:

  1. Lorne, send this (and those photos) to Ralph Goodale and suggest the Public Safety minister pull a few of those mounties off the Petroleum Club squad and put them onto child abuse investigations. Enron, Kinder Morgan, and their lot can pay for their own damned security/intelligence operations.

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    1. A great idea, Mound. Somehow, I think some changes at the top are needed before proper attention is given to what the RCMP's priorities should be.

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  2. Lorne, it is very sad story. In our home country human trafficking is taking place. Girls are brought from poor countries with the promise of jobs and the jobs they get is prostitution and striptease.

    All one can do is spread the word. I don't think you can do much more. I had a great image of Castro's Cuba. I find it very disappointing to hear this story.

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    1. I still think highly of Cuba and its people, LD. I have met a lot of fine people there. The real problem is the poverty that drives people to try to better themselves in ways that allow others to exploit them.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this story,and yes poverty does play into this like Lorne mentioned. I never got to travel to experience other cultures, but having the internet opened my eyes to so much pain and hardship out there.Thanks to people like you that actually take the time to inform us of the unjust done to some.

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    1. Thanks, Mile. I appreciate your comment.

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