Castro comments on Cuban prostitution
HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) -- Cuban prostitutes may be the target of a state
campaign to prevent a sex trade on the Caribbean island but they can boast high
educational standards, President Fidel Castro said on Monday.
"One day when I was down in Brazil, an Argentinian asked me 'Is it true
some girls who are university graduates sometimes practice prostitution?"'
Castro said in a rare public reference to a highly sensitive subject for Cuba's
"I replied instantly, without thinking, 'That proves prostitutes in Cuba
university level,' " he added, laughing at the anecdote given during a lengthy
speech to close a Cuban workers' congress in Havana.
The comment underlined both Castro's pride in his government's widely praised
education system, and his concern for the re-emergence of a prostitution
problem he thought his socialist system had eradicated decades ago.
Once known as "the brothel of the Caribbean" due to its reputation as a
rich Americans looking for sex, gambling and a swinging nightlife, Cuba
drastically cleaned up society after Castro's 1959 revolution.
But the problem came back at the start of the 1990s against a backdrop
increased economic hardship for locals, and an opening to tourism which
brought foreigners flooding back.
"The situation was very tough," Castro said, in what was only his second
reference to prostitution in public following a January 1998, speech where he
declared war on various growing vices, including prostitution, drugs and violent
"Some people were coming here with ideas of sexual tourism ... There were
cases of what we call 'jineterismo'," he said, using a Cuban slang word for
street-hustling and prostitution.
'Perfecting our methods'
"We began taking adequate measures to combat these outbreaks. And we are
perfecting our methods ... We understand this problem, and our methods are
human," Castro added, saying "advances" were expected.
Castro gave no figures this time, whereas he had laced his 1998 speech
statistics like the fact that more than 6,700 prostitutes and around 190 pimps
were rounded up in Havana in the first 11 months of that year.
He also made no reference to Cuba's latest tactics in the fight on prostitution,
which since 1998 has included the closure of bars and discotheques, night raids,
the sending of thousands of women to rehabilitation schools, and new penalties
for sex-related crimes like child abuse or pimping.
In a speech mainly dedicated to familiar political topics, and recognition
workers' role in 42 years of socialism, Castro also thanked the World Bank for
some rare praise.
Earlier Monday, World Bank President James Wolfensohn had lauded Cuba,
which is not a member of the loan body, for its "terrific job" on scoring better on
social measures than most other developing nations in the region.
"I have no objection in thanking Mr. Wolfensohn and other leaders of that
institution for an acknowledgement that seems fair and was important because it
(Cuba's social record) constitutes something really exceptional," Castro said.
As well as achievements in health and education, Cuba has also won more
Olympic medals per capita than any other nation, Castro noted.
The Cuban leader has filled Cuban air-waves almost non-stop in recent days
speeches, repeats of speeches, and pundits' analyses of his pronouncements.
Before he had even finished Monday night's speech -- which ended just after
midnight -- Castro was handed by an aide, and read out loud to the workers'
congress, a foreign news agency report summarizing his words at the start of
Copyright 2001 Reuters.