October 12, 1998
Cuban official calls for crackdown on pimps


                  HAVANA (Reuters) - A top Cuban official has called for a crackdown on
                  those who procure prostitutes, saying pimps are a threat to social stability, a
                  published report said Sunday.

                  "They are going to finish with us and the revolution if we don't battle them,"
                  Esteban Lazo, the first secretary of the Communist Party in Havana, was
                  quoted as saying in Juventud Rebelde.

                  Speaking at a meeting on delinquency and prostitution, Lazo said pimps
                  must be punished "even if we have to sin on the side of excess."

                  "If we don't act with energy against all those who profit from prostitution, we
                  will not put an end to the phenomenon nor will we protect other girls and
                  families from this evil," he said.

                  The Cuban official said prostitution's rise in Cuba, in many cases fueled by
                  women brought to Havana from the provinces, is tied to social problems.
                  Economic hardship and a growth of foreign tourism have fueled its increase.

                  But Lazo said fight against the sale of sex must encompass more than law

                  "We cannot fill the country with police and the definitive solution will not be
                  repressive, but we have been trying to use persuasion for long time and there
                  are already symptoms of a certain disrespect for the law which we cannot
                  take lightly," he said.

                  The procuring of women for prostitution was criminalized in Cuba in 1961.
                  At the time, Fidel Castro's government offered pimps "a one way ticket to

                  From that time until 1991, when Cuba's economy was disrupted by the
                  Soviet demise, organized prostitution was virtually nonexistent on the island.

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