ACCORDING TO A RESEARCH CENTER
Prostitution and modern-day slavery in the Bush’s Florida
Havana. July 30, 2004
MODERN-DAY slavery is very much alive in Florida, according
to a report from Center for the Advancement of Human Rights
at Florida State University, which describes the tragic
situation of thousands of people forced to work as
prostitutes, farm workers and maids.”
Human traffickers bring thousands of people to the United
States every year and it is believed that Florida is one of
the three main destinations of these slavery operations,
with New York and Texas, the research center affirms
The center cites the cases of hundreds of agricultural
laborers, of 40 women from Mexico forced to work as
prostitutes in an organized network, as well as the case of
a girl used as a slave by a rich family.
Robin Thompson, the project’s director, states that to
enter places where such inhuman practices are being
developed, one has to seek the economic sectors where there
is a demand for a cheap labor force.
In its research, the center discovered that many of the
traffickers’ victims are immigrants who, because of their
poverty and lack of knowledge of English are exploited by
criminal elements. U.S. citizens living in extreme poverty,
or homeless people, drug addicts or those on the run are
vulnerable to a similar fate.
According to the U.S. authorities, 18,000-20.000 victims of
neo-slavery have been brought to the United States.
12-YEAR-OLD SLAVE IN FORT LAUDERDALE
Last month, Marie Pompee, a woman whose family was charged
with keeping a young Haitian girl as a household slave for
three years in Fort Lauderdale, pleaded guilty to the
offense. The national press stated that the young immigrant
had been raped on various occasions by Pompee’s son.
The girl was 12 when police officers found her in the
family’s $400,000 house in the exclusive Pembroke Pines
district. They affirmed that she was half starved, slept on
the floor and was the victim of sexual abuse.
From 2001-2003, 106 persons have been charged with human
trafficking, 74 of them through abuse of a sexual nature.
Many things are going on in Florida, Mohamed Matar,
coordinator of the Protection Project, a research group at
Johns Hopkins University in Washington informed the St.
Petersburg Times. Given its geographical position, tourist
market and conferences there is a demand for prostitution.
According to experts, woman and children are brought to the
United States and forced into prostitution. Some of them
end up in brothels serving undocumented migrant farm
workers at harvest periods.
In 1999, two brothers, Ramiro and Juan Ramos, were charged
with importing thousands of illegal workers, selling them
as agricultural laborers to large farms throughout the
southeast. In 2002 they were sentenced to 12 years’
José Tecum, a resident in Collier county, kidnapped a
Guatemalan girl whom he forced to work in the tomato fields
and violated her many times. He received a nine-year prison
FORCED TO WORK AS PROSTITUTES
Six Florida brothels were closed down by the FBI in 1997.
The women in them, mostly Mexican, had been lured by
promises of good jobs. On their arrival, they were beaten,
raped and forced to work as prostitutes for 12 hours per
day, with up to 20 or 30 clients each.
Just one of those charged, Rogelio Cadena, admitted his
guilt in a West Palm Beach court and was handed down a
George Collins, a detective in Okaloosa county who has been
investigating cases of slavery in the Panhandle sector for
one year, told the St. Petersburg Times that he had
discovered hundreds of people from Eastern Europe working
90-hour weeks in beach hotels, monitored by specialized
agencies maintaining them in conditions of forced labor.
This situation is so scandalous that, with a view to the
November elections, the state authorities have announced a
series of measures that should permit it to attack what is
apparently an out-of-control problem with more efficiency.
This is occurring in the state of Jeb Bush, where President
George W. Bush recently claimed that Cuba was a sexual
tourism destination in a speech that was so gross that the
press itself refuted it.
Even The Miami Herald, whose pages of classified ads daily
offer bodyguard services, deemed it necessary to readjust
the sights of a president who, in order to pass over his
anti-family measures, has decided to cast slander on the
land of origin of tens of thousands of voters. (Jean-Guy
A childhood of pain
Havana. July 30, 2004
BY MARÍA VICTORIA VALDÉS-RODDA
Granma International staff writer
ONE of the first written references to the trafficking and
sexual abuse of children dates back to 1437, when a family
in Basle, the incipient urban center of Europe in the
Middle Ages, was expelled for having “rented out” their
nine-year-old daughter for dishonorable purposes. Many
centuries later, similar news, whether regarding
prostitution, pornography or slave labor, continues to
While cases like the above-mentioned continue to be
reported not-so-sporadically in the most diverse police
stations of the world, the main responsibility for such
abominable and monstrous practices currently falls on
organized, profitable and transnational business.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM)
confirmed in July of this year that every year, 600,000 to
800,000 people are snatched from their countries of origin
and subjected to slave labor or to conditions reminiscent
of the times of the starkest colonialism. Some 17,000 of
those people suffer that fate in the United States,
considered by the IOM to be the prime “promoter of human
trafficking.” However, a more profound analysis of that
developed country’s links with child prostitution, forced
labor and even the sale of human organs, likewise by the
IOM, reveals that it is the headquarters of many
traffickers of male and female children.
According to Fanny Polonia, an expert at that agency, the
crime of human trafficking associated with the sexual
exploitation of children is a problem that is growing under
the cloak of poverty and lack of opportunity, which creates
a breeding ground for people– boys and girls as well – to
be converted into merchandise.”
Unscrupulous merchants are aided by the objective reality
of the countries of such children, in which extreme poverty
prevails – at times, at a rate of 40-60% – is the case in
Central America and the Southern Cone nations of this
In that region, the Economic Commission for Latin America
(ECLA) notes that in 2002 there were some 87 million
indigent people and nearly 120 million children and
adolescents up to the age of 19 living much under the
Using everything from scholarships to “solve” an
unsatisfactory daily life to dirty tricks regarding
emigration papers to unite families in the United States,
the gangs snare their victims.
Thus, and in the interest of sending out an SOS to the
entire planet, the United Nations has convened a meeting in
Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, for October of this
year, against sexual exploitation and human trafficking,
especially of children.
Despite the United States being included among the 117
countries that signed an international agreement to protect
children against abuse, many voices are questioning whether
its authorities have a genuine and lasting commitment to
keep its lands from being a paradise for those evildoers.
One emblematic example of that were the operations in
Houston by a group of Salvadoran child traffickers who,
starting 1994 were able to enter U.S. soil with hundreds of
boys and girls from El Salvador and Guatemala. They
functioned until August of 2002 when the Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS) caught them.
And more recently, on July 21 this year, also in the United
States, a member of a gang that was dismantled after being
accused of child trafficking informed the AP news agency
that he illegally obtained 200 passports at a post office
in western Chicago. Each document was sold for about $300.
Likewise, Carmen Hernández, a Latina, said that she was in
that “business” for 10 years and used to bring children
The misuse of a means of communication as important as the
Internet should be added. In spite of its potential for
helping people on one side of the planet to communicate
with the other, the exploitation of children via its
channels is a fact.
A 2003 study by the U.S. Justice Department bluntly
revealed that one of every five children between the age of
10-17 in the United States had received undesired sexual
propositions via cyberspace. And in the U.S. just that
year, some 200,000 incidents of child pornography were
reported, considered to be a very conservative estimate by
A BUSINESS WORTH MORE THAN $5 BILLION
The Dominican Republic and Colombia signed a cooperation
agreement to protect victims and witnesses to the illegal
treatment of persons, above all children, in return for
helping the police. Nevertheless, this is just a palliative
measure. Thus, in those societies, public opinion is
demanding greater state protection for children, not just
in terms of domestic law and international customs, but
also by approving health, education and recreation plans
for children, considered elemental, given that they are the
The buying and selling of minors and their subsequent
introduction into the lucrative international sex market
produces profits of more than $5 billion. The top
destinations for this “merchandise” are the industrialized
nations, with the United States in the lead.
The offers range from exotic young samba dancers from
Brazil to indigenous youngsters from Guatemala and Mexican
teenagers. In the case of the first, UNICEF praised the
Zero Hunger Program initiated by the government of Luis
Inacio Lula da Silva, given that it is now also part of a
larger project against poverty. In any case, the effort
needed to rescue that country’s 500,000 child prostitutes
must be a long-term one.
In Mexico, especially in the federal district, Mexico City,
a serious endeavor has been undertaken to not tolerate such
abuse, closely linked to the so-called “street children.”
The legislative assembly in that city approved a
modification of the Law on the Rights of Girls and Boys as
a way of checking the exploitation, segregation,
mistreatment and prostitution experienced by more than
14,300 street children.
Another factor to be considered in regional prevention is
the complications arising from sexual transmitted diseases
and AIDS. Approximately 50-80% of boys and girls forced to
traffic their bodies are infected with the Human
Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
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