Cuban President Fidel Castro Ruz used his July 26 speech commemorating the 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks to refute US State Department allegations about prostitution in Cuba.
On July 16, US President George Bush described Cuba as "a major destination for sex tourism", which he described as "hard currency keeping [Castro's] corrupt regime afloat". Bush claimed that the mid-1990s easing of travel restrictions from the US and Canada to Cuba had resulted in a "sharp increase" in child prostitution in Cuba.
Bush made the implications of his claim, which was based on an unreleased study, clear. "My administration is working towards a comprehensive solution to this problem", he said, "the rapid, peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba".
In his July 26 address, Castro said the claims were outrageous and based on little evidence. "Mr Bush's lies and slanders and those of his closest advisors were fabricated in a hurry to justify the atrocious measures taken against Cuban-born people living in the United States who have close family ties in Cuba", he said, referring to Bush's recent legislation increasing restrictions on travel to Cuba and donations sent to Cuban residents.
Castro pointed out that pornography, prostitution and gambling industries existed in the US in a way that they did not in revolutionary Cuba.
"Has no one told [Bush] that in Cuba before the triumph of the revolution in 1959 about 100,000 women were directly or indirectly involved in prostitution for reasons of poverty, discrimination and lack of work and that the revolution educated these women and found them jobs?
"Has no one told him that the Cuban children, whose physical, mental and moral health is the number one priority of the revolution, are protected by more severe laws than those of the United States and that they all attend school, including more than 50,000 who suffer from mental or physical disabilities and that, without exception, receive specialised care in special education centres?
"Has no one told him that infant mortality is lower in Cuba than it is in the United States and that it continues to decrease?
"Has no one dared to whisper in his ear that Cuba occupies an outstanding and internationally recognized place in education; that health and education services are free and extend to the whole population; that today programs are underway in education, health and culture that will place Cuba far above all the other countries in the world?"
Castro pointed out that the United States, while condemning Cuba's treatment of children, had not even responded to an offer to provide free health care to 3000 US citizens, around the same number as lost their lives on 9/11. However, he noted that not all US institutions were the same, explaining that on the same day as Bush's slanders, a prestigious Californian scientific institute signed an agreement with the Cuban Molecular Immunology Centre to transfer technology developed in Cuba for making anti-cancer vaccines.
From Green Left Weekly, August 11, 2004.
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