Sunday, June 15, 2008

Government Deports US Citizen Wanted for Child Sex Abuse

The Cuban government deported a U.S. citizen accused of sexually abusing a young girl in Costa Rica, less than two weeks after Washington included the Caribbean island on a list of countries that it says are not doing enough to combat child trafficking. Leonard B. Auerbach was sent to the United States at the request of U.S. authorities who issued an arrest warrant for him "for the crimes of sexual exploitation of a minor, and transportation and possession of child pornography," a Cuban Foreign Ministry press release said Friday. According to the communiqué, Auerbach was arrested in Cuba on May 7 "based on information provided by U.S. authorities." On investigation he was found to have entered Cuba from Mexico on Apr. 8 in order to evade the U.S. justice system. Since there was no evidence that he had broken any laws in Cuba, and "the crimes of which he is accused in the United States are of a serious nature and are vigorously combated by our authorities, including cooperating with other countries in the fight against them, it was decided to return this citizen to his country of origin," the Foreign Ministry said. On Jun. 8, the Cuban government harshly criticised a report issued by Washington on Jun. 4, which includes Cuba on a Watch List of countries it accuses of not making significant efforts to combat internal trafficking of women and children for the purposes of sexual exploitation. "The Foreign Ministry categorically rejects the content of this new report from the State Department, which ignores and distorts Cuban reality in an attempt to justify the criminal U.S. policy of blockade, aggression and hostility against Cuba," the statement said. According to Havana, the State Department report was intended to "denigrate the social and moral achievements of the Cuban Revolution, in particular the priority it accords to the care of women and children, which is widely recognised at the international level, and also attempted to discredit the healthy growth and development of the tourist industry." After stating that Washington lacks the credibility to accuse Cuba, the Foreign Ministry says it places "no value" on the contents of the report. Thanks to the work of the revolution and in spite of U.S. policy towards it, since 1959 Cuba has raised the level of social welfare, it said. Cuba’s free healthcare and education systems often achieve results comparable to those of industrialised nations. In 2007, for instance, the infant mortality rate for children under one was 5.3 per 1,000 live births. Worldwide, the infant mortality rate is 52, and in Latin America, 26, while in West Africa it is 108 per 1,000 live births, according to statistics published in The State of the World’s Children 2007 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In 1999 new crime categories were introduced along with stiffer penalties for international trafficking and corruption of children and other acts against normal child development. The reform to the criminal code added the crimes of money laundering, trafficking in persons, and sale and trafficking of children. Prison sentences of from seven to 15 years were established for those who use children in any form of international trafficking. These forms include corruption, pornography, prostitution, trafficking in organs, forced labour, activities related to drug trafficking or the consumption of illicit drugs. The penalty can be greater if there are aggravating factors. Since Cuba and the U.S. broke off diplomatic relations in 1961, the only matter that has obliged them to negotiate and adopt mutually beneficial agreements is migration, although they do cooperate from time to time to combat drug trafficking, according to sources consulted by IPS. In 2002, Washington refused an offer by the Cuban government to negotiate bilateral cooperation agreements to fight illegal emigration, terrorism and drug smuggling. Cuban officials have cooperated by handing over information to U.S. authorities about violent acts against Cuba, allegedly committed by Luis Posada Carriles and other anti-Castro exiles living in the United States, but they complain that the government of President George W. Bush "lacks the political will" to put them on trial. Posada Carriles escaped from jail in Venezuela in 1985, blocking the prosecution against him for his part in blowing up a commercial Cuban airliner in mid-flight in 1976 and killing all 73 people on board, most of whom were young athletes. Caracas has requested his extradition from the United States. In an interview with the New York Times, Posada Carriles admitted responsibility for several explosions set off in Cuban hotels in 1997, one of which killed Italian businessman Fabio di Celmo. The Cuban government accuses the United States of violating U.N. Security Council resolutions and a number of anti-terrorism treaties, under which it is obliged to bring Posada Carriles to justice or extradite him to Venezuela.

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