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In one of them she is the happy wife of an Italian and in another a young woman who has just arrived in Havana with nothing but her own body. The government kept prostitution under control — considering it a capitalist scourge — through programs of social reinsertion during the first decades of the Revolution, but during the Special Period it became a common exit from the misery.
The characteristics of the Cuban market, where having money did not mean access to a great number of products or more of any one product, in the case of rationed ones, caused a mutation in prostitution. Those were the years when, most of the time, the women negotiated directly with the tourists. Many ended up married to foreigners and emigrated.
A few yards from her house, two young people were preparing this Saturday to go to 23rd Street, to one of the state clubs that are a frequent meeting point between prostitutes and customers. They are 17 and 19 years old, respectively, and their names in this report are.
Both have been in the business since junior high, and the youngest is preparing to enter the university this year. The two young women use new technologies, such as chat rooms and some dating applications, to meet foreigners who occasionally visit Havana.
Mara and Karla have managed to evade, until now, the pimps because they manage their contacts directly. Pimping is one of the main crimes related to human trafficking and the pimps resort, in most cases, to violence, intimidation and drugs to obtain economic benefits, especially exploiting women. Procuring and trafficking in persons are punishable on the island, but prostitution is legal.