Havana tamer after Castro cracks down on illegal sex
Web posted at: 7:26 p.m. EST (0026 GMT)
HAVANA (CNN) -- On a waterfront that last summer was teeming with prostitutes peddling a blooming sex trade, police now patrol the streets. A sea wall that once served as a popular hangout on weekends stands deserted. A pledge by Cuban President Fidel Castro to clamp down on crime, including prostitution, appears to have succeeded.
Castro, concerned by Havana's growing reputation as a source for illegal sex, called for tougher measures against prostitution.
"Prostitution itself in Cuba is not punished by the penal code. But, those who benefit, like pimps, could face several years in prison," he said.
Prostitutes would be sent off to be rehabilitated and pimps would receive up to 20 years in prison, Castro said.
Nearly 7,000 prostitutes were rounded up last year. A heavy police presence now routinely checks IDs and papers in Havana, a strict level of security that has been rare in recent years.
Most Cubans agreed something had to be done.
"Now it's possible for our daughters and sisters and kids to play and go out without the danger of being assaulted by thieves or being subverted by drug pushers," said Havana historian Eusibio Leal.
The fading sex trade also means good news for Cuba's $2-billion-a-year tourism industry, an industry that has become one of the country's primary sources of hard currency.
Miami Bureau Chief John Zarrella contributed to this report.
As crime in Cuba escalates, Castro vows crackdown
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