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Cuba 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Western Hemisphere > Cuba; Western Hemisphere > Cuba > Havana

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Havana does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED HAVANA AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Cuba-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

While there are no reliable crime statistics from the government, the U.S. Embassy continues to receive several reports per month of non-violent crimes against tourists. These numbers are increasing slightly and are consistent with reporting from other diplomatic missions. Most crime can be associated with pickpocketing, purse snatching, fraud schemes, and thefts from unoccupied cars, hotel rooms, and dwellings. American travelers are generally perceived to be wealthy. Most offenses take place in areas frequented by foreigners.

Although most tourist hotels are relatively safe in Havana, pickpockets, prostitutes, and other criminals may congregate there. Cuba has an active commercial sex trade. Visitors should be aware that although the age of consent is 16, sexual activity with anyone under 18 could be a violation of U.S. law and subject to prosecution in the U.S.

Travelers should ensure that someone other than those traveling with them has a schedule of their proposed events and local contact information for them. 

There were a small number of violent crimes involving American citizens reported in 2016. Those crimes typically occur outside of tourist areas.

Areas of Concern

Due to travel restrictions placed on U.S. government officials by the Cuban government, consular services outside of Havana can be delayed.

Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited by statute. The Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued general licenses for 12 categories of travel. Individuals who meet the regulatory conditions of the general license they seek to travel under do not need to apply for a specific license from OFAC to travel to Cuba. For travel-specific questions, please see 31 C.F.R. 515.560 and OFAC’s Frequently Asked Questions.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Available data suggests that accidents involving motor vehicles are the leading cause of accidental deaths in Cuba. The roads are often dangerous due to lack of road maintenance. Potholes and a lack of proper lighting make driving at night particularly dangerous. Cuban drivers tend to place large sticks or rocks in the road to indicate a hazard or broken down vehicle ahead. It is often difficult to see these accident markers until one has hit them. Although traffic is relatively light, the combination of old vehicles, motorcycles, horse carts, buses, and pedestrians on narrow two-lane roads can create traffic bottlenecks and potential hazards.

Drivers should be aware that Cuban law can have severe implications for drivers involved in accidents, and, regardless of fault, accidents can result in the detention of foreign drivers, particularly if someone is injured.

Cuba requires a driver’s license and has a system in place for issuing and insuring drivers (all tourists should check with their travel provider if they intend to drive).

Police posted on street corners of all major cities enforce traffic laws and inspect vehicles. Generally, the police hand out small fines to individuals who are stopped. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards and they meet the applicable standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page. The U.S. Embassy permits travel by its employees and official visitors on Cuban air carriers, including the Cuban national airline Cubana de Aviacion (CUBANA), on a case by case basis.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED HAVANA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

On May 29, 2015, the Secretary of State removed Cuba from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED HAVANA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest 

Government-organized actions (actos de repudio) against domestic civil society and opposition groups can turn violent, and tourists should avoid demonstrations. There have been sporadic citizen protests; however, these generally have been short-lived and elicited a rapid government clamp-down.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Cuba is prone to hurricanes and associated flooding. The government’s civil defense system is well-organized and usually imposes a mandatory evacuation order to potentially affected areas. The ability of the government to respond to large-scale damage will be limited due to a lack of resources.

In addition to the threat of hurricanes, heavy summer rainstorms and poor drainage can cause flash flooding in many areas. 

Cuba is located along several active fault systems. While the majority of seismic activity goes unnoticed, the potential for larger earthquakes exists, mostly in eastern Cuba. This potential, combined with the deteriorated infrastructure, is cause for concern. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers general guidance on how to prepare for and protect yourself during an earthquake.

Economic Concerns

While intellectual property crimes are not reported in state-run media, there is a significant market that deals in fraudulent movies and software.

Privacy Concerns

Americans visiting Cuba should be aware that activities, including contacts with Cuban citizens, may be monitored closely by the government. Private activity could potentially be used to compromise them.

The government of Cuba maintains tight control of information through ownership of the communications networks and restricting Internet access, meaning that there is very little privacy for companies or individuals. The limited access to the Internet, the government’s tight control of media, and its particular sensitivity to any news that reflects poorly on Cuba results in a lack of reliable information. 

Drug-related Crimes

Although Cuba’s location is ideal for the transshipment of drugs, it is not used often due to the heavy police/military presence. The government is strict in its enforcement of laws against the illegal use, sale, and smuggling of narcotics with strong punishment for traffickers.

Police Response

Cuba’s government relies on a robust internal security apparatus. Most police officers are in uniform, though some investigators or officials may be plain clothed. Police carry identification.

If you are apprehended by the police, be cooperative with all orders.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

If detained, advise the police of your nationality and show them your passport or a copy. Also ask the police if you may contact your diplomatic mission as soon as possible. Americans needing assistance should contact the U.S. Embassy at (53)7-839-4100. For after-hours requests you may also call (53)5-280-5713.

Crime Victim Assistance

Police: 106
Fire: 105

Although police are present on most street corners in major cities, the overall police response to crimes involving foreigners is not adequate. Police do take reports of crimes and generally respond promptly to emergency calls.

Police/Security Agencies

The Ministry of Interior (MININT) is in charge of police.

Medical Emergencies

Medical care is below U.S. standards. Most hospitals and clinics do not possess equipment for proper diagnoses or medication for treatment. Ambulances operate in many cities, but response times vary, and not all ambulances carry medical personnel.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Although there are numerous hospitals in Havana, Americans generally use the Cira Garcia Hospital, which is operated specifically for foreigners and provides better quality care, although still below U.S. standards.

Cira Garcia Hospital

41st Ave & 18th Street, Miramar

(53)7-204-2811

Ambulance Service - (53)7-204-4300

 

CIMEQ Hospital (Military Hospital) *Only used in extreme emergency with special permission of the Cuban government.

216 & 11B, Siboney

(53)7-858-1000

Available Air Ambulance Services

National Air Ambulance

Fort Lauderdale Airport

3495 SW 9th Ave.

Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33315

(954) 327-3710 (24 hours) or (954)359-9900

inquiry@nationaljets.com

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Dengue and cholera are increasingly common, with cases presumed to be underreported. Chikungunya is also present. Zika outbreaks have been reported, and the CDC issued a Alert Level 2 in October 2016. 

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Cuba.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is currently no active Country Council in Cuba. Please contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Cuba  or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

U.S. Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

The U.S. Embassy is located in Havana at Calzada between L and M Streets, Vedado.
Hours: Mon-Thurs, 0800-1630; Fri, 0800-1530

U.S. Embassy Contact Numbers

Tel: (53)7-839-4100
For emergency assistance after hours and on weekends, individuals should call (53)7-839-4100 and press 0 or (53)5-280-5791 and request to speak with the duty officer.
Website: https://cu.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

Cuba welcomes American travelers, and Americans are generally well received by Cubans. This has not changed since the two countries established formal diplomatic relations and converted their respective Interests Sections into Embassies. The changes to U.S. regulations governing travel and trade with Cuba, announced on January 16, 2015, has resulted in a significant increase of travel by Americans to Cuba.  

The U.S. Embassy asks all American travelers to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive updated information on travel and security in the country.

Additional Resources

Cuba Country Information Sheet

The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security administers the Export Administration Regulations (15 CFR Parts 730-774), which regulate exports to Cuba.