The U.S. State Department has taken Malaysia and Cuba off its blacklist of countries failing to combat modern-day slavery.
That could leave the U.S. open to criticism that politics is swaying the often-contentious rankings in its annual human trafficking report.
Thailand, downgraded with Malaysia last year because of pervasive labor abuses in its lucrative fishing industry, remained on the blacklist. Critics contend that Malaysia’s upgrade is related to its participation in a U.S.-backed trade agreement among Pacific Rim countries. Thailand is not part of the proposed agreement.
The department released Monday the annual U.S. assessment of how 188 governments around the world have performed in fighting the flesh trade and other forms of exploitative labor.