November 1, 2014 at 12:43 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Critics of Cuban government assail bid to host LGBT conference
ILGA World Conference, Mexico City, Cuba, gay news, Washington Blade

Cuban LGBT rights advocates during their presentation in Mexico City on Oct. 30, 2014, to host the 2016 ILGA World Conference in Havana, Cuba. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

MEXICO CITY — Critics of the Cuban government this week blasted efforts to allow the Communist country to host the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association’s biennial global conference in 2016.

Cuban-born U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) on Friday described any attempt to hold an LGBT rights conference in Cuba as “unconscionable.”

“In Cuba there are no rights for the LGBT community or for anyone else,” Ros-Lehtinen told the Washington Blade.

Herb Sosa, a first generation Cuban American who is president of the Unity Coalition, a Miami-based LGBT advocacy group, shared Ros-Lehtinen’s outrage.

“The irony of Cuba even uttering the word rights is both sad and outrageous,” Sosa told the Blade.

Ros-Lehtinen and Sosa spoke with the Blade a day after Cuban LGBT rights advocates who are associated with the country’s National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) — of which Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, is director — made an elaborate presentation during the ILGA World Conference in Mexico City. It featured a slideshow with pictures of hotels in Havana, the country’s capital, and several video clips of events associated with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia that took place throughout Cuba in May.

Activists during the presentation passed out condoms, stickers that read “we want to talk about sexuality” and a pamphlet highlighting an annual CENESEX conference on sex therapy and education that will take place next September in Havana.

Two advocates held a large Cuban flag at the front of the conference room at the Hotel Fiesta Americana Reforma as Manuel Vázquez Seijido and Yasmany Díaz Figueroa spoke from the podium. The entire delegation of more than a dozen people also wore white t-shirts highlighting Cuba’s participation in the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

A number of people in the audience began clapping and chanting “Cuba” during the presentation.

“The support of the state and civil society organizations and the organizer of this conference call attention to their loyalty of the mechanisms that will be put into place,” said Vázquez.

The advocates noted during their presentation that Cuba hosted an ILGA conference in May that drew hundreds of people from across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Mariela Castro chaired the local committee that organized it.

“It would be a good thing for all sectors,” he said, referring to the ILGA conference.

Díaz also noted that Cuban doctors last month month traveled to West Africa to help combat the Ebola epidemic.

Delegates to the ILGA World Conference ultimately chose Thailand over Cuba and Botswana to host the biennial gathering in 2016.

Cuba wants to ‘go forward’

Mariela Castro attended the ILGA World conference earlier this week where she took part in a panel on how government officials can support LGBT advocacy efforts. The Blade’s attempts to interview her before she left Mexico City were unsuccessful.

Supporters of Mariela Castro are quick to note she has spearheaded a number of efforts over the last decade to promote acceptance of LGBT Cubans and to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS on the island. These include a condom distribution campaign and prompting the country’s national health care system to offer free sex-assignment surgery to trans Cubans.

Cuban lawmakers late last year added sexual orientation to the country’s labor law.

Mariela Castro has also spoken out in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Equality Forum, a Philadelphia-based LGBT advocacy group, in May 2013 honored her during its annual awards dinner.

Ros-Lehtinen said Cuba hosting a global LGBT conference “is just another example of this regime’s pathetic attempt to look like a tolerant country, when in fact they are one of the most repressive regimes in the world.”

“I for one will not fall for the lies that this desperate dictatorship continues to spread,” said Sosa. “[I] really hope our LGBT community around the globe does their homework and sees the Castros for what they are, and not what they tell us they are.”

“When Cubans have true freedom to vote, speak, travel and love — then we can talk about planning conferences and celebrating the successes of the island’s leadership,” he added. “For now we simply mourn its victims and pray for actual rights — not blood-stained press releases and staged pictures.”

ILGA Co-Secretary General Gloria Careaga Pérez told the Blade earlier this week it would have been “great” for Cuba to host the biennial conference in 2016.

“Cuba is making very important changes,” said Careaga. “They want to go forward.”

Wendy Iriepa, Ignacio Estrada, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, House of Representatives, Republicans, Florida, Gay News, Washington Blade

LGBT advocates Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada, meet with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) to discuss human rights in Cuba in the Rayburn House Office Building in July 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

8 Comments
  • So Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Pete Sosa don't want Cuba to change in favor of the LGBTI community? Of course Ros-Lehtinen is a Republican Rep from Florida where the GOP is blocking support for marriage equality so I guess it is no surprise. Cuba should update their laws and accept equality for the LGBTIs.

  • Cuba is a sovereign nation. It's an open invitation extended by Cuba to attend. If U.S. "law makers" don't want to attend, then don't attend.

  • I lived in Cuba for a number of years and saw the gay and trans gender population moving around without hindrance. Ros-Lehtinen is one of the pissed off right wingers who want to get their grimy hands on Cuba again. She says nothing about the treatment of Cuba as a brothel by US gangsters. That is the Cuba she wants.

  • YOUTUBE : CUBA DOCUMENTARY – "Conducta Impropria" – (Improper Conduct) – Part 1 of 12 – Mauvaise Conduite or Improper Conduct is a 1984 documentary film directed by Néstor Almendros and Orlando Jiménez Leal. The documentary interviews Cuban refugees to explore the Cuban government's imprisonment of homosexuals, political dissidents, and Jehovah's Witnesses into concentration camps under its policy of Military Units to Aid Protection. The documentary was produced with the support of French television Antenne 2 and won the Best Documentary Audience Award at the 1984 San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcF5ubWiy5k

  • Military Units to Aid Production or UMAPs (Unidades Militares de Ayuda a la Producción) were agricultural labor camps operated by the Cuban government from November 1965 to July 1968 in the province of Camagüey.[1] The inmates of UMAP camps consisted of gay men, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholic and Protestant priests, intellectuals, farmers who refused collectivization, as well as anyone else considered “anti-social” or “counter-revolutionary.”[2] Former Cuban intelligence agent Norberto Fuentes estimated that of approximately 35,000 internees, 507 ended up in psychiatric wards, 72 died from torture, and 180 committed suicide.[3] A 1967 human rights report from the Organization of American States found that over 30,000 internees are “forced to work for free in state farms for more than eight hours a day and are given the same treatment as political prisoners.”[4] The report concludes that the UMAP camps’ two objectives are “facilitating free labor for the state” and “punishing young people who refuse to join communist organizations.”[5] The Cuban government maintained that the UMAPs are not labor camps, but part of the military service.[6] In a 2010 interview with La Jornada, Fidel Castro admitted in response to a question about the UMAP camps that “Yes, there were moments of great injustice, great injustice!”[7]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Units_to_Aid_Production

  • THE WASHINGTON BLADE: Cuban LGBT advocate arrested for ‘peaceful protest’ – June 10, 2014 – by Michael K. Lavers
    A Cuban LGBT rights advocate with HIV remains in jail more than two weeks after authorities reportedly arrested him because he criticized the country’s government. Ignacio Estrada Cepero of the Cuban League Against AIDS told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview from Miami on June 6 that David Bustamante Rodríguez, 21, was “savagely beaten” and “arrested in a violent way” on May 26 after he staged what he described as a “peaceful protest” on the roof of his home near the city of Santa Clara.

    Estrada said that Bustamante, who is a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba and the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum that operate independently from the Cuban government, has been accused of “criticizing a figure who led Fidel Castro’s revolution” in 1959 and “criticizing the authorities.”

    Estrada told the Blade that Bustamante suffered a broken rib and a fractured hand during his arrest.

    He said the activist has also not been able to speak with his mother, Sandra Rodríguez de Bustamante. Estrada further noted Rodríguez, with whom he said he speaks regularly, said her son has not received anti-retroviral drugs since his arrest.

    “We are concerned that David is not receiving specialized medical attention,” said Estrada.

    Rodríguez, who is a member of Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White who have staged weekly protests against the Cuban government since a 2003 crackdown on dissidents, claims her son has been targeted because he is gay.

    Estrada told the Blade that authorities earlier this year forced Bustamante to cut his hair.

    He said police have also arrested and beat Rodríguez on several occasions. Estrada told the Blade that Bustamante’s mother has been on a hunger strike for two weeks to protest her son’s detention.

    A Cuban LGBT rights advocate with HIV remains in jail more than two weeks after authorities reportedly arrested him because he criticized the country’s government.

    Ignacio Estrada Cepero of the Cuban League Against AIDS told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview from Miami on June 6 that David Bustamante Rodríguez, 21, was “savagely beaten” and “arrested in a violent way” on May 26 after he staged what he described as a “peaceful protest” on the roof of his home near the city of Santa Clara.

    Estrada said that Bustamante, who is a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba and the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum that operate independently from the Cuban government, has been accused of “criticizing a figure who led Fidel Castro’s revolution” in 1959 and “criticizing the authorities.”

    Estrada told the Blade that Bustamante suffered a broken rib and a fractured hand during his arrest.

    He said the activist has also not been able to speak with his mother, Sandra Rodríguez de Bustamante. Estrada further noted Rodríguez, with whom he said he speaks regularly, said her son has not received anti-retroviral drugs since his arrest.

    “We are concerned that David is not receiving specialized medical attention,” said Estrada.

    Rodríguez, who is a member of Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White who have staged weekly protests against the Cuban government since a 2003 crackdown on dissidents, claims her son has been targeted because he is gay.

    Estrada told the Blade that authorities earlier this year forced Bustamante to cut his hair.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!
    https://www.washingtonblade.com/2014/06/10/cuban-lgbt-advocate-arrested-peaceful-protest/

  • Ros-Lehtinen is quoted as saying Cuba is a place of intolerance. Based upon her quotes in this article, it appears that it is SHE who is intolerant.

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