Mariela Castro visits New York; addresses gay rights issues
By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:08 AM EDT, Wed May 30, 2012
- Mariela Castro Espin is on a multiday visit to the United States
- Castro is the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro
- She is among several Cuban scholars granted U.S. visas, spawning
New York (CNN) -- The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, widely
seen as a champion of gay rights in Cuba, brought her brand of outspoken
advocacy to a New York audience Tuesday.
Mariela Castro Espin, who is her country's director of the National
Center for Sex Education and is the niece of Fidel Castro, is on a
multiday visit to the United States.
Castro told an audience of about 130 people at the New York Public
Library Tuesday evening that her work with gay rights in Cuba "is a
pretext to fight other forms of discrimination."
"I also have a dream of a Cuba that achieves, in the long run, its full
sovereignty," said Castro. "Within that sovereignty, we have the right
to choose the path to maintain that freedom, and we have chosen through
popular referendum a type of socialism which experiments towards the
search for justice for all."
Last week, Castro kicked off her tour by attending meetings in San
Francisco on issues such as transgender health care, a topic that she
has advocated for in Cuba.
"The current developments in (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender)
rights in Cuba are remarkable given the discrimination suffered by gays,
lesbians and transgender people in Cuba in the 20th century, as well as
comparison with current LGBT movements in the U.S. and abroad," the New
York Public Library said in a statement ahead of Castro's address.
At the start of Fidel Castro's revolution, gays and transsexuals were
locked up or sent to labor camps, while even a decade ago they were
regularly harassed by police.
But Cuba began making sex-change operations available in recent years,
providing the surgery to a handful of individuals. The financing and the
medical specialists, at least in part, come from Belgium, which has a
longstanding partnership with Cuban medicine.
Mariela Castro, who helped launch a nationwide campaign to battle
homophobia in a country often know for it's machismo, is expected to
join Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task
Force, in discussing gay rights and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
She is among several Cuban scholars granted U.S. visas to attend the
events, spawning controversy particularly among Cuban American
hardliners critical of the Castro regime.
Earlier this year, Mariela Castro and others said they hoped a two-day
government meeting in January, which was closed to the press and brought
together 811 delegates to discuss changes to the island's Communist
party, would take up the issue of legalizing same-sex civil unions in Cuba.
President Raul Castro, however, had cautioned against "illusions" and
high hopes over what the party conference would suggest to the country's
In New York, lawmakers last year legalized same-sex marriage after Gov.
Andrew Cuomo, a first-term Democrat governor, lobbied opposition and
undecided state senators to secure the lone vote needed for the bill's
President Barack Obama announced his support of same-sex marriage, a
change in his position, in early May.