Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cuban LGBT rights advocates arrive in D.C.

Cuban LGBT rights advocates arrive in D.C.
July 29, 2013
By Michael K. Lavers on July 29, 2013

Two Cuban LGBT rights advocates who are visiting the United States for
three months on Monday arrived in D.C.

Ignacio Estrada Cepero and Wendy Iriepa Díaz on Monday met with staffers
of Us Helping Us, an HIV/AIDS service organization, and Casa Ruby, a
multicultural LGBT community center. Estrada and Iriepa are also
scheduled to meet with Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on
Capitol hill on Wednesday before they return to Miami.

Estrada, who founded the Cuban League Against AIDS in 2005, told the
Blade while at Casa Ruby that he and Iriepa, a transgender woman who
used to work for Cuba's National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) —
which is directed by Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of Cuban President
Raúl Castro — want to "show how we live, how we work" in Cuba while they
are in the U.S.

The couple, who married in a high-profile wedding in Havana, the Cuban
capital, in 2011, said Mariela Castro presents what they described as a
distorted reality of the island's LGBT community to the world.

"Mariela totally manipulates the LGBT community," Iriepa said.

Estrada and Iriepa arrived in D.C. less than three months after Mariela
Castro traveled to the U.S. to accept an award from Equality Forum, a
Philadelphia-based LGBT advocacy group.

Mariela Castro's supporters note she successfully lobbied the Cuban
government to begin offering free sex-reassignment surgery under the
country's national health care system in 2010. Iriepa herself had SRS in
2007 while she worked at CENESEX.

Observers have credited Cuba's condom distribution campaign and sexual
education curriculum with producing one of the world's lowest HIV
infection rates. Cubans with the virus also have access to free
anti-retroviral drugs.

CENESEX in May scheduled a series of events across Cuba to commemorate
the annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Mariela
Castro has also spoken out in support of marriage rights for same-sex
couples in the country.

"I am very proud of how we have advanced [LGBT rights in Cuba,]" she
said during an Equality Forum panel in Philadelphia.

Estrada and Iriepa and other Cuban LGBT rights advocates remain critical
of Mariela Castro and her father's government.

Leannes Imbert Acosta of the Cuban LGBT Platform claimed authorities
last September detained her as she left her Havana home to bring
materials to CENESEX on a planned exhibit on forced labor camps to which
the government sent more than 25,000 gay men and others deemed unfit for
military services during the 1960s. Estrada said that las fall during a
New York City panel organized by Cuba Archive – a group that documents
human rights abuses on the island – more than 500 people with HIV/AIDS
remain in prison for what he described as the crime of "pre-criminal
social dangerousness."

When the Blade attempted to address criticisms from Estrada and other
LGBT rights with Mariela Castro during a press conference before she
accepted the Equality Forum award, the group's Executive Director
Malcolm Lazin interrupted, preventing the questions from being asked.

"You work for the community but you aren't really from this community
without rights," Estrada told the Blade. "And without rights nothing can
be achieved."

Source: "Cuban LGBT rights advocates arrive in D.C. : Washington Blade –
America's Leading Gay News Source" -

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