Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A 'no' vote breaks tradition in usually unanimous Cuban parliament and it's cast by a Castro

A 'no' vote breaks tradition in usually unanimous Cuban parliament _ and
it's cast by a Castro
Published August 19, 2014 Associated Press

HAVANA – Yet another revolutionary tradition has been broken in Cuba: A
lawmaker voted "no" in parliament.

And it wasn't just any lawmaker.

Mariela Castro, the daughter of President Raul Castro and niece of Fidel
Castro, gave the thumbs-down to a workers' rights bill that she felt
didn't go far enough to prevent discrimination against people with HIV
or with unconventional gender identities.

None of the experts contacted by The Associated Press could recall
another "no" vote in the 612-seat National Assembly, which meets briefly
twice a year and approves laws by unanimous show of hands.

"This is the first time, without a doubt," said Carlos Alzugaray, a
historian and former Cuban diplomat.

He said even measures that were widely criticized in grass-roots public
meetings, such as a law raising the retirement age, had passed
unanimously in the Assembly.

Few in Cuba were even aware of the vote until after the measure was
enacted into law this summer, at which point gay activists publicized
the vote by Castro, who is the island's most prominent advocate for gay

Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban analyst who lectures at the University of
Denver, suggested it might "open doors for other important initiatives."

Mariela Castro herself seemed to hint there could be more debate in the

"There have been advances in the way things are discussed, above all the
way things are discussed at the grass-roots level, in workplaces, unions
and party groupings," she said in an interview posted in late July on
the blog of Francisco Rodriguez, a pro-government gay rights activist.
"I think we still need to perfect the democratic participation of the
representatives within the Assembly."

Others are skeptical it will set a precedent.

"I would say that this is more a sign of what Mariela can get away with
than a sign of what your everyday parliamentarian can get away with,"
said Ted Henken, a professor of Latin American studies at Baruch College
in New York.

In her crusade for gay rights, Castro has often taken stands that
challenge the social status quo, while firmly supporting the Communist

The new labor code bans workplace discrimination based on gender, race
and sexual orientation. But it has no mention of HIV status or gender

"I could not vote in favor without the certainty that the labor rights
of people with different gender identity would be explicitly
recognized," Castro said in the blog interview.

Raul Castro himself has been slowly shaking up Cuba's system by allowing
some limited private-sector activity and scrapping a much-loathed exit
visa requirement. He's made it clear, though, that the Communist Party
will continue to be the only one permitted.

The vast majority of Assembly members keep their regular jobs and are
not professional lawmakers. Laws are generally drafted by a handful of
legislators and discussed with Cubans before being presented to parliament.

There was no response to requests for an interview with Mariela Castro,
who heads Cuba's National Center for Sex Education, an entity under the
umbrella of the Health Ministry.

She has spoken in the past about wanting to legalize same-sex unions,
though concrete legislation to that effect has not materialized.

That LGBT rights is even a matter of debate is a sign that much has
changed since the 1960s and '70s, when gay islanders were routinely
harassed and sent to labor camps along with others considered socially

In recent years, Fidel Castro expressed regret about past treatment of
gays, and today Cuba's free and universal health care system covers
gender reassignment surgery.

But activists say old attitudes and prejudices die hard so the LGBT
community needs more legal protections.

Rodriguez and about 20 others from Project Rainbow, a group that
advocates for sexual diversity, recently sent a public letter urging
Mariela Castro to introduce legislation to amend the labor code.

"These are not minor details," Rodriguez said. "They are social problems
we have in contemporary Cuba."


Associated Press writer Peter Orsi in Havana contributed to this report.


Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP

Source: A 'no' vote breaks tradition in usually unanimous Cuban
parliament _ and it's cast by a Castro | Fox News -

No comments:

Post a Comment