NEW YORK, June 3, CMC – Declaring her socialist-run country’s electoral system is democratic, the sex expert daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro has stopped short of expanding her support of gay and lesbian rights in Cuba to include either an apology for past persecution or greater political and religious freedom.
Sexologist Mariela Castro told a panel on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights her Cuba’s electoral system “is so democratic that no one wants to talk about it,” although she believes that “it could be even more democratic.” Cuba is a one-party state, ruled by the Communist Party since the Castro brothers-led revolution to overthrown dictator Fulgencio Batista in January 1959.
Castro also told the New York Public Library audience that Cuban government’s apology for its past persecution of gays “would be an act of hypocrisy”.
Castro’s appearance on the panel drew complaints that organisers had hand-picked the audience to avert hostile questions or other confrontations.
When one audience member asked whether Cuba’s Communist Party government needed to apologise for its persecution of gays over its half-century rule, she replied that “to ask for forgiveness now would be an act of hypocrisy that will not change the past.”
What is needed is to “transform” society to avoid future problems, Castro said.
But Castro’s push for LGBT rights in Cuba stopped short of being expanded to include “people with different religious or political view,” said panellist Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
“What I was struck by, in some ways, because she has had such a passionate commitment to LGBT issues, it’s what many see as an inconsistency in a human rights framework,” Carey said.
Gay Cuban dissidents accuse Castro, who heads the National Centre for Sex Education in Havana, of helping only those gays who support her father’s government, and attacking the work of others as provocations.
The New York Public Library, in a statement, denied that the event’s organisers, who work in the library’s LGBT Collections department, had packed a friendly audience and kept out critics.
Mariela Castro’s US tour includes a presentation on LGBT rights to an academic conference in San Francisco last week, a visit to the United Nations and a meeting with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Her visit has been dogged by controversy, including her comment that she would vote for President Barack Obama if she could, and complaints from Cuban-American gays and members of the US Congress that she should not have been issued a US visa.