Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Cuba: Mariela Castro says government did not shut down first gay pride march

[Previously: "1st ever gay pride march canceled, organizers claim intimidation, others differ," June 28, 2008]

This has been bubbling out there on the internet all day long.

Earlier I got a Google alert that read, in Spanish, "Mariela Castro qualifies a gay march summoned by independent groups as a 'sad montage'" (Encuentro Cubano, July 8, 2008).

The article, posted in what is a strongly anti-Castro web portal, quoted excerpts from what seemed to be a private letter by Castro, signing as the Director of the Cuban Sexual Education National Center, to Dr. Pierre Assalian, the President of the 17th World Congress of Sexology organized by the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) - indicating that she was responding to some of his comments.

Seeking more information, I actually found a bilingual blog post with information on an internal e-mail message sent by Dr. Assailan to members of the WAS ("Cuba and sexual diversity: Some comments and clarifications," La Polilla, July 8, 2008). La Polilla, which leans towards pro-Castro views, translates his brief message as follows:
Re: CUBA’s first gay pride march-the organizers were arrested this morning
I do not understand, I thought Cuba was so open??????
Here WAS should take a stand, even NAFSO [North American Federation of Sexuality Organizations], if we want to put in practice what we talked about in our last meeting regarding ADVOCACY as a role of NAFSO.

La Polilla also offers what seems to be the full text of Castro's letter as well as an English translation (another translation is available at the Penultimos Dias blog).

I still have no confirmation that the statement is real but, if so, Dr. Castro rejects any claims that the Cuban government had anything to do with shutting down what was billed as the first gay pride march in Cuba, takes pot-shots at Cuban-American organizations in Miami and accuses them of terrorism, alleges that none of the persons that showed up for the march were even gay and accuses them of being a front for United States-backed forces seeking to discredit efforts by the Cuban government to increase government led recognition of the rights of LGBT Cubans.

Below, my own translation!

Pierre Assalian, M.D.
President Professional Development of AMPQ
President - 17th World Congress of Sexology

Dear Pierre,

I regret your disagreeable and clumsy irony. It would be very healthy if you sought in-depth information before providing an opinion since none of us are that ingenuous and we know that news regarding Cuba is rewarded with very tempting sums of money to discredit any accomplishment by the Cuban society. We all know that campaigns against Cuba are financed and organized by the United States government, using terrorist groups and organizations made-up at the last minute to be able to justify that funding and divert the attention towards the majority of the funds that remain in the pockets of the organizers. Have you read about these scandals? A common mechanism for this is to create the news and to sell it to different press agencies and bodies, with the goal of indicating that the assigned moneys were ‘adequately’ used.

Just in case you do not know, the Cuban revolution, and in particular the work done by CENESEX during the last years, have elicited much world-wide sympathy. Some of the foreign press accredited by Cuba have communicated to me that they received the order by their newspaper’s directors not to publish more news regarding the social advances in Cuba in the field of the right of the LGBT community, due to pressures expressly received from North American diplomats. This is perhaps why you are not aware of all the work we are doing to promote the sexual rights of the LGBT community, of the intense and extensive program undertaken in all of Cuba close to May 17th, of our efforts in the legislative field. Nevertheless, you become alarmed by news that have been made-up and politically manipulated, to justify the funds received by these organizations, coming from the North American government program, to discredit Cuba, with the ostentatious intention of discrediting the work we are doing.

I have received letters from gay, lesbian and transgender activists living in Cuba and abroad who are angered by this information. In the first place, because those organizations in Miami are profoundly homophobic and never took care of the rights of neither Cuban nor Cuban-American homosexuals. In the second place, because they will never allow any organization based in the exterior to decide on their behalf. In the third place, because it was all a sad
montage [un montaje infeliz]: There was no march because no-one supports them, no-one confronted them, no-one repressed them, there was not a single policeman in their surroundings and there were no detainees. The foreign press let us know that there were only 6 persons in the referred park and none were LGBT, they weren’t even able to explain the LGBT situation in Cuba when the press asked them, for this reason they weren’t sufficiently covered by the summoned foreign press media, who suffered a great deception when they discovered that it was a coarse and badly mounted show. In the end, they were ignored.

We regret that the attacks against our work from the exterior begin to be increasingly desperate. It’s our understanding that they will be more systematic and that there are a lot of media and the economic power to carry them out We will continue to do and improve our work, with the full support of the LGBT community of Cuba and many friends around the world.

I assume that the WAS is not a political organization and that it has the professional responsibility of not playing into the media campaigns, which discredit it as a worldwide scientific organization. I remind you that it’s not the first time that some fall into this trap.

It will be my pleasure to meet you again in Ecuador and Sweden, to greet you as good colleagues who fight for the same cause and to talk about the advances of the LBGT community in Canada, where you live. We all have a lot of useful work to do in our countries on behalf of the promotion of sexual rights. I am certain that we all are doing our best efforts.

My best greetings,

Mariela Castro Espín, Director of the Sexual Education National Center (CENESEX)



Ron Buckmire said...

what do YOU think really happened in Cuba that day??

Blabbeando said...

As with a lot of things 'Cuba' whatever I think might have happened is a moot point since it's so tough to get unbiased first hand news from the island here in the United States. My gut feeling is that reality might be half-way between what Mariela Castro says in this letter and what organizers in Cuba say (or the information that Cuban activists in Miami got).

On the one hand, I do believe that there are dissident LGBT organizations and organizers in the island who step outside the official norms and are still repressed by the government, despite increasing openness on the issue. I also think that Mariela oversteps in calling them false organizations serving United States interests.

On the other hand I'm not sure that there was an actual government effort to shut down the protest and it might be just that not enough people showed up for the march.

But, as I said, these are just gut feelings and I still haven't read a definite take on these events.