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Mariela Castro in red shirt and hat speaking into mic

Havana, Cuba – Once again, the conga line led by Mariela Castro Espín swept through one of the city’s main thoroughfares, this past Saturday, May the eleventh, under heavy security and control measures.

The conga line against homophobia, pretends to reproduce the many marches held around the world in support of the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) community. However, the difference between these and those held in democratic countries, according to some that participate in the one held in Cuba, is that here the stage becomes a political bastion.

The event led by the National Center for Sexual Education, tries to paint the Cuban LGBT within the context of an uncertain opening that exists only for those who pay lip service to it in order to obtain juicy rewards from projects like these, leaving it completely abandoned, and without showing a convincing agenda to a community still far from seeing all of its rights fulfilled.

The number of participants has decreased in recent years given the dissatisfaction and the delays of unfulfilled promises by the group in power.  We could add to this the manipulation of the event to support political campaigns like that for the release of the five Cubans jailed in the US for espionage.

An example of this is Mariela Castro’s speech this past Saturday, and the slogans shouted there that only reiterated their political commitment to a government led by her father, Raul Castro.  There were no words coming from the mouth of the self-proclaimed leader of the Cuban LGBT community, that could predict the status of the reforms to the family code introduced in the Cuban parliament by lawyers of the institution that she commands; reforms to the family code that recognize consensual unions, adoption and other benefits for the LGBT community.

The presence of foreign guests was notable, but one most criticized by Cuban attendees was that of Argentinian transsexual Lohana Berkins who used a megaphone brought from her country to shout slogans designed to exalt a government recognized around the world for its abuses against the LGBT community. Only isolated voices repeated her slogans while others, in protest, made fun of her or turned their backs on her.

The exposure of Ms. Castro Espin to the public was sparse and always surrounded by a showy security detail. She was followed from a distance by her current husband, Paolo Tito, who documented the event in photographs.  Some officers of their personal security detail also took pictures and video.

Members of the LGBT community who toe the official line were also present and picked up by the cameras of the national and international press. Some of the civil society projects that participated were The Observatory for LGBT Rights in Cuba, The Shui Tuix Integration Project, The Open Doors Foundation and The Cuban League Against AIDS. These organizations signed a document that was delivered to the vice director of CENESEX, Ms. Rosa Mayra Rodriguez, on the dais to be delivered to Mariela Castro inviting her to participate in a dialogue on equality of Rights for all. The letter was delivered by Lic. Liannes Imbert, coordinator of the OBCD-LGBT.

Ms. Mariela Castro who was expected at midday left the room where the activities were being held for the community she tries to manipulate to go home for lunch. She was seen leaving in silver Peugeot car licensed to a foreign company (HK) driven by her husband, forgetting that her followers were only having a snack.

Before concluding this note I want to emphasize something what many were waiting for and that was the presence of René González, one of the Cubans who was convicted in the United States and who was recently returned to Cuba after being stripped of U.S. citizenship, the person to whom Mariela dedicates last Saturday’s conga. The truth is, as many have already commented, the non-appearance of someone who promised to appear in one of these events, but did not.

By Ignacio Estrada, Independent Journalist

13 May 2013

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