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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 17, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 20
Cuban police arrest three at LGBT parade
Section One
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Cuban police arrest three at LGBT parade

Permit for the event had been denied

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

At least three people were arrested at an unpermitted LGBT event in Havana, Cuba, on May 11.

The event - titled 'Congo Against Homophobia and Transphobia' - had been permitted by Cuban authorities for the past 12 years. This year, however, the Cuban government said it would not allow the event to go forward because of 'new tensions in the international and regional context...' Other official events celebrating LGBT rights in the country have permission to go ahead as planned.

Cuba's National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), led by Mariela Castro - daughter of Raúl Castro and niece of Fidel Castro - accordingly cancelled plans for the Havana event, but some activists decided to hold the parade without official approval.

Lacking official sponsorship, the event was organized mainly through social media.

According to the BBC news service, more than 100 activists turned out for the parade along Havana's Paseo del Prado, one of the city's main boulevards.

They soon ran into a large contingent of police and soldiers. Some marchers said they were subjected to violence after they were stopped by plainclothes security officers. At least three were arrested, the BBC said.

Cuba's LGBT community was once identified with the country's large sex-tourism industry, centered in Havana's foreign-owned resorts and casinos. When the Castro brothers came to power at the head of a popular revolution in 1959, they seized the tourist venues but also began to arrest local LGBT people.

Fidel apologized for his government's treatment of LGBT Cubans in a historic interview in 2010 with the Mexican newspaper La Jornada.

'If someone is responsible, it's me,' he said, admitting he didn't pay enough attention to what his government was doing to the LGBT community.

'At the time we were being sabotaged systematically, there were armed attacks against us, we had too many problems. Keeping one step ahead of the CIA, which was paying so many traitors, was not easy.'

Gay sex was decriminalized in 1979, and anti-discrimination provisions are now enshrined in the Cuban constitution.

After Raúl became Cuba's president in 2008, the country has held events to mark the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17. His daughter Mariela has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights.

Raúl was replaced as president of Cuba by Miguel Díaz-Canel last year.

Cuban LGBT activists worry that with Raúl's retirement, the new Cuban leadership will walk back its previous commitments to the LGBT community.

Díaz-Canel has publicly stated his support for marriage equality, but was forced to remove a legal guarantee of marriage rights from Cuba's new constitution after large demonstrations by Cuban Catholics and evangelicals.

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