Mariela Castro Hub




U.S. to Begin Talks With Cuba to Open Embassy, Normalize Full Diplomatic Relations

Cuba_obama

President Obama is set to announce a broad new range of changes to the U.S. Government's policies toward Cuba including talks to normalize full diplomatic relations and open an embassy, the AP reports.

The announcement was preceded Wednesday morning by the freeing of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, held in Cuba since 2009, CNN adds:

Gross' "humanitarian" release by Cuba was accompanied by a separate spy swap, the officials said. Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons. The U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001.

President Obama is also set to announce a broad range of diplomatic and regulatory measures in what officials called the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since the 1961 embargo was imposed.

Satellite-image-of-cuba

CNBC adds:

Obama plans to overhaul Cuba's policy while Cuba plans to free 53 political prisoners and to allow U.S. debit and credit cards, Dow Jones reported.

General tourism will still not be allowed but some travel restrictions will be eased for the purposes of making it easier for Americans to do business there.

Some of the other changes, according to CNN:

In an effort to boost the nascent Cuban private sector, the President will also allow expanded commercial sales and exports of goods and services to Cuba, particularly building materials for entrepreneurs and private residences, and allow greater business training, as well as permit greater communications hardware and services to go to the island.

Other announced changes permit U.S. and Cuban banks to build relationships and travelers to use credit and debit cards. U.S. travelers will be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba, including $100 in alcohol and tobacco -- even Cuban cigars. Remittances by Americans to their families back in Cuba will also be increased to approximately $2,000 per quarter.

While only Congress can lift the decades-long full embargo, the President appears to be extending many measures which are within his power.

Many, of course, will be asking how the human rights violations of the Castro regime will be addressed during these talks. Just this week, on Human Rights Day, more than 100 and reportedly up to 240 political activists were arrested throughout the island.

Obama is set to speak about Gross and Cuba at 12 ET today. At the same time Cuban President Raul Castro will be giving a press conference about the policies in Havana.

A CNN report on Alan Gross, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "U.S. to Begin Talks With Cuba to Open Embassy, Normalize Full Diplomatic Relations" »


Mariela Castro Votes Against Cuban Government, Voices Support For Transgender Rights

 

Mariela_Castro_2010_Hamburg

Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuba’s president Raul Castro and niece of Fidel Castro, has made the first recorded vote against the government in a show of support for LGBT people, reports NPR.

Castro was behind the sixth International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association for Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Conference held in Cuba earlier this year.

The proposed update to Cuba's expansive labor code included explicit protections based on sexual orientation. However, Castro said that because it didn't also specify protections for people based on their gender identity and HIV status, it was inconsistent with her beliefs.

It is thought to be the first time that a government bill has been voted against.

However, according to LGBTI News, Baruch College Latin American studies professor Ted Henken said that Castro’s vote “is more a sign of what Mariela can get away with than a sign of what your everyday parliamentarian can get away with.”


Cuba to Host International LGBT Conference Despite Criticism Over Human Rights Violations

ILGALAC

Next week Cuba will host the sixth International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association for Latin America and the Caribbean (ILGALAC) Regional Conference.

This will be the Communist country’s first time to host an international LGBT conference, a realization that isn’t sitting well with some who feel the conference shouldn’t take place in a country with such a lengthy record of human rights violations.

The Washington Blade reports:

CastroMariela Castro Espín, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro who is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX,) is president of the local committee that organized the ILGALAC conference.

Mariela Castro did not return the Washington Blade’s request for comment. CENESEX’s website prominently features information about the ILGALAC conference that includes a preliminary agenda.

“As the host country for the sixth ILGALAC Regional Conference, Cuba is not exempt from the problems of the region’s LGBTI communities,” states the organization. “The humanistic nature of the Cuban Revolution has focused on the human being in his teleological purposes since its beginning. Although the Cuban LGBTI movement does not have the organization of other international movements, the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the country is now evident with more impact and achievements.”

Late last year, the Cuban parliament amended the country’s labor law to ban anti-gay employment discrimination. Many LGBT advocates also credit Cuba’s condom distribution campaign and sexual education cirriculum with producing one of the world’s lowest HIV rates.

Still, other argue Cuba’s less-than-stellar human rights record cannot be ignored

“Hosting a conference on LGBT rights is just another farcical attempt by the Cuban regime to pretend they care about anyone’s rights,” U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) told the Blade in a statement. “The sad reality is that the Cuban people are harassed, beaten and bullied for having a point of view that differs from the regime’s. This desperate move to seem tolerant does not even come close to obscuring the repressive reality on the island.

Ignacio Estrada Cepera, founder of the Cuban League Against AIDS, noted that the Cuban government forcibly quarantined people with HIV/AIDS in state-run sanitaria until 1993. Other LGBT activists in the country point to the forced labor camps to which the government sent more than 25,000 gay men and others deemed unfit for military service during the 1960s. 


Mariela Castro Leads March Against Homophobia in Cuba: VIDEO

Mariela_Castro

Mariela Castro led hundreds of people through the streets of Havana in a march against homophobia on Saturday, al Jazeera reports:

People danced La Rampa through the crowded city, chanting "Homophobia no! Socialism yes!" as they made their way through Havana for more than an hour. Cuba has previously persecuted homosexuals, particularly during the 1960s when being gay was outlawed and homosexuals were interned in work camps.

Mariela Castro said she is optimistic that the communist nation will eventually legalise gay marriage.

"What is most complicated is the time it takes to overcome prejudices," she said.

"We must change consciousness."

Watch a BBC report on the march and the situation for gays in Cuba, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Mariela Castro Leads March Against Homophobia in Cuba: VIDEO" »


Mariela Castro Visits Liberty Bell in Philadelphia: VIDEO

Castro

Cuban gay rights activist and daughter of President Raul Castro is in Philadelphia to pick up an award from Philadelphia's Equality Forum after a brief tussle with the State Dept. over a visa approval, which she was granted last week.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

The AP reports:

Mariela Castro spoke briefly to reporters during her sightseeing tour. Asked about the health of her uncle and father, Castro replied: "They're wonderful, and I learn a lot from their example."

Commenting on the gay rights movement in the U.S., she said, "In this election especially, they showed that they form a very important vote in American society."

A married mother of three, Castro leads Cuba's National Center for Sex Education, which is part of the island nation's public health ministry. She is the country's most prominent gay rights activist, having trained police on relations with the LGBT community and lobbied lawmakers to legalize same-sex unions. She was elected as a deputy in Cuba's parliament in February.

Continue reading "Mariela Castro Visits Liberty Bell in Philadelphia: VIDEO" »


State Department Reconsiders, Approves Mariela Castro for Visa to Pick Up Gay Rights Award

Last week I reported that Mariela Castro, the Cuban gay rights activist and daughter of President Raul Castro was being denied a visa to travel to Philadelphia's Equality Forum to pick up an award.

CastroThey have reconsidered, CNN reports:

Initially not expected to receive a visa, the official said the case was "looked at again" and "the restriction on her visa has been lifted, which will allow her to travel" to the event on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues...Contacted by CNN on Monday, the organizers said they had not received official confirmation that Mariela Castro would attend. She is scheduled to take part in a panel discussion on May 4 and to receive an award from the Equality Forum as an "International Ally for LGBT Equality."


Trending



Towleroad - Blogged