Independent Cuban NGO's Excluded From LGBT Conference

Thursday, May 8, 2014
From The Washington Blade:

Cuban advocates not invited to international LGBT conference

A group of independent Cuban advocates have sharply criticized organizers of an international LGBT conference underway in the Communist country over their decision not to invite them to the event.

The Washington Blade on Tuesday obtained a copy of a statement onto which the Cuban League Against AIDS and six other LGBT advocacy groups that are not affiliated with the country’s National Center for Sexual Education signed. CENESEX’s director, Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, is president of the local committee that organized the sixth International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association for Latin America and the Caribbean Conference that is currently taking place in the beach resort of Varadero.

“We reject and denounce the fact that this meeting will take place with only the presence of a Cuban official and some non-governmental organizations,” reads the statement.

The groups describe the conference as a “mockery,” referring to the Cuban government’s human rights record they say includes continued harassment of independent LGBT activists from the authorities. The organizations specifically criticize both ILGALAC and Mariela Castro.

“Cuban civil society of which we are members is one that permanently denounces all these violations of human rights not acknowledged by those organizing the event,” reads their statement. “We are those who are not able to take a seat at the table of complicity that pretends to show an island where our community covers new ground.”

Ignacio Estrada Cepero, founder of the Cuban League Against AIDS, noted to the Washington Blade from Miami where he currently lives with his wife, Wendy Iriepa Díaz, a trans-woman who once worked at CENESEX, that the Cuban government sent more than 25,000 gay men and others deemed unfit for military service to forced labor camps in the years following the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

The ILGALAC conference is the first time Cuba has hosted an international LGBT gathering.

The Free Rainbow Alliance of Cuba, another independent Cuban LGBT advocacy group, also criticized Mariela Castro and ILGALAC for not inviting it to attend the conference.

“The Cuban authorities, through the National Center of Sexual Education (CENESEX,) through its director’s political use of family ties and personal aura, try to control, manipulate and win international legitimacy as promoters and guarantors of rights for the LGBTI community,” said the Free Rainbow Alliance of Cuba in a statement that Caribe Afirmativo, a Colombian LGBT advocacy organization, sent Blade last Thursday.