BY JUAN O. TAMAYO, JTAMAYO@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM
The daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, sexologist Mariela Castro, has been denied permission to travel outside the New York area when she attends a series of United Nations meetings next month.
The younger Castro, director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education and an outspoken defender of gay rights and same-sex marriage, received a U.S. visa to attend several gatherings at U.N. headquarters in Manhattan.
But she will be subject to the same limits as all Cuban diplomats assigned to the United Nations — no travel more than 25 miles from Columbus Circle, which is located in Manhattan near Central Park, without advance permission.
The Cuban government imposes similar restrictions on U.S. diplomats in Havana — no travel outside the province of Havana without special permission from the Ministry of Foreign Relations.
Castro’s travel restriction came to light when U.S. gay rights activists complained Thursday that she was not being allowed to address their group and receive the International Ally for LGBT Equality Award May 4 during the Equality Forum’s Global LGBT Summit in Philadelphia.
The Equality Forum, an international LGBT rights organization, holds the summit annually and it draws many national politicians and personalities. At this year’s summit, Cuba will be the featured nation.
“Over the past 11 years, Equality Forum has invited leaders of the featured nation to attend. For those who needed a visa, all past visas have been approved,” Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin said in a statement. “It is shocking that our State Department would deny Ms. Castro travel to a civil rights summit — especially one held in the birthplace of our democracy that enshrines freedoms of speech and assembly.”
Mariela Castro “runs the leading Cuban LGBT organization that offers support and services to LGBT youth and seniors, provides HIV and STD education and prevention, and combats homophobia,” said Lazin. “These are shared values that deserve the right to be heard regardless of political systems.”
Some Cuban-American activists complained last year when Castro received visas and permissions to attend several events in New York and San Francisco. While she has worked for the rights of members of the LGBT community who support the government, they said, she has only criticized and distanced gay rights activists who criticize the government and demand other human rights.