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Mariela Castro gets a visa to visit New York but won’t be able to pick up LGBT award in Philly

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.

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What can be said about the United States and its obsessions respecting Cuba. Yes, it is true, Cuba never succumbed to the economic and terrorist pressures of the US; but surely the US must normalize relations with Cuba. 45,000 Americans were killed in Vietname, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese killed by the US. But very soon after this terrorist war (of the US), relations were normalized and the US has many economic ties to Vietnam. But for Cuba? The Cuban 5 remain locked in US prisons for trying to prevent terrorism by the fanatics in Miami against Cuba. And it is still a bureaucratic nightmare for Americans to visit Cuba. PayPal will even suspend your account if you try to use it to assist a relative or friend in Cuba. The hypocrisy of the US is amazing. Let freedom prevail!

She should not be given the award. In Cuba right now, gays who speak or tweet against her daddy dictator are oppressed, persecuted and harassed. Their cell phones are taken away so they cannot tweet. She does nothing about this. A true activist will stand up for the rights of the oppressed, politics don't matter.

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