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Cuba: UN Vote on LGBT Rights Sparks Controversy

Symbol of the LGBT community. Photo by incurable hippie republished under CC License.*

On November 24, 2010 the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) and the Cuban Multidisciplinary Society for the Study of Sexuality (SOCUMES) published an official statement [es] which offered a glimpse of their disagreement with the vote of the Cuban delegation before the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly.

During this session, Cuba supported the amendment to remove the explicit reference to sexual orientation from the periodic resolution condemning the extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions.

Four days later, Francisco “Paquito” Rodríguez Cruz, journalist of the weekly Trabajadores and member of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexuual) community, published on his blog Paquito el de Cuba an open letter to Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez [es], arguing his “total and strong disagreement” with the Cuban vote. This action was described as an “incomprehensible” exercise of diplomacy if we take into account government policies on the subject.

Incongruencias de tal naturaleza podrían ser contraproducentes para este propósito que nos involucra a tantos en función de superar viejos esquemas mentales, e incluso para la imagen internacional de la Revolución.

Inconsistencies of this kind could be counterproductive for our purpose of overcoming old mindsets, and even for the international image of the Revolution.

Blogger Yasmín Silvia Portales in her blog En 2310 y 8225 [es] reminds us:

Es la imagen de nuestra nación la que se vincula a los 73 gobiernos con peor récord en cuanto a derechos sexuales, reproductivos y de respeto a la diversidad sexual, somos nosotr@s, ciudadan@s de Cuba, quienes firmamos esa enmienda.

It is the image of our nation which is related to the 73 governments with the worst record in sexual and reproductive rights; we, citizens of Cuba, are signing that amendment.

The discussion on the Internet provoked a quick official response. At 3: oo pm on December 2, the blogger Francisco Rodríguez, the president of SOCUMED Alberto Roque  and other CENESEX representatives were received by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez to discuss the controversial vote of the Cuban delegation at the UN.  During this meeting, the Foreign Minister confirmed that there were no changes in Cuba's policy to oppose any form of discrimination and the respect of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, he said the controversial vote was a result of “unforeseen circumstances.”

This fact, predicted by Yasmín Portales in her blog [es], drew criticism towards creating political alliances “at the expense of forgoing the cult to the full dignity of man” in a country that declares itself as constitutionally socialist.

During the meeting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs also showed the explanatory text provided by Cuba after the vote. Another statement will be announced in a few days by the Cuban mission to the UN.

Although blogger Francisco Rodríguez appreciated  “…the gesture of inviting a simple Cuban blogger from the LGBT community to participate in this discussion,” he says the issue is still outstanding. He recognizes that the response did “not fully satisfy because it is not possible to roll back the vote” but he is encouraged with the understanding of the problem demonstrated by the Chancellor and his commitment to keeping “a position consistent with national policies around non-discrimination and respect for sexual diversity.”

Yasmín Silvia, in a second article about the subject [es], described Minister Bruno Rodríguez's hosting the meeting as “amazing and wonderful”, but she told the news agency IPS [es]:

Nuestros derechos, los de las personas LGBT, son moneda de cambio para aliarse con cualquier desgobierno aficionado a las lapidaciones y en la mirilla de imperio.

Our rights, the rights of the LGBT community, are bargaining chips to create alliances with  pro-stoning and US-targeted infamous governments.

At the same time, she recognized the gains of having this debate:

[es una] demostración inusitada de la atención que presta el Gobierno a los debates de la izquierda cubana que no entra por el aro de la ortodoxia tradicional, y de que nuestros criterios si son leídos con atención.

[It is an] unprecedented demonstration of the attention given by the Government to the discussions of the Cuban left that does not fit the traditional orthodoxy, and that our criteria are being read with attention.

The controversy spread to blogs of all political affiliations. Blogger Yoani Sánchez [es] criticized the lack of information in the official media. Yohandry's blog [es] reproduced the results of the vote and the subsequent Cuban Foreign Minister meeting with members of the civil society. The Negra cubana tenía que ser blog [es], maintained by Sandra Alvarez, highlighted the importance of training and advice on this topic for Cuban diplomats.

*Photo taken from Flickr by incurable_hippie republished under License CC A-NC 2.0.

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