Cuba’s gay revolution: normalising sexual diversity - book review

cuba mariela cartro gay revolution
Mariela Castro, head of CENESEX, on a LGBT parade in Havana

Cuba’s Gay Revolution: normalising sexual diversity through a health-based approach

Emily J Kirk, Lexington Books, 2017, 167pp, £60

In 1992, Fidel Castro was one of the first heads of state to openly support LGBT liberation, declaring: ‘I am absolutely opposed to any form of repression, contempt, scorn or discrimination with regard to homosexuals.’ He later expressed personal regret for historic persecution of homosexuals in the country: ‘Yes, there were great injustices... if someone is responsible, it’s me... We had so many and such terrible problems, problems of life or death. In those moments, I was not able to deal with the matter. I found myself immersed, principally, in the Crisis of October, in the war, in policy questions.’1

Internationally, the history of LGBT politics in Cuba has received little in the way of serious attention which often takes the form of generalisations or thinly veiled attacks upon Cuban socialism. Emily J Kirk’s book, therefore, is hugely significant. Drawing from the archives of the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) and interviews with its staff, she sets out an objective and insightful analysis of how LGBT rights have developed through the history of the Cuban revolution.

Read more ...

Acoustic illusion: pretext for renewed US hostility to Cuba

sonicattack cuba

On 8 November 2017, the United States government launched new sanctions against Cuba, releasing an updated list of Cuban entities – from hotels to agricultural suppliers and from soft drinks to retail stores – which US businesses and citizens are banned from engaging with. What do they have in common? The US Department of State list states that they are all ‘entities and subentities under the control of, or acting for or on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services or personnel with which direct financial transactions would disproportionately benefit such services or personnel at the expense of the Cuban people or private enterprise in Cuba’. Jack Lukacs reports.

It is an untenable proposition to distinguish between civilians and the military in a revolutionary state under siege. By attempting to starve the Cuban government of revenue from travel, remittances and trade, these measures hurt all Cubans on the island. Trump appears to be dancing to the tune of his key electoral allies in Florida, Miami. Extreme right-wing Cuban-American Senators Marco Rubio and Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart are the architects of the ban on transactions with military-linked enterprises. But they are not easy to please. Following the publication of the State Department’s list, they complained that it was too short because US ‘bureaucrats’ were ‘refusing’ to carry out Trump’s policy.

Read more ...

Close Guantanamo! Free or put on trial the final prisoners

close guantanamo

Nine years after President Obama promised to close the US torture camp in illegally occupied Guantanamo Bay in eastern Cuba, 41 prisoners continue to be held there. At least four are on hunger strike and, as we go to press, the campaigning charity Reprieve is warning that they are ‘edging close to death’.

The camp is situated within a US naval station at Guantanamo Bay, which dates back to the US-Spanish War of 1898. The Cuban people have always opposed this blatantly imperialist occupation and, since the Revolution, Cuba has demanded an end to the US presence. Lease payments have been sent annually from the US but since 1959 the Cuban government has not cashed any of the cheques.

Read more ...

Cuba puts the US to shame as hurricanes wreak destruction

The succession of hurricanes which hit the Caribbean Americas in August and September were some of the most immense and devastating on record. Climate scientists warned that warming ocean surfaces are exacerbating the conditions that produce such extreme weather events. After the storms had passed it was clear that within the region only Cuba, thanks to its socialist central planning, had been equipped to adequately prepare and protect its people, putting even the US to shame. Barnaby Philips reports.

When it was announced that Hurricane Irma was going to be a Category 5 storm, Marien, a Cuban who has been living in Miami for four years, decided to take her family back to her home country for a week even though they wouldn’t escape Irma’s path there: ‘We know we’re going to be safer.’

Indeed, according to the Centre for International Policy, a Washington-based research and advocacy group, ‘a person is 15 times as likely to be killed by a hurricane in the United States as in Cuba’.

Read more ...

Supporting working mothers: Cuba’s achievements bring new challenges

mothers in cuba

Earlier this year, two new laws concerning Female Workers’ Maternity and Special Social Security Regimes were enacted in Cuba. They aim to address the demographic challenges Cuba faces through its ageing population and strengthen support for working mothers who are central to discussions about the workforce, fertility and productivity. Haydee Franco Leal, director of Policies and Projections at the National Institute of Social Security, outlined the objectives as: encouraging Cuban women to have more children in order to replace the ageing population; ensuring the active participation, in all aspects of society, of the growing population of those aged over 60; and encouraging the employment of all those able to work, including women with children.

The changes are accompanied by a rise in the social security budget to 6bn Cuban pesos, which is set to double by 2030. They include: increasing and extending maternity benefits; allowing other carers to share these benefits; new and reduced charges for childcare centres, and ensuring benefits for mothers employed outside the state sector.

Read more ...