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Organizer: Castro’s daughter denied visa to attend gay rights conference

Thursday, April 25, 2013

PHILADELPHIA — The daughter of Cuba President Raul Castro cannot visit Philadelphia to receive an award for her gay rights activism because the State Department has denied her permission to travel there, officials said Thursday.

Mariela Castro had been expected to attend a conference next week on civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities sponsored by the Equality Forum, according to Malcolm Lazin, the advocacy group’s executive director.

Mariela Castro

“We find it shocking that our State Department would deny freedom of speech, particularly at an international civil rights summit, to anyone, let alone the Cuban president’s daughter,” Lazin said.

State Department spokesman Noel Clay said he could not comment on the case because visa records are confidential.

Mariela Castro, the niece of retired leader Fidel Castro, is director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education. As that country’s most prominent gay rights activist, she has instituted awareness campaigns, trained police on relations with the LGBT community and has lobbied lawmakers to legalize same-sex unions.

Guillermo Suarez, spokesman for Cuba’s United Nations Mission, confirmed that Mariela Castro was in New York on Thursday attending meetings related to the U.N. population conference in Cairo in 1994. She is one of the experts designated by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to work on the 20-year follow-up to the action plan adopte d in Egypt, Suarez said.

“That’s why she asked for the visa and it’s the reason for her presence in New York,” he said.

Suarez said Castro “doesn’t have any personal reaction” to the State Department’s denial of her request to travel to Philadelphia.

The State Department bars Cuban diplomats from traveling more than 25 miles from central Manhattan.

The Philadelphia-based Equality Forum sponsors an annual, dayslong international summit on LGBT civil rights. Each year, the event spotlights issues being faced by the LGBT community in a particular nation; this year, the featured nation is Cuba.

Lazin said Castro had agreed to speak on a panel about Cuba on May 4 and was to accept an award for her activism at a dinner that night. He did not expect any visa problems because she had been granted permission to attend an academic conference in San Francisco last year.

However, a number of Cuban-American politicians criticized the State Department f or issuing Castro an entry visa for that event. They noted that U.S. rules prohibit Communist Party members and other high-ranking Cuban government officials from entry without special dispensation.

Castro was elected as a deputy in Cuba’s parliament in February, and the sex education center is part of Cuba’s public health ministry.

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17 more reader comments:

  1. Well that sucks; why denied? Cuz she’s a Castro?

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:33am
  2. Sad. And its all because Jay Z and Beyonce’s trip raised so much fuss here in the States that the state department doesnt want another issue.

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:35am
  3. That is terrible! Shame on them for not issuing her a visa! :(

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:36am
  4. If any of you actually read the article, she wasn’t denied a visa because she is a Castro, since she’s been given visas multiple times to come here. It’s fishy that they deny the visa when it’s for a gay rights conference.

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:38am
  5. Well so much for the U.S. being a free country when OUR government forbids our citizens and Cubans from travelling to and from Cuba.

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:39am
  6. They don’t want to seem too friendly with Cuba.

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:39am
  7. The U.S is far from a free country!!! Anytime it has something to do with Gay Rights The U.S throws a temper tantrum

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:40am
  8. it can’t be that because they let her in last year

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:43am
  9. I didnt even know he had a daughter.

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:44am
  10. since when if a person is going on a trip for whatever do we have to get a visa i thought all we needed is a passport?

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:45am
  11. what she should be able to thats not right the usa is about freedom and civil rights and every other right out there if we can have terrorists legally come into the usa then she should be able to get her award

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:47am
  12. OMG…get over it. I want to visit Cuba someday!!

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:53am
  13. Awe, bless your ignorance. You obviously need a passport, but some countries require visas to enter. The visa is put on your passport. Most countries need a visa to enter the USA.

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:53am
  14. I’d say they’re being nasty to prevent a Castro from accepting a (human-rights-advocacy) award. Likely it’s less about GLBT rights…

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 12:01pm
  15. actually, if you’re Cuban born and up to third generations removed: you’re allowed to go back Direct flights out of Miami or LAX

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 12:32pm
  16. Typical . . .

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 1:06pm
  17. Sigh, C’mon…She has Rights too

    Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 1:47pm