Next week Cuba will host an international convention of LGBT activists for the first time. The event will be chaired by Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban president Raul Castro and Fidel Castro's niece. The Washington Blade reports:
The sixth International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association for Latin America and the Caribbean (ILGALAC) Regional Conference will take place in the beach resort of Varadero. A number of parties and other events are scheduled to take place in nearby Havana, the Cuban capital, during the gathering. “As the host country for the sixth ILGALAC Regional Conference, Cuba is not exempt from the problems of the region’s LGBTI communities,” states the organization. “The humanistic nature of the Cuban Revolution has focused on the human being in his teleological purposes since its beginning. Although the Cuban LGBTI movement does not have the organization of other international movements, the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the country is now evident with more impact and achievements.”Among the critics of the conference is US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL): "Hosting a conference on LGBT rights is just another farcical attempt by the Cuban regime to pretend they care about anyone’s rights. The sad reality is that the Cuban people are harassed, beaten and bullied for having a point of view that differs from the regime’s. This desperate move to seem tolerant does not even come close to obscuring the repressive reality on the island.” Last year Ros-Lehtinen, who has a transgender son, endorsed marriage equality in Florida.
RELATED: Homosexuality is legal in Cuba and while no LGBT rights legislation exists, gay pride events have been allowed in recent years. In 2010 Fidel Castro publicly apologized for the treatment of LGBT people during his regime, calling it a "great injustice." Thousands of gay people were rounded up and placed in internment camps while he was in power. At the height of the AIDS crisis, HIV+ Cubans were quarantined. Today Cuba produces generic HIV drugs and provides them free of charge.