Former Cuban president Fidel Castro (pictured) has told a Mexican newspaper that he is responsible for the persecution of gays in Cuba in the post-revolution 1960’s.
Describing the time as “a great injustice,” Castro says that while he was not personally prejudiced against gays, he did not pay enough attention to what was going on against the gay community.
Throughout the 1960’s, gay men were rounded up in Cuba as ‘counterrevolutionaries’ and forced into military service, where they could be politically ‘re-educated.’ Brutal treatment from military commanders was not uncommon. Official persecution continued until homosexuality was decriminalised in 1979.
“At the time we were being sabotaged systematically, there were armed attacks against us, we had too many problems,” the 84 year-old claims. “Keeping one step ahead of the CIA, which was paying so many traitors, was not easy.”
However, during his presidency, Castro took a slightly different view of LGBT rights. “In the country, there are no homosexuals,” he once claimed, going on to denounce “maricones” (“faggots”) as “agents of imperialism” who should not be allowed in positions where they can influence young people. The Castro government of the 1960’s also claimed to cleanse the arts of “fraudulent sodomitic” writers and “sick effeminate” dancers.
The push for LGBT equality is strong in modern Cuba, with legal recognition of same-sex unions under debate. Castro’s niece Mariela (daughter of current president Raul Castro) is head of the government-funded National Centre for Sex Education and is an advocate of LGBT rights in the country.
Citizens can also undergo sex reassignment surgery for free.