[News] Interview of Mariela Castro
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 15 11:35:06 EDT 2008
Here is a stunning interview with Mariela Castro, from the Spanish
newspaper LA VANGUARDIA. Special thanks to Sue Greene for the quick
translation from the original Spanish.
Interview with Mariela Castro
"Cubans' right to leave the country should not be denied"
Fernando Garcia | Havana. Correspondent | 10/05/2008 | Updated at 03:31 pm
A CubaNews translation by Sue Greene. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of President Raúl and director of the
National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), is the greatest advocate of
critical awareness and renovation from within the system in Cuba. Her
proposals and viewpoints demonstrate it.
Last June, you presented a revolutionary proposal in favour of the
recognition of the rights of gay couples and of sex change in Cuba. What is
The proposal is centered on a reform of the Cuban Family Code, with the
introduction of articles on sexual orientation and gender identity. They
consider not only attention to transsexuals, in fact already existing since
1979, but gay rights, which is an area that has barely advanced. A year ago
we took the initiative to the Parliament through institutions with the
jurisdiction to do so. There was a very interesting dialogue with prospects
to debate and approve it when it is appropriate. But during the process we
learned better ways to obtain our objectives. And we decided to present to
the leadership of the Communist Party a project with an educational
strategy, with the support of the mass media, to circulate the changes we
want to introduce into the Family Code. The goal is for society to
understand the benefits that those changes have for the family. The Party
will help us organize this work of sensitization. Its endorsement is very
important in order to convince the deputies and the Cuban population, in
When do you believe that a Cuban transsexual will be able to get an
operation under the law and a homosexual couple will have the same marriage
rights? Will they be able to adopt?
We have discovered that there was nothing in the law that prevents doing and
covering those sex change operations. It only lacks legal implementation
through a resolution from the Ministry of Public Health supporting the
functions and objectives of the National Commission for Comprehensive Care
of Transsexuals. This Commission will be authorized to issue a certificate
permitting the corresponding changes in identity documents of these people
without going through gender reassignment surgery. As for the couples, for
the moment we are going to avoid complications and rejections: instead of
approving homosexual marriage, which also would require changing the
Constitution, we will create a Legal Union formula, which is only for
same-sex couples and will recognize the same rights as those in marriage,
except for adoption. Not only because it generates lots of resistance but
because homosexual couples who collaborate with Cenesex have advised us not
to complicate ourselves with adoptions because here and now, in Cuba, that
is not their priority. And it is better to be modest in order to advance
more firmly on what interests them.
How has the CP and its old guard received what is proposed? In the
international press it was all a shock.
Dialogue with the Party has been the best thing. In fact, the permanent
dialogue of Cuban society with the CP is in the basic documents of this
political organization. Recently, they organized a meeting with the
directors of the most important media organizations of the country to
explain the work of Cenesex as the coordinator of the National Sexual
Education Program and the importance of holding the World Day Against
Homophobia. In these years I have gone only to the international press which
has been interested in our work: to the Cuban press I did not want to say
anything yet because I was afraid of mishandling an inopportune moment.
Because of the importance we attach to the reaction which may occur in our
country, we have worked with the CP for an educational strategy, which
materialized in a mass media plan. With regard to the Cuban World Day
Against Homophobia, already we have begun to publish the first journalistic
works, which will continue periodically throughout the year. As for
reactions, there will be everything. There is resistance, but also learning
among the old and young alike.
Is Cuba an especially macho society?
All societies are patriarchal ..... Macho. The other thing is that in
developed countries everything is more hidden because the language is more
sophisticated and "politically correct". Because everything is better
examined in order to cover up and even to lie. If not, how do you justify
the gender-based violence that we know exists? I believe that Cuban machismo
is less violent than that in Europe, thanks to a Revolution which
established policies for women's rights since the 60's. Men have had to
become more humble and yield space. Anyway, I want to emphasize the progress
achieved in Spain, where they speak openly about gender violence. In other
European countries there is the same thing but it is kept quiet.
Yes, we should talk more about this matter. We are fighting for it. But,
although there is violence, predominately of the verbal type; the physical
type is much less. Among other things, the community and neighborhood
structures react quickly and restrain those situations. These are the
conclusions of scientific studies carried out in Cuba. They are not my
There are many other areas, that have been identified, that require reforms
in Cuba. In your view, what changes should be a priority?
For me, the key is to develop mechanisms for participation. That determines
and identifies which changes must be made and how. The first thing is that
everything has a logical direction. Because sometimes I feel that there are
absurd mechanisms that seem to be changing. The most important thing is not
to lose sight of the principle objective of socialism: the emancipation of
human beings; their well-being with fairness and social justice, and that
whatever is done satisfies the growing needs of human beings. It is not that
now we want to construct a consumer society, which is the antithesis
socialism, but that they produce the goods and services that people need. I
also have faith in human betterment, which is why I betting on socialism.
Now, I would like there to be fewer prohibitions, as my father said. Less
bureaucracy would allow us to generate better levels of satisfaction. And
insofar as we develop better mechanisms for participation, the same society
is the one that proposes and decides. This was done in the discussion
process after my father's speech on July 26: people criticized, analyzed and
proposed. This has stayed a permanent mechanism for participation, which
seems to me very good, but should not be the only way to do it.
Although the CP now governs alone, does it not have to make room for other
This matter has been discussed among everybody. Looking
at the history of Cuba, a country besieged by one so powerful as the North
Americans...., that condition has not changed from the time of José Martí
until today. Therefore it continues to overpower Martí's thoughts with a
unique force. Then there was the Cuban Revolutionary Party, which Martí
founded, when Cuban unity was finally accomplished. Thanks to that,
independence was achieved. Lack of unity was one of the obstacles which
prevented us from advancing. Cuba was the last country to gain independence
from Spain on this continent. Martí succeeded, with all his genius, uniting
all Cubans in that party of revolutionary unity and in establishing a common
strategy. Fidel reclaimed Martí's idea.
And when that siege from the United States disappears?
Probably things will change.
Would we then have to create parties and hold multi-party elections?
I do not know what Cubans will decide when that happens. I can not imagine
it. I am sure that if there is participation, Cubans will determine what is
best. For now, the CP has to be a party of participation, as conceived by
Martí , a broad party where all Cubans can share our opinions and ideas. I
think that principle is reclaiming itself. But there was a time when I
believe that was not so, at some point the Party was very rigid.
How long was it or has it been the case?
Well, I am not a historian, but I believe a few years. However, I note that
this is changing and it gives me satisfaction.
The discussions in Cuba left criticisms that are being addressed, but much
remains. People want to travel more freely and be able to buy or sell a car
or a house without much hindrance. What do you think?
I do not know what is being analyzed or what is going to be decided. I love
that these things will be solved. Actually, people can leave but with many
difficulties. It is necessary to reduce the absurd obstacles, they seem to
me appalling. However, I imagine that they are analyzing tons of things
including why there were those restrictions and how it should be done
now..... Because all countries have restrictions and rules for everything,
but they do not have foreign laws that hinder further development of their
national policies. We have the North American Cuban Adjustment Act, which
rewards those who go illegally and they do not grant visas to travel to the
U.S. legally. And this is a very serious matter that should be resolved with
the support of governments that claim to love democracy. It is difficult to
find a just measure in the midst of hostilities, but we can not put
limitations on ourselves in addition to those already imposed by enemies of
the Cuban nation. That everything be analyzed in depth, in order to find the
best solutions. That we do not deprive people of their right to leave. For
me, that they give permission to anyone who wants to leave, provided they do
not owe any debt to society.
As for the houses?
We should avoid that a person with money can have five houses when many
people do not have shelter. It is a complex problem that also exists in
Europe. Perhaps we have to find a formula that provides rights, so that
citizens can buy one house, but not five.
Fidel and Raúl have spoken of the need for a generational change. But in the
election of the head of the Council of State we have not seen it.
I have the impression that the introduction of young people is to be done
slowly, which to me seems intelligent. The first will join the historical
ones, who risked their lives for the revolution and have no other
commitment. That has value. I suppose there will be a process in which young
people begin making executive decisions while the elders still designate
strategies. I do not know, I am watching what is happening like everybody
Would you be willing to get more in the political arena?
I do not like a political career. I feel freer as well.
What did you advise your father lately?
Now I see him less because he is busier. And when we see each other, we try
not to talk about problems because, if we do, we risk losing the familial
encounter. He is most interested in my opinion on the subject of sexuality,
in what we are doing. I must admit that he has greatly facilitated my
contact with the Party, he has helped me. He sometimes plays (laughs). He
told me: "You have to convince so-and-so or so-and-so. Did you already
manage to persuade this one? You have to make yourself an ally of this other
one." He makes jokes, but he is giving me the message that there is
resistance and we should work carefully.
And more generally, does he ask for an opinion?
No, because we can discuss and we do not want it. Anyway, I give my criteria
to his peers. If something bothers me or I do not agree with something, for
example. So we do not fight.
Have you discussed a lot of policies?
From childhood, I always asked, questioned, criticized.
Does he heed you?
If he does, he will not tell me.
How do you assess the way the relay of the presidency of the country was
done and the role that has been reserved for Fidel?
Fidel is a leader, more than the head, he is a leader. That is a difference,
that sometimes is not understood. He has a great moral, historical authority
and wisdom. He has authority for being a very brave man, because always he
risked his life, without fear of hurricanes, of the dictator, of spies, of
any circumstance. Because he always committed himself to improving the lives
of his people, although sometimes it was difficult because there was little
bread and much to distribute. For Cubans, he is an historical reference and
even a cultural and ideological identity. We will always call him comandante
Often the differences between the two brothers are emphasized and there are
some who see resistance from Fidel to the changes driven by Raúl.
I do not know, nor will I ever know. For me it is also a mystery because
they are very discreet about what they do.
In general, it is said that they are different and perhaps complementary.
They are very different personalities, but that of being complementary is a
cliché. Each one contributes his own self. In my view, Fidel is the one that
takes care of strategy, the fundamental objectives, the basic principles
that should not change.... And my father, who has also participated in that,
cares more attentively to the concrete moments of that strategy; the gears
of the mechanism. He has a lot of common sense and teamwork. Because of
that, the Army is considered the best organized Ministry. Common sense helps
to find practical solutions. Fidel has a more philosophical sense, although
many times he also demonstrated a great common sense. But Fidel is all about
the great plays in the political arena. In the moments of confrontation or
difficulty, seeing him is like seeing a chess master who always will find a
They say that Raúl is hard, demanding.
He is demanding but flexible and very human. He is capable of forgiving
apparently unforgivable acts.
Mariela Castro Espín (born
the director of the
National Center for Sex Education in
and an activist for
She is the daughter of Cuban president
Castro Ruz and
Espín Guillois, and the niece of former president
Her group campaigns for effective
prevention as well as acceptance of
In 2005 she proposed a project to allow
transgendered people to receive
reassignment surgery and change their legal gender.
Mariela Castro is president of the Cuban
Multidisciplinary Centre for the Study of
Sexuality, president of the National Commission
for Treatment of Disturbances of Gender Identity,
member of the Direct Action Group for Preventing,
Confronting, and Combatting AIDS, and an
executive member of the World Association for
Sexual Health. She is also the director of the
She has published 13 scholarly articles and nine books.
According to former Castro family confidante
Fuentes, Mariela is considered the rebel in the
family; "a free spirit who performed topless in
one late 1980s production". She also reportedly
in the 1980s. Mariela is now married to an
Italian and has two children with him, plus a boy
from a previous union with a Chilean.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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