Cuba

  • Published on 10 June 2016 by Granma.

    Alba council

    Caracas, 8 June — Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla called on the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alba-TCP) to strengthen strategies to confront imperialist intervention and coup plots on the continent, according to AVN.

    In his comments, during the Alba-TCP Political Council meeting to discuss common strategies to defend the region, PL reported, Rodríguez likewise called on social movements to defend progressive governments facing attacks orchestrated by foreign powers, as is the case in Venezuela, which was subjected to an attempt by the Organization of American States (OAS) to justify intervention via the application of the bloc's Inter-American Charter, as well as Brazil, where a parliamentary coup and media campaign are currently underway against the country's legitimate President, Dilma Rousseff.

  • Published on 26 April 2017 by Granma

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    On April 26, the President of the Cuban Movement for Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples (MovPaz), Silvio Platero, reiterated in Havana that the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo is the only one in the world which exists against the will of the people and government of the land on which it is located.
    This is why the island has been chosen to host the International Seminar for Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases, noted the activist speaking during a press conference regarding the fifth edition of this event, which will take place from May 4-6 in the eastern province of Guantánamo. 
    So far, over 200 delegates from 25 countries are scheduled to attend the event, which aims to unite forces in the struggle to eliminate military bases worldwide, he noted. 
    Platero went on to highlight that in addition to foreign military bases and their negative impact, debates will be centered on other issues such as nuclear disarmament and calls to end the interventionist policies of global powers. 
    The MovPaz President also warned of the danger represented by the increasing number of military bases worldwide, noting that, of the over 1,000 that exist, the United States has 850 located across five continents. 
    The final declaration of the event will be read out in the town of Caimanera, located only a few meters from the Guantánamo Naval Base maintained by the United States against the will of the Cuban people, stated Platero.
    He also highlighted that following the event delegates will pay tribute to the leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro, at the tomb where his ashes reside in Santiago de Cuba’s Santa Ifigenia Cemetery. (PL)

  • Published on 13 August 2016 by teleSUR.

    fidel and maduro

    On the occasion of his birthday, Fidel Castro penned a brief article recalling some of his earliest memories, while also calling for peace.

    Every corner of Cuba is celebrating celebrate the 90th birthday of the country's most famous man: Fidel Castro.

    The Karl Marx Theater in Havana hosted a special gala on Saturday night, where some of Fidel's oldest comrades, including some of those who accompanied him in the attack on the Moncada barracks, are expected to join.

    Foreign dignitaries and heads of state have also travelled to Cuba to participate in the events commemorating the 90th birthday of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro.

  • Published on 5th May 2017 by Medicc.org

    CENESEX-Director-Mariela-Castro-700x921

    May 5, 2017, Havana – Cuba’s National Sex Education Center (CENESEX), in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MINED), kicked off a year-long anti-bullying initiative that will focus on teacher training, support materials, and methodology to prevent homo- and transphobia bullying in the nation’s schools. Announced as the central theme of Cuba’s 10th International Days Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), CENESEX Director Mariela Castro says “Cuba is dedicated to non-violence and social justice. Our children spend most of their time at school, so the schools need to be safe spaces, where the rights of all children are protected – no matter where they fall on the sexual diversity spectrum.” Cuba’s observation of IDAHOT began on May 3 and runs through May 20 with a robust program of cultural events, including a film festival, conferences by specialists, presentation of academic findings, and marches by LGBTI Cubans and their allies.

    The 2017 anti-bullying campaign is called ‘Me IncluYO por Escuelas sin Homofobia ni Transfobia’ (Count Me In for Homophobia- and Transphobia-Free Schools) and was developed by specialists from CENESEX and MINED to “include sexual rights and education in individual and social development, while promoting equality, respect, access to resources and objective information,” according to May 3 press release. Under no circumstances and nowhere, indicated the release, will violence be tolerated based on gender, race, sexual identity or orientation, including in schools. MINED defines bullying as using offensive nicknames, slapping and punching, making derogatory jokes, and directing any disrespectful language at classmates. Children found bullying will be held accountable and receive counseling. A 2014 resolution also makes teachers responsible for enforcing anti-bullying measures and ensuring no physical, mental or emotional harm comes to their students. Failure to do so make them subject to charges of negligence and if found warranted, disciplinary action.

    Part of the year-long, national strategy involves raising awareness about bullying based on gender identity and sexual orientation. One of the challenges highlighted by specialists is the invisibility of the problem and the need to educate and inform across all sectors. To achieve this, coordinated cooperation is necessary among media outlets, schools, families, civil society and institutions, as well as health institutions. Included in the scheduled IDAHOT activities are several panels on themes such as “Health and Sexual Rights in Schools” and “Reproductive Rights and Sexual Diversity.” UNESCO is providing knowledge-transfer and methodological guides during the year-long campaign, while CENESEX Publishers will release Mariela Castro’s doctoral dissertation on the Cuban transsexual experience.

     
  • Published on 17 November 2015 by Granma

    biocubafarma

    Under a new action plan, the Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industry Group BioCubaFarma, is looking to promote potential businesses related to providing medical services, and making a multi-faceted contribution to the development of the Cuban economy. The island’s greatest export potential lies in its healthcare products and services, enhanced by international recognition of the country’s medical care (in accordance with cooperation projects across 60 countries) and results of over three decades of scientific efforts, production and research for the treatment of chronic illnesses. 

    Increasingly comprehensive, cost effective and aimed toward diversification and constant growth, these exports promise to make a positive change in the health systems and quality of life of citizens in beneficiary nations.

    According to BioCubaFarma’s director of Trade, Business and International Collaboration Policy, Mayda Mauri Pérez, comprehensive care for diabetic patients, diagnosis and rehabilitation of cardiovascular illnesses and cancer prevention, research and treatment feature among priority demands. 
    Other projects include the detection, analysis and treatment of hearing disabilities; early identification of neurodevelopment disorders in infants; comprehensive pre and neonatal research; and epidemiological surveillance. 

  • Published 13 October 2017 by Granma

    Cuba publishes annual report on blockade damages

    The report to the United Nations General Assembly on Resolution 71/5 entitled “The Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial, and Financial Blockade Imposed by the United States on Cuba” was recently released, exposing the extensive damages suffered by the island

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    october 13, 2017 10:10:55

    Almost 60 years after its implementation, the United States blockade policy against the Cuban people is intensifying, in a context of heightened tensions impacting on the progress achieved by the two countries in the diplomatic sphere.

    This is reflected in the Report to the United Nations General Assembly on Resolution 71/5 entitled “Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial, and Financial Blockade Imposed by the United States of America on Cuba,” whic

    h outlines the extensive damages suffered by the island.

    The document, which analyzes the period between April 2016 and June 2017, estimated 

    These figures relate to restrictions that affect the island’s economic and social development

    , despite the enormous efforts of the Cuban government to mitigate the obsolete and illegal policy.

    Education, health, sports, culture, industrial development, tourism, food and information and communications technology continue to be some of the sectors most affected by the coercive measures of the current U.S. administration.


    the total actual damages to the island to be in the order of $4,305,400,000 dollars.

    The report, published on the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s website, and available to download in English here: http://www.cubavsbloqueo.cu/sites/default/files/InformeBloqueo2017/informe_de_cuba_sobre_bloqueo_2017_ingles.pdf outlines the extraterritorial nature of the blockade, impacting on cooperation and in open violation of international law, with the express purpose of punishing a sovereign and independent people.

    President Donald Trump’s signing of the National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba, backed by a minority in Miami, is the latest example of the escalating aggression against the island.

    This Report, presented by Cuba every year as a prelude to the UN vote on the resolution, also exposes the widespread condemnation of the blockade within U.S. society and the international community, and the Cuban people’s demand for an immediate end to the failed policy.

    After 57 years of fallacious rhetoric and failed attempts to undermine our sovereignty and social project, the Report reiterates that the economic, commercial and financial blockade constitutes the biggest obstacle to the implementation of the country’s National Economic and Social Development Plan, the wellbeing of the Cuban people, and the normalization of relations with the United States.

    More than an official report, the presentation of this document is yet another clear sign that the Cuban people will not give up their efforts to put an end to the blockade. The truth, respect and peaceful coexistence will once again be the most solid arguments in defense of our cause.

    As the Report notes: “The damages caused by the implementation of the blockade throughout almost six decades have been estimated at 822,280,000,000 dollars, taking into account the devaluation of the U.S. dollar vis-à-vis the price of gold in the world market.”

  • f0017083

    Published on 27 April  2017 on Granma 

    We have once again witnessed another infamous and immoral decision by the discredited OAS, against the Bolivarian Revolution; a repetition of the shameful pages written against the Cuban Revolution in the 1960s.

    The calling of a Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, to continue harassing the Venezuelan government, constitutes another action consistent with the OAS’ traditional role as an instrument of imperialist domination in the hemisphere; in order to undermine the sovereignty, independence and dignity of Our America.

    The OAS has always remained with its back to the peoples of America, over an almost 70 year history of subordination to oligarchic and imperialist interests. It has been absent when our region has been the victim of political, economic and military intervention and aggression, or serious democracy and human rights violations.

    It is now time to recognize that the OAS is incompatible with the most pressing needs of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. It is incapable of representing their values ​​and interests. It imposed a doctrine of false democracy, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans and Caribbeans and the impoverishment and exclusion of millions. The OAS chooses to attack and impose, rather than reconcile or dialogue; and disregards the right of states to equality and self-determination. It conspires and subverts genuine and legitimately constituted governments with proven popular support, and deserves the most profound repudiation.

  • Published on 27 June 2016 by Granma.

    Edwin Gonzalez Vasquez

    The Puerto Rican Mission in Cuba was founded March 8, 1966 with the aim of supporting the country’s pro-independence efforts and calling for the release of political prisoners, including Oscar López Rivera, incarcerated for over 35 years.

    During a UN Special Committee on Decolonization session Cuba once again demanded independence for the Free Associated State of Puerto Rico, subjected to 118 years of neo-colonial domination by the United States, a status which prevents it from adopting measures to resolve its difficult economic situation.

    Poverty, unemployment, and the local government’s inability to pay off a debt in excess of 7.2 million dollars, are putting strain on the Caribbean island, which decades ago was intended to become the great showcase of the Caribbean, with monopolies based there exploiting the island’s natural resources and importing all the country’s consumer goods.

  • Published 15 Febuary 2018 by en.granma.cu

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs Statement

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    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba energetically rejects the announcement by a group of nations in the hemisphere, released February 13 in Lima, that constitutes unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of the Bolivarian Republic de Venezuela, and at the same time categorically rejects the decision to reconsider the participation of the Venezuelan government in the 8th Summit of the Americas, to be held this coming month of April, in Peru.

    A few days ago, the U.S. Secretary of State, on a tour of several countries in the region, stated that continuing in effect is the Monroe Doctrine, the most notorious interventionist policy of U.S. imperialism in our region. He called for a military coup against the constitutional government of Venezuela and advocated strengthening sanctions on the country. The decision adopted is not unrelated to these declarations and actions.

    In this context, Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalls the arbitrary and aggressive U.S. Executive Order, renewed in January of 2017, that describes Venezuela as "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy" of the superpower, and President Donald Trump's most recent warning about utilizing "a possible military option, if necessary."

    It is unprecedented and incredible that now being used as a pretext is an alleged "unconstitutional rupture of the democratic order," precisely in a country which has held, within a few months time, municipal, regional, and Constituent Assembly elections, and has just called Presidential elections, precisely as has been demanded, including via external interference and unconstitutional, violent methods.

    Cuba denounces this statement and the exclusion of Venezuela from the Summit of the Americas as contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by heads of state and government of countries which are members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

  • Published on 11 February 2016 by Granma

    solar panels

    A new solar farm under construction in the municipality of Palmira, Cienfuegos, is now 70% complete. The uninterrupted efforts from Monday through Saturday are conducted by the Works of Architecture Enterprise (ECOA-37).

    Financed by the Renewable Energy Sources Investment Company (EDIFRE), the farm will have a total of 14,400 solar panels with a generating capacity of 3.6 megawatts (MW) during the hours of highest solar radiation.

    The solar farm, at a cost of more than 10 million pesos, will have the largest generating capacity of those installed here thus far, in the municipalities of Cantarrana and Cruces. In total, these three solar farms will provide 8.2 MW to the National Electric System (SEN).

    Plans are to reach 50 MW of solar power in this province by 2030, with the construction of two further solar farms in the municipalities of Aguada de Pasajeros and Rodas, as part of the firm commitment to renewable energy in this territory.

    Meanwhile, the Cuban electric company in Pinar del Río will begin construction on a second photovoltaic power station, or solar farm, this year.

  • Cuba solar energy
    The Solar Photovoltaic Park of the Central University 'Marta Abreu' in the Las Villas province of Cuba.

    By Ben Geraghty | FRFI

    Cuba’s new constitution will incorporate articles enshrining Cuba’s commitment to sustainable development and the protection of the environment. This is a long-standing commitment of which the most recent major iteration was an announcement in 2014 that the country aims to source 24% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

    Currently about 5% of Cuba’s energy is produced by renewable sources, but there is huge potential for renewable energy development due to Cuba’s geography giving it access to a variety of biofuel sources, a windy coastline and generous amounts of sunshine. Luis Hilario Berriz Perez, president of the state enterprise Cubasolar, explains that ‘Cuba’s territory, of about 111,000 square kilometres, receives solar radiation equivalent to the energy produced by 50 million tons of oil, every day. That is, the solar radiation Cuba receives in a single day, is greater – in its energy value – than all the oil consumed in five years.’ However, there are major barriers to energy development; not least the US blockade. Cuba has been forced to look outside of the US’ sphere of influence for solutions to its energy needs.

  • Published on 31 December 2015 by Granma

    57 ye

    'The history of our Revolution is full of glorious chapters in the face of challenges, risks and threats', the President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, stated during his speech closing the Sixth Ordinary Session of the Eighth Legislature of the National Assembly of People's Power, December 29.

    The Cuban head of state noted that despite the economic crisis and the U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba, the island’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 4% this year, and will continue to grow in 2016, albeit at a slower pace.

    He also noted that the number of foreign tourists visiting the country this year rose to 3.5 million; the highest number recorded to date; and reaffirmed the Cuban government’s intention to honor its commitments resulting from the agreements reached in the renegotiation of the island’s debt.

    Regarding the issue of relations with the United States, President Raúl Castro stressed that Cuba has repeatedly advised the U.S. government that in order to normalize bilateral relations, the blockade must be lifted and the territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base must be returned, “as I explained in my statement in the Council of Ministers on the 18th, during which I also reaffirmed that Cuba should not be asked to abandon its independence cause, or renounce the principles and ideals for which generations of Cubans have fought, for a century and a half.”

    With just a few days to go, before the celebration of the anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution, Esteban Lazo, president of the Cuban parliament, acknowledged the people’s contribution in efforts to build a prosperous and sustainable socialism. He highlighted the work of deputies and delegates in response to proposals, complaints and suggestions from the public.

    Likewise, he reiterated that the right to independence, sovereignty and self-determination are essential to the defense of the Cuban people. He reaffirmed that “economic, diplomatic and political relations with any other state can never be negotiated in the presence of aggression, threat or coercion by a foreign power.”

    Marino Murillo, a member of the Party Political Bureau, a vice president of the Council of Ministers and minister of Economy and Planning, explained that Cuba's GDP grew by 4% this year, mainly due to the acquisition of cash advances, contracts to secure credit, as well as a downward trend in the price of imports.

    He noted that all sectors have seen an increase with respect to 2014 and referred specifically to the sugar industry, which grew by 16.9%, construction by 11.9%, and manufacturing by 9.9%.

  • cuba x1x.jpg 1403812711

    Published 12 March 2018 on TelesurTV.net

    With voter turnout for Cuba's legislative election Sunday at almost 80 percent, the island completed the second stage of its general elections that will culminate in the election of a new executive in April.

    According to the National Electoral Commission (CEN), about 78.5 percent of voters - almost seven million people - participated in the election.

    More than eight million Cubans were eligible to vote for the 605 deputies to the National Assembly of People's Power and the 1,265 delegates to the 15 Provincial Assemblies of People's Power.

    On April 16, the incoming National Assembly will elect a new Council of State, who will then determine the body's president.

    Current president Raul Castro announced in 2017 that he would not be seeking reelection.

    Under Cuba's 1992 election law, those registered could cast their ballot in "a free, equal and secret vote" in some 24,470 polling stations across the country's 168 municipalities.

    According to official, no incidents were reported although heavy rainfall complicated voting in some areas.

    The provinces that reported highest voter turnout were Mayabeque, Pinar del Rio and Granma.

    Scrutiny of the vote and tally took place in the presence of more than 200,000 electoral authorities, as well as any community members who desired to observe the count, as permitted under Cuban law.

  • Published on 4 April 2016 by Granma

    Cuba school disabled

    To visit the Solidaridad con Panamá (Solidarity with Panama) School, where 180 children and young people with physical and intellectual disabilities or cerebrovascular diseases study, is a moment to rid oneself of sorrows, and be inspired by the determination to overcome any difficulties that lie ahead.

    Students at the school are motivated by the staff who work closely with them every day, some 110 workers in total, including 64 teachers, and over 40 assistants, physical therapists and other professionals. Some of whom have also provided educational services in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and other countries.

    The school, located in the Fontanar neighborhood in the municipality of Boyeros, Havana, is a site without architectural barriers to mobility, characterized for its cleanliness, order, discipline, lighting in every corner and use of color to invoke peace and happiness.

    The Solidaridad con Panamá School was inaugurated by the leader of the Cuban Revolution Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz on 31 December 1989, in the context of U.S. military aggression against Panama. The school teaches at three levels: primary, secondary, and for children with intellectual and developmental difficulties. The school also participates in the “Educate Your Child” program, which offers tools for parents with disabled children.

    Walking around the site, one comes across children with no hands eating with their feet; a child who has difficulty walking pushing the wheelchair of another; or another holding a pencil between his teeth to write during class. They all play the normal games for their age, particularly enjoy art classes and get up to mischief now and again. There is no sense here of pity for these children, solely because they have certain limitations.

    What stands out is the joy expressed on each of their faces. They all are eager to be photographed and open to talk to anyone. Teachers, workers and students clearly recall key moments in the 25 year history of the school.

  • Published by 17 November 2015 by Granma

    wet-foot-dry-foot

    Over the last few days, a complex situation has developed involving more than 1,000 Cubans who have arrived in Costa Rica, from other countries in the region, with the intention of traveling to the United States.

    These persons left Cuba in a legal manner to travel to various Latin American countries, meeting the requirements established by Cuban migratory regulations. In an attempt to reach United States territory, they have become victims of traffickers and criminal gangs which unscrupulously profit from their control of the passage of persons through South America, Central America and Mexico.

    Cuban authorities have maintained ongoing contact with the governments of the countries involved, with the goal of finding a rapid, appropriate solution, which would take into consideration the wellbeing of the Cuban citizens.

    The Ministry of Foreign Relations would like to emphasize that these citizens are victims of the politicization of the migration issue on the part of the United States government, the Cuban-American Adjustment Act, in particular, and the application of the so-called “wet foot-dry foot” policy, which gives Cubans differentiated treatment - the only one of its kind in the world - which admits them immediately and automatically, regardless of the route or means used, even if they arrive in an illegal manner to U.S. territory.

    This policy encourages irregular immigration from Cuba to the United States, and constitutes a violation of the letter and spirit of Migratory Accords currently in effect, in which both countries assumed the responsibility to guarantee legal, safe, orderly emigration.

  • Published on 24 September 2015 by TeleSUR

    Cristina Escobar speaks with statesman, diplomat and former National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada. Our guest doesn’t fear domination because the U.S. has finally hoisted its flag on Cuban soil, as every other country in the world has done. Cuba, he says, will continue to be a small independent nation next to a big country that poses a threat to humanity. One challenge is to strengthen democracy. How? By continuing to uphold a system of social and economic justice and equality in which the voters control the elected officials --in which the people aren’t spectators, but protagonists. 

  • Published on 25 April by teleSUR english Written by Arnold August

    uscuba flag

    Despite thawing relations, Cubans are still resisting the Obama administration’s subversive policy towards the island

    Before leaving Montreal for Havana in March 2016 to cover  Obama's trip to Havana, I wrote an article on Cuba–US relations. Referring to the cultural war to include, in the broad sense of the term, ideological and political aggression, I asked: “The question is, will Obama’s visit to Cuba provide Cubans the opportunity to make headway against the cultural war, or will it allow the US to make inroads? Or are both these scenarios on the horizon?”

    My intention at that time was to deal with this question immediately upon my return from Cuba. However, one feature became clear during my stay in Havana and immediately following it. Both in and outside of Cuba, the repercussions of the visit not only continued but were being ramped up. In fact, at the time of writing, a month after the trip, the ideological and political controversies are carrying on. This situation is at present further being fostered by Raúl Castro’s April 16, 2016 Central Report to the 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (CPC). He devoted important sections of the Report to the issue of Cuba–US relations. 

    Disinformation from within Cuba

  • Published on 17 May 2016 by teleSUR.

    cuban health centre MRI

    About 900 delegates from 17 countries attended the international event in Havana, where Cuba's development model was showcased.

    Cuban biotechnology products are exported to more than 50 countries around the globe, according to an expert interviewed Tuesday during the Second International Congress about Economic Management and Development that took place in Havana.

  • Published 15 Febuary 2018 by Revolutionary communist Group

    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.

    Underpinning Kirk’s approach is a sincere appreciation of how change works in Cuba. Kirk adopts what she calls the ‘negotiative process framework’. This argues an essential truth: the Cuban revolution is a complex, continually adapting process of negotiation and debate. Kirk is equally understanding of the country’s own framing of both LGBT oppression and liberation. This is highlighted by her use of the term ‘sexual diversity’ as opposed to the more commonly understood term LGBT which rarely appears in Cuban literature.

    Homophobia in pre-revolutionary Cuba

    Kirk begins her analysis by looking at the history of sexual diversity in pre-revolutionary Cuba. The Spanish colonisation of Cuba resulted in the concept of machismo, a combination of the attitudes of Spanish colonisers, indigenous Cubans and African slaves toward gender and sexuality. Machismo sees the idealised man as aggressive, sexually dominant and unfaithful. The ideal woman was understood as the opposite: submissive, without sexuality and faithful.

    US imperialism has also been fundamental in shaping Cuban homophobia. By the late 1950s, tourism had become Cuba’s second largest earner of foreign currency and sex work had grown to an enormous scale. The country housed around 270 brothels, some employees as young as 12. This industry was controlled by the Cuban elite and US-based crime syndicates. Preferential hiring treatment was given to homosexual men in the tourist sector to provide young men to satisfy US military personnel and tourists. As such, homosexuality was initially understood as a symptom of imperialist intervention and capitalist decadence after the victory of the Cuban revolution in 1959.

    Socialism and homophobia: the 1960s and 1970s

    Homophobia continued among officials and socially after the revolution. What separates Kirk’s analysis is her acknowledgement that this is by no means unique to Cuban socialism. That the World Health Organisation did not remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses until 1990 illustrates the universality of homophobia across modern human society.

    Nevertheless, the early years of the revolution are significant. The Penal Code maintained homophobic legislation throughout the 1960s and 1970s, using laws dating back to the 1938 Cuban Social Defense Code. Article 490 gave a prison sentence of up to six months to anyone who ‘habitually engaged in homosexual acts’, propositioned someone or created a ‘display’. These attitudes deepened during the 1960s. The influence of western scientific orthodoxy, which equated homosexuality with mental illness, and the emigration of middle class homosexuals to the US contributed to an understanding of sexual diversity as dangerous. By 1965 sexual diversity was viewed as synonymous with counter-revolution in Cuba.

    The result was homophobic persecution. A 1965 report from the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) concluded that homosexuality was learned and could be ‘corrected’. Later that year, Cuba formed Military Units to Aid Production (UMAPs) – labour camps in the province of Camagüey which were set up for those who could not, or would not, participate in military service. Homosexuals were amongst the people sent to these camps as they were not permitted to openly serve in the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces until 1993. Little research has been carried out on UMAPs, but it is estimated that around 60,000 people worked in them. The UMAPs were closed within three years after widespread criticism within the country and an undercover investigation by the Cuban government.

    The 1971 Declaration of the First National Congress on Education and Culture shows how homophobic attitudes continued into the next decade. Whilst promoting the need for a comprehensive programme for sexual health, the Congress banned sexually diverse people from participating. It went on to recommend the exclusion of homosexuals from the teaching profession. Law 1267 formalised this in 1974. Reminiscent of the UK’s notorious ‘Section 28’ law which, from 1988 to 2003, prohibited local authority-maintained schools in Britain from ‘promoting the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’, homosexuals in Cuba were prohibited from working in any position in which they could influence children. A shift away from these circumstances was signalled by the decriminalisation of homosexuality, with an equal age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals, in Cuba in 1979.

    The FMC and the discrimination-health link

    The foundational step in normalising sexual diversity in Cuba came from the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), founded on 30 August 1960. The organisation’s first National Congress, held in 1962, highlighted the need to improve the country’s public health service, with a focus on sexual health. The founding of Mujeres, a bi-monthly magazine for women, in 1961 was equally important. A regular section titled ‘Debates on Health’ contained contributions from various specialists explaining the female body. This provided a platform for discussion on sexual health.

    Perhaps more significant was the legalisation of abortion in Cuba. Abortions remained illegal during the initial years of the revolution. In the same period, around half of Cuba’s 6,000 physicians emigrated. Many women self-administered abortions. For example, women regularly used sulphuric acid to kill unwanted foetuses. This ‘treatment’ invariably resulted in death for the mother. The problem was addressed in 1965, with early-term abortions both legalised and provided by the state free and on demand (two years before abortion was legalised in Britain). In 1979 abortions in the second and third trimester were allowed with approval from a hospital’s director.

    At first, legalisation did not stop self-administered abortions. Cuban women could still face social stigma if they took help from a medical professional to end their pregnancy. This became known as the discrimination-health link: if a group faces discrimination, it is detrimental to their health. The FMC incorporated this into their work, with a programme to improve attitudes toward abortion, framing it as a medical necessity.

    1980s: the National Group for Work on Sexual Education (GNTES)

    GNTES was founded in 1972 by Vilma Espín, then head of the FMC, and Álvarez Lajonchere, as a body to research sexual health. It recruited an East German translator named Monika Krause, providing access to literature on sexual health and sexual diversity (decriminalised in socialist East Germany in 1968). Following an increase in emphasis on sexual education in the late 1970s, GNTES was recognised as a state body in 1977. The organisation’s purpose was to develop a National Sexual Education Programme (ProNes). It was through ProNes that GNTES began combatting discrimination against sexual diversity.

    Through the 1980s GNTES ran courses on sexual health at FMC meetings, community centres and schools which discussed sexual diversity alongside sexual education training courses for doctors, teachers, psychologists, health officials and specialists. From 1979 GNTES also led the National Commission on Sexual Orientation and Therapy, set up to care for transgender Cubans, and was central to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in the late 1980s.

    HIV/AIDS

    Kirk identifies the HIV/AIDS epidemic as another factor in the normalisation of sexual diversity in Cuba. Following the first diagnosis in North America in 1983, Cuba founded the National AIDS Commission. The Commission quickly set up a system to survey the disease, spearheaded scientific research and established a national sanatorium system. Between 1986 and 1993 HIV/AIDS patients were required to stay in the sanatoriums for treatment.2 Although strong-armed, the Cuban campaign was a success and the nation’s HIV/AIDS rate, at around 0.07%, is one of the lowest in the world (the infection rate in the US is estimated to be 0.35%) despite being in a region with exceptionally high infection rates.

    The impact of HIV/AIDS on Cuban attitudes to sexual diversity are contradictory. Initially, the condition was viewed as a ‘gay disease’. A 1988 study illustrated that this wasn’t true, with gay or bisexual men accounting for 25% of HIV/AIDS cases and straight men accounting for 50%. The discrimination-health link was further emphasised, with discrimination now seen as harmful both to those discriminated against and those engaged in discrimination.

    1990s and 2000s: CENESEX

    CENESEX was established in 1989 under the direction of MINSAP. The main reasons for this were high STI and abortion rates. Although GNTES was fundamental in launching ProNes and incorporating sexual diversity into national debate, a more comprehensive approach to sexual health was required. This resulted in the body being transferred to MINSAP and reformed as CENESEX.

    There is little information on CENESEX in the 1990s. This is due to a lack of research and the economic pressures placed upon publishing following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Kirk’s review of what publications exist in the centre’s archives gives an idea of the work carried out over this period. Research into gender and sexuality was expanded and postgraduate courses in sexuality were developed. Additionally, the centre began to carry out community development projects, incorporating these into its objectives in 1994. In the same year the centre’s journal, Sexology and Society, was founded. The centre began to focus on discrimination, using the discrimination-health link to promote acceptance of sexual diversity in Cuba.

    By 2000 this approach had become more visible. CENESEX began to involve itself in projects to combat homophobia and discrimination across all spheres of Cuban society. The work undertaken by the centre is vast. Kirk provides a sample:

    ● 2004: CENESEX begins to implement its own campaigns around sexual health. For example, the 2006 campaign, “How Do I Show That I Love You?” promoted HIV/AIDS prevention through condom use.

    ● 2007: CENESEX participates in celebrations of the International Day Against Homophobia.

    ● 2008: Establishment of Club Cine Diferente, a joint effort between CENESEX and the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry, hosting monthly discussions on sexual diversity in cinema.

    ● 2011: Establishment of CENESEX networks, spaces for discussion of sexual diversity. There are now five networks providing space for men, women, youth and the trans community. Heterosexual friends and family are encouraged to attend to help them view sexual diversity as normal.

    Today, CENESEX stands at the centre of Cuba’s provision for sexually diverse people. It continues to run campaigns against homophobia, including month-long celebrations for the International Day Against Homophobia, networks and sexual health education programmes.

    Socialism and LGBT liberation

    Kirk’s book is a thorough, useful and insightful account of how attitudes toward sexual diversity in Cuba have shifted in the development of socialist health care. Whilst the volume is not comprehensive, its fundamental contribution is invaluable. In Cuba, LGBT liberation is not viewed through the prism of human rights, but as a concrete, medical necessity. The discrimination-health link demonstrates that homophobia is fundamentally at odds with socialist health care provision. This opens important questions on the nature of identity and socialism, which Kirk’s work provides a window to understanding.

    James Bell

    1. La Jornada, 31 August 2010.

    2. This approach was influenced by Cuba’s extensive experience of ‘infectology’ led by the Institute of Tropical Medicine, which recommended isolating and diagnosing a patient in the first instance to prevent the spread of infection. It was initially unclear how the disease was transmitted.

    Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 262 February/March 2018

  • Published on 8 November 2015 by Telesur English

    hondurascuban-doctors

    Cuban doctors have served over 29 million Hondurans and saved at least 250,800 Honduran lives over the past 17 years, according to local media.

    Since arriving in the Central American country in 1998, Cuban doctors have focused on serving rural areas with little or no access to healthcare, the Cuban Medical Brigade leader Orlando Alvarez told Honduras’ La Prensa.

    The Cuban Medical Brigade was initially sent to Honduras in 1998 by former Cuban President Fidel Castro to help respond to the devastation of Hurricane Mitch. The tropical storm impacted all of Central America but hit Honduras the hardest, killing at least 7,000 Hondurans and leaving at least 1.5 million more homeless.

    Honduras and Cuba later agreed to lengthen the stay of Cuban health professionals in the country to provide healthcare to underserved regions.