Fidel Castro Apologizes For Treatment Of Gays During The Revolution

September 1, 2010 7:00 am 2 comments

Former Cuban head of state Fidel Castro.

Today in Latin America

Top Story — Former Cuban President Fidel Castro has been in the news a good amount recently.

In an interview with the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, the former Cuban head said that in the early years of the revolution homosexuals were persecuted and that he regretted that they were marginalized or sent to agrarian reform camps as punishment.

“If someone is responsible, it’s me,” he said, according to the BBC.

Castro added that he was too busy dealing with attacks against him and his government to put a stop to homophobic attitudes within his regime.

The communist government did however soon change their stance on homosexuality. In 1979 homosexuality was decriminalized and there have been recent efforts to legalize same-sex unions.

In other news, Cuba released photos of Castro Tuesday alongside a U.S. journalist and a Washington-based policy expert.

The images show the 84-year old Castro with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Julia E. Sweig from the Council on Foreign Relations during a visit to the Havana aquarium.

Castro’s appearance with the two Americans at the aquarium is part of the recent media blitz that he has been on.

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2 Comments

  • I read the article in the Mexican newspaper and there is no apology whatsoever about the atrocities committed against gays in Cuba. He said that he is responsible and in the same sentence he justified his crimes by saying that he was busy trying to stay alive. As a gay man living in Cuba during that rein of terror
    I feel extremely offended by his intention of justified the unjustifiable. Even in his speech after the Mariel boat lift he stated that they did not wanted us there.
    Also this interview is not going to be published in Cuba to start the discussions of something that is taboo in Cuba which is the way gays are treated in Cuba and the concentrations camps he and his brother organize.

    I know very well what happen because I was there. I know what happens in those concentration camps. I receive beatings from the “compañeros” in charge of the camp. I spend days without food working in sub-human condition in sugar cane fields like a slave. Yes. I said slave, because I did not wanted to be working there. I was forced with violent strength to produce goods without payment for the benefits of others. More than that. During those days I saw a man killing his lover and then killing himself because he could not deal with that reality. I knew someone in the camp who was send to El Morro prison because he refused to be treated like a beast and revolted against the officer in charge later to be killed in that prison. I also knew someone murdered in a regular Military base because he was gay, his body given to his family in a sealed casket so none could see what really happened to him. During his funeral a police officer stood in guard to prevent that not other but his close family could be in the service. He was seventeen years old. His name was Ruly and he lived two blocks away from my house. I knew another gay person, a dancer, who was pushed from a roof and his killer was never found, although everybody knew that the murderers were police officer in civilian clothes. And all of these things did not happen in the UMAP. It happened after the UMAP was dismantled in 1965. Most of this happened from 1967 to 1969 while I was in a Military Unites for homosexuals kept in secret inside the Cuban Army. This unit was run by the same people in charge of the UMAP. I was in that unit for three years!

    I was called for military service at 17 and got out of that hell at 19. During my “boot camp” I was one of the three with the highest marks during the training. I had the “honor” of reading the pledged to the flag in the graduation and, as a recognition of my efforts, I was allowed to witness the launching test of soviet rockets, a sandwich and a soda. One week after my graduation I was accuse of being homosexual by to security officer the Unit 3441 located in the town of San Jose del Camino a town near Havana . But it was not as simple as that. First, the secret military police tried to set me up with a guy pretending to be gay. He tried to kiss me and touch me in the bathroom but I did not fall for any of his tricks. I knew the consequences. So, the secret police officers confronted me directly, telling me they have conducted an investigation in my former school that revealed I was ‘maricon.’ It took days for me to confess it. They keep me in isolation and treaded me with telling my parents about my sexual orientation. They also told me that they knew of my involvement in a sabotage against one of the trucks transporting the testing rockets and that they knew I was working for the enemies of the revolution, etc, etc. Finally after three weeks I confessed only that I had a homosexual encounter at the age of fifteen. It really was my first sexual experience with a male. Then suddenly all the charges about the sabotage were dropped and they concentrated only in my first homosexual experience. Can you imagine, all the resources of the Cuban Army against a seventeen year old boy that his only crime was being gay?. It is sick and macabre!

    So, l was put through mock trial. I had no defense lawyers or anyone talking in my behave and without my parents knowledge of my situation. My sentence was six month and one day, but I spend three years working in a labor camp. The most horrible years of my life.

    I was send to a “military unit” near Havana with no name or code number which they moved around the country accordantly the necessities of the Army. We clean houses and gardens of Russian official from a tank units near Havana, in sugars mills and fields, coffee collection and all kind of agricultural work. The types of work farmers refused to do because the isolation and conditions of the fields. Most of the time we were spreading fertilizes without gloves or shoes, proper cloth or a hat to protect us from the burning chemicals and the sun. We worked sixteen hours a day six days a week with rain of shine and every night two hours of political instruction that supposable together with the hard work will make us men. The food was symbolic. There was no medicines or medical assistance for our needs. I almost was killed once when another prisoner, an improvised nurse, injected me with the wrong medicine. It was terrible! I will never forget that event as long as I live.

    Castro’s knowledge of our situation was wide due to several letters from a group of our mothers that rally in our defense. For more than a year this group of women waited for a meeting with officials to talk about the slavery condition in which we were living. All ended when a prisoner of the camp, a former high rank military, with access to the machine gun kept in the captain office, used the weapon to killed his lover and himself. Then the mothers threatened the government with going to the foreign press to talk about the situation of gays in “the workers paradise after the closing of the UMAP” These are textual words use by one of the mothers. In less the seventy-two hours, the unit was dismantled and we were sent home.

    I urge you to beware of my story as a testament of the truth. It is not just another amusing anti-Castro propaganda. Its a desperate act of a men profoundly convince of the rottenness of Castro’s regime and disturb by the statements on homosexuality he made for the foreign press. Those declarations are just a PR stunt to control the damage made to his image by the concentrations camps he created. Those words were never hear or printed in any official publication for Cuban’s consumption. To say that the UMAP “were not internment units, nor were they punishment units; on the contrary, it was about morale, to give them a chance to work and help the country in those difficult circumstances” it is the most cynical and twisted statement made about those camps.

    I was there against my will! I was beating when I refused to work in sub-human conditions. It was simple and plane slavery! I feared for my life and went along so I wouldn’t be send to El Morro to be killed “during a argument with my lover” as they said when a flamboyant gay man named La China was executed in that prison by a guard.

    The atrocities planned and carried out by Castro’s government against homosexuals has never been discusses publicly in Cuba because Castro is the main perpetrator and the only one to be blamed for the suffering and killings I witnessed. Those atrocities are not “errors of the past” but my daily nightmares, the marks and scars I carry with me in my pilgrimage as testimony that I fought a battle for freedom.

    Don’t be deceived by the apparent calm against gays in Cuba now. Homophobia has a perennial spring and it will bloom again among Castro’s shattered fences. The repression against gays is but temporary. It happened in the 60’s then in the 70’s with Pavon, in the 80’s with the Mariel Boat lift and will continue as long as militaries are in government. The reason: All Gays, even the most cold and passive are free from conventions. That is what makes us dissidents. In Cuba any kind of dissidence is treason. What a ghoulish paradox is that the only discourse on gays in Cuba is dictated by the government and…bola! There is no gays in Cuba’s government! It is not for the benevolence of the butcher that we expect our dinner but for his regard to his own interest and self love.

    As you can see I have a profound mistrust in Castro’s government, not only for the premeditated atrocities carried out against me in the forced labor’s camp, but for something more important: His persistent attempts to silence me and discredit my experience in an effort to make me in unthinking discharged individual.

    There is a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue and I do not want to reach that marc. For that reason I sat down to right these lines to you. Although I do not know who to write an indictment against a political system, I can tell you what that system have done to me. And it was horrible!

    The injure Castro inflicted to gays, as he explains, was based on “morals” build upon a mythical revolution. Finally, the myth has been recognized for what it is and has disappeared leaving morality without the foundation on which was build on. That’s Castro’s greatest crime. He destroyed the ideals that took people to fight for a better world. A world without discrimination and equality, a world that includes all human beings, not just those who say: Yes, Comandante, Of course, Comandante, Whatever you say, Comandante.

    By his dead bed, Cuba is waiting for Castro’s end as the mark of a new beginning. Also by his dead bed are spin-doctors that will try to keep the monster’s legacy alive. Your article distils that effort. But after all fanaticism is redoubling efforts when aims are being forgotten.

  • The thing is not that he didn’t pay enough attention. The real problem was that Castro himself has always been homophobic. Try to find his speech when they (the Cuban government) were thinking about turning Varadero into an oil-producing area. Castro said that maybe that was going to be a good idea because then Cuba would not be receiving so many homosexuals and other kinds of tourists.

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