By Víctor Hugo Robles, El Che de los Gays
May 14, 2019
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
For more than 10 years, the National Center for Sex Education of Cuba CENESEX has convened and organized the Cuban Days Against Homophobia and Transphobia. It is a popular and important event that includes academic, cultural, social, political and street activities, including the so-called “Cuban Conga” or “Pride March” in neo-capitalist reading, a public demonstration where the LGBTI community of the island travels the main streets of Havana to make their demands visible. Every year, the beautiful capital of Cuba and a provincial city are the scenes of these awaited activities promoted by public institutions of the Cuban State, social organizations, youth groups and sexual diversity networks that work together with CENESEX.
CENESEX is the coordinating center for the national sex education program in Cuba, a valuable and world-renowned institution. It was created in the 1970s as a response to the request made by Cuban women, organized in the Federation of Cuban Women, at its second Congress in 1972.
At that meeting, the women raised the need for sex education for their daughters and sons. Cuban women benefited from the programs of what is now called reproductive health promotion or sexual education. Later, since the 90’s, it was the LGBTI community that was incorporated in the central concerns of CENESEX, particularly with the realization of the Cuban Days, celebrated in May of each year in the context of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Historic Advances in LGBTI Rights
From the beginning, valuable and unprecedented activities have been developed that educate the population, sharing experiences, feelings and information about sexual education, HIV/AIDS prevention and the rights of the LGBTI community that seeks, demands and demands civil rights. Rights that they gradually conquer.
It is remarkable and demonstrable that the work of CENESEX has allowed great advances such as the incorporation into the National Constitution of non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, being the ninth country in the world to achieve this, as well as the institutionalization of comprehensive public policies for LGBTI people and the creation of social and legal guidance devices, the construction of a comprehensive health mechanism for trans persons, including free genital adequacy surgeries, recognition of all forms of family and approval of a transitional clause in the National Constitution that opens the door to equal marriage by eliminating gender binarism, moving from the definition of “man and woman” to “spouses”.
It is not a little, rather a lot, considering the timid advances in LGBTI rights in neoliberal capitalist societies such as ours. The promoter of these actions and director of CENESEX is the renowned sexologist Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of Vilma Espín and Raúl Castro, the most outstanding niece of the mythical Fidel Castro Ruz.
The photo of the dead Che
I was present at the Cuban Days Against Homophobia and Transphobia in 2014. I was a protagonist and witness of the active participation of a diverse community committed to change, added to the refreshing enthusiasm of many young people to participate in CENESEX activities, including the crowded “Cuban Conga”, which in Chile we call “Sexual Diversity March”.
On that occasion, I remember, seeking to run the fence of what was possible and symbolically allowed, I appeared and broke into the march with an emblematic photo of the dead Che surrounded by red feathers. It was a rebellious and daring gesture, typical of the acts I seek and try to star in.
The action did not go unnoticed and provoked diverse reactions and comments, so much so that I had to go up to the main stage at the end of the Cuban Conga to explain the reasons for my intervention, receiving the applause of the present public. There I said that Che’s missing body had been discovered in Bolivia on June 28, 1997, just in time for International Gay Pride Day.
I explained to them that this is why I call myself “The Gay Che” and use the guerrilla star to intertwine desires and revolutions. In Cuba, it was surprising but my action was understood. Nobody censored me, although the foreign press, particularly the Miami correspondents, made a feast with the images of my performance pointing out that “Mariela Castro leads the Gay Pride march with a photo of the dead Che”, thus seeking to generate political repercussions that could affect the image of Mariela Castro and CENESEX.
I did not fall into the trap of that mercenary press and I shared my reasons with my comrades who listened to me with affection. “Life is necessary with irreverence,” said our beloved and unforgettable Gladys Marín in Chile, generously valuing the actions of “El Che de los Gays.
I relate this episode because I can attest to the respectful work of the friends of CENESEX, especially Mariela Castro Espín, who, beyond the legitimate pain and discomfort caused by seeing the photo of the dead Che in a public march of sexual diversity in Havana, understood the deepest and most political meaning of my crazy staging. I’m always opening paths of fraternal and internationalist dialogue in a besieged rights revolution that is built and rebuilt every day.
Some time later Mariela was in Chile and together with other local sexual diversity activists we shared with her these crazy experiences, projecting the struggles of the LGBTI community in Cuba and Chile. Since the 1970s with President Salvador Allende en la Moneda, the friendship between Chile and Cuba has been part of our political history and that includes the history of sexual diversity movements.
The “independent” march
The deplorable events that took place in the self-proclaimed “independent” LGBTI march of last Saturday, May 11, appear as the other side of a complex process of changes and transformations that the LGBTI community in Cuba is living and promoting. Although it was a march or walk that could be understood as legitimate and even fair due to the controversial cancellation of the official Cuban Conga, its convocation, its organizers and the media repercussion that the international press encouraged make us maintain that it was a staging studied and prepared.
It wasn’t from CENESEX, but from the U.S. Embassy in Havana, an office that did not hesitate to send its diplomats to cover and participate in the “independent” march. The U.S. Embassy in Havana itself publicly unmasked itself by writing on its official Twitter account: “We closely observed that #The Alternative March began peacefully, but then there were aggressive arrests. The regime denies the Cuban people their fundamental rights. We are with the people of Cuba.
The blatant declaration of the imperialist diplomacy of Donald Trump’s government says “it is with the people of Cuba” but omits that the United States maintains and deepens a condemnable and inhuman economic blockade of almost 60 years that punishes not only the Cuban “regime”, as they call the Cuban Revolution in the U.S., but an entire people.
It’s a condemnable economic blockade that Trump wants to extend to the unimaginable, including a criminal and unprecedented maritime blockade around Cuba, the largest island of the Antilles.
From my social networks I saw this transnational political operation confirmed by reliable checks and information received from Havana, unleashing various comments, criticisms and condemnations of my right to critical expression, the same freedom that my detractors demand but that they neither apply nor recognize for others.
On the night of May 11, after seeing various videos, photos and images, studying the public profiles of the organizers and gathering background information from Cuba, Chile and Argentina, I wrote my legitimate opinion on Facebook, being replicated directly by Mariela Castro Espín.
My convinced and informed text said: “Advances in the rights of LGBTI communities always have contradictions. It moves forward steadily, stops momentarily, and sometimes seems to backtrack. The images of the diversity march on the streets of Havana this Saturday, May 11, 2019, hide not only the legitimate desire for greater spaces of rights for all, but also the staging of an orchestrated operation that seeks to question the unique and indispensable work of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education CENESEX.
The freedom that is publicly demanded is twinned with support for the US invasion of Venezuela and the political-media destabilization of left-wing governments in Latin America and the Caribbean. The indelible colors of our rainbow are proudly painted with anti-imperialist brushes.
Written with accurate information, contrasting the headlines of the international press, I recognized and valued the important work of CENESEX, transforming my opinion into a wall of hurried and unfounded regrets, criticisms and accusations such as those that indicated that I justified violence and arrests.
Nothing could be further [from the truth] than to argue and endorse arrests, as I have always demanded in Chile when students, young people, women and Mapuches are arbitrarily and unfairly arrested. Neither CENESEX, nor Mariela Castro, nor Vicente Feliú, nor Silvio Rodríguez, much less the LGBTI activists of the world that we see (and feel) with concern how they seek to discredit the historic work of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education and the virtuous leadership of Mariela Castro Espín.
Nothing and no one justifies or guarantees arrests just as we do not justify or guarantee that rainbow flags are used by anti-communist opponents who use and abuse our agendas of social-sexual transformation to favor and promote the activities of the external and internal Cuban opposition.
It is reprehensible that a legitimate demonstration for LGBTI rights in Cuba is manipulated by the detractors of the Cuban Revolution and the National Center for Sexual Education hoping -mistakenly- to undermine the arduous, señero and intelligent work of Mariela Castro Espín who, confronting painful expressions published against CENESEX and its leadership, dialogued in the “Round Table” program of Cuban television, reaffirming the emancipating principles of the Cuban Revolution.
Francisco Rodriguez Cruz, an LGBTI journalist from Cuba, an active blogger and an important sexual diversity activist on the island, wrote a heartfelt column on his personal blog, “Paquito el de Cuba,” lamenting the facts and pointing out the text:
“The negative repercussion of these events demonstrated that the march was not a success, as those who defend their anti-government agendas more than our rights as LGBTI people say, but a serious error that we could pay with a very high cost of splits, extremisms and setbacks in future dialogue processes, if we are not capable of critically analyzing what happened and thus draw lessons to overcome it.
Like “Paquito,” assuming attacks and misunderstandings for openly distrusting the motivations of the organizers of the event and carrying out a critical analysis of the political-public repercussions of the spectacular public event, I decided to take an open position against a new attack on the Cuban Revolution and all its brave people.
It would have been simpler and more comfortable to remain silent enjoying the local capitalist comfort as fellow activists and sexual diversity organizations who prefer political and ideological neutrality have done.
It is not the time for neutrality, doubts, or silences, much less fear of denouncing the blows of the empire infiltrated in our diverse cultural and sexual struggles. In the current regional political and ideological scenario, the U.S. government seeks to stick its noses and military troops in Venezuela, our beloved Cuba being the final objective.
I raise my voice to warn against the use of multiple destabilizing imperialist strategies, including flying the flags of sexual diversity, longing to destroy the revolutionary utopias of left-wing governments in Latin America and the Caribbean in times of right-wing advance in the region.
From Santiago de Chile, remembering and thanking the generous and infinite solidarity of the Cuban people with our own people in past times, I send my affectionate embrace to all those Cuban brothers and sisters, comrades and comrades who fight every day to defend a courageous revolutionary journey. The time has come to raise and wave with more strength the rainbow flags but painted with proud and indelible anti-imperialist colors.
THE LEFT DAILY MEXICO
May 19, 2019
Pablo Oprinari interviewed Frank García Hernández, organizer of the recent “First International Academic Event on Leon Trotsky”, held in Cuba, in which the Leon Trotsky Center for Studies, Research and Publications (Argentina-Mexico) participated.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
IdZ What is your assessment of the Trotsky event held in Cuba?
FG: I always thought that the event was going to mark a before and an after. I know that if we had done it in Brazil or Mexico -countries where it is possible that the 2nd and 3rd edition of this meeting will take place- it would not have been the same, because, although we have not had much financing due to all the economic problems that Cuba has, we did achieve a very large international participation, with high-level presenters such as Robert Brenner, Paul LeBlanc, Susy Weissman or Eric Toussaint, You have come [CEIP León Trotsky, N del E], those from the Karl Marx Center for Socialist Studies, the Casa León Trotsky Museum, researchers from the three most important universities in Brazil have arrived, participants and academics have come who at other times are not meeting because of the traditional disputes that their political organizations have, but who come because Cuba is everyone’s land and nobody’s.
Trotsky, Cuba and the current situation in the country have brought people from all over the world: from India, Iran, Turkey, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Great Britain, Argentina, Canada, Spain, the United States, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, intellectuals from Colombia and Pakistan, who were finally unable to attend, Michael Lowy and Tariq Ali also wanted to be present and at least ten other exhibitors. The event, in fact, should have lasted four days, but it was impossible, almost impossible, and cannot leave. We had a very difficult logistical situation so we couldn’t receive a foreign audience. I hope you understood and didn’t bother with us. To those of us who asked them not to come, we never did so for political reasons, much less for personal reasons. If we had accepted the 192 applications for public participation we would have collapsed, in fact, you saw that in the room where we were, they would not have had space.
The only thing I didn’t like about the event is that there wasn’t much Cuban public, which I think was due to bad management, it’s our responsibility, and that could give the false idea that in Cuba there is no will to meet Trotsky. Moreover, the lack of time caused the program not to be ready for the first day.
But the event, for me, in spite of its problems, is a total advance. In addition, the Institute of Philosophy undertook to publish the memoirs of the event, an institute that if it had not been for him we would not be here today. We must also thank the director of Casa Benito Juárez, where this congress was held. And we would also like to thank the logistical support given to us by the Juan Marinello Cuban Institute of Cultural Research, which also seems to be preparing to collaborate in the publication of the memoirs.
If this is done, if this book is published, it would be the first time that a book dedicated to Trotsky and the sociopolitical-cultural phenomena that has been generated around him would appear in Cuba. Trotsky’s other text that appeared, as a book, was published in the sixties by the militants of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (Trotskyist), who were militants in the Fourth International Posadista. That book did not travel around the country because it was confiscated and never went to press.
Were other articles or materials by Trotsky published?
FG: In Cuba, only the following articles by Trotsky have been published without suffering censorship: one in the Revolution newspaper, of the 26th of July movement, in the cultural supplement “Lunes de Revolución” where a very short excerpt from the History of the Russian Revolution, published by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, appeared. That was in 1960.
Later, in 2014-2015, “Lenin’s Last Struggle” was published in Cuba, a compilation of Lenin’s writings and letters, which was originally published by Pathfinder Publishing, which ceded its rights to the Social Sciences Publishing House; there appeared some letters from Trotsky to Lenin. And after I taught the postgraduate course on Leon Trotsky, in November 2016 – the first in Cuba and had a great impact on the student body – almost two years later, in January 2018, the centennial of the Red Army, part of Trotsky’s speech at the founding of the Red Army was published in a Santa Clara cultural magazine.
So now, when we publish this book, we are going to live in Cuba a before and an after, because when all the presentations that were made are published, we are going to skip the political taboo that is Trotsky. With Trotsky in Cuba something very similar happened to what the Peruvian writer Héctor Béjar says in his book, which was awarded the Casa de las Américas Essay Prize in 1966, when he stated that after the 20th Congress of the CPSU, we all knew about Stalin’s crimes but nobody told us that the one who was not a criminal was Trotsky.
And the same thing happened in Cuba: after the fall of the Soviet Union, we all knew about Stalin’s crimes, but no one here has said that Trotsky was not guilty of what he was accused of. That is the importance of the event. To begin to say in Cuba that nothing that was said about Trotsky is true. And Trotsky is not even mentioned in the history books that students receive. Maybe the university students know him, but it’s very difficult for high school students to know about him.
Without a doubt, Padura’s work, The Man Who Loved Dogs, helped arouse curiosity, but they have no book to go to cover the doubts and learn more. On the other hand, friend and comrade Celia María Hart Santamaría could not successfully spread Trotsky[‘s ideas] in Cuba. Circumstances made her end up being a sniper on the roof of a tower. No one saw her, no one could see her, even though they felt her shots, accurate, very accurate.
IdZ: They talk about the dynamics of the event and the first repercussions.
FG: The academic level is very good, excellent, there is no complaint. We have to thank everyone for their presence. There was even the collaboration of Lindy Laub, a well-known North American filmmaker, who had participated in the Festival del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, here in Havana in 1999, and Suzi Weissman, her producer, who in turn was a speaker. They both brought a documentary that we enjoyed the 42-minute work-in-progress, The Most Dangerous Man in the World with unpublished images that no one has ever seen. We did this in a small but very collaborative room of the Young Directors Exhibition. Unfortunately, there weren’t many Cubans, but the important thing is that it was projected in Cuba.
What is real is that Trotsky, as a historical character has had an impact on sectors of the Cuban university student body, since students from Santiago de Cuba wanted to come to the event, they came from Santa Clara without even having the economic conditions, they came from Matanzas. Today in Santa Clara and Havana there are students who are reading and studying the books that you and other comrades brought to the event. For them, for those Cuban students, I ask for the most solidary of the help. They have only two titles. So I call on internationalism to send them material, magazines, books.
Escritos Latinoamericanos is, moreover, a text that has impressed some Cuban historians very much, because we had never been able, or even knew, that León Bronstein had dedicated political analysis articles to the Cuban situation of his time and especially to the Bolshevik Leninist Party. For me, who wrote the history of Cuban Trotskyism, that is a fundamental contribution. Another important point is that this Friday Latin American Writings will be donated, along with the text by Gabriel García Higueras, Trotsky in the mirror of history, to the library of the House of the Americas, the institution that attracted intellectuals such as Cortázar, Benedetti, Galeano and that today continues to be one of the best points of convergence on the continent. This library is very much visited by the Havana intellectuals. Also this Friday, May 17, Writings… will arrive at the libraries of the Faculty of Philosophy and History, and at the Central Library of the University of Havana.
I always make a very necessary clarification: the event was an academic activity about Trotsky and all the political, social and cultural phenomena that came out of it. It was not a call for international Trotskyist convergence. The perception that we young people have that we feel part of the Cuban Marxist left, that we use Marxism to understand reality, is that Trotsky belongs to the system of communist ideas, to all the theory that Gramsci, Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin, Marx, Mariátegui give us. Some bureaucrats want to point out Trotskyists to us; I have nothing against Trotskyism, evidently, yes, some necessary and enriching divergences of criteria, but let’s remember that Stalin began to use that term to make believe that the followers of the Left Opposition were not Leninist Bolsheviks, but a tendency alien to the revolution.
We were missing Trotsky. We lacked Trotsky to understand what happened in the Soviet Union, because none of the referents of Marxism that I mentioned, as well as Che Guevara or Fidel Castro, could, for different reasons, give a systemic explanation of what happened. Trotsky has the courage to have done so since 1936, the courage to have developed a sociological analysis that we didn’t know about, and for which we Cubans are very interested.
Half a century ago, Ho Chi Minh wrote this political testament, which Granma reproduces not only for its validity, but also as a tribute to the leader of a brotherly people who was born on May 19, 1890.
Author: Ho Chi Minh | firstname.lastname@example.org
May 19, 2019 22:05:36
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Although the struggle of our people against US aggression, for national salvation, must face more difficulties and sacrifices, we are determined to obtain total victory. That is for sure.
I intend, when that happens, to travel both North and South to congratulate our heroic peasants, military cadres and combatants, and to visit the elderly and our beloved children and youth. Then, on behalf of our people, I will go to the fraternal countries of the socialist camp and friendly countries all over the world, to thank them for their heartfelt support and the help they gave to the patriotic struggle of our people against U.S. aggression.
Tu Fu, the famous poet of the Tang period in China, wrote: “In all eras, few are those who reach seventy years of age. This year, since I am seventy-nine, I can count myself among those “few”; however, my mind remains perfectly lucid, although my health has declined a little compared to the last few years.
When one has seen more than seventy springs, health deteriorates with age. But who can say how much longer I will be able to serve the revolution, the Fatherland and the people? Therefore, I leave these lines in anticipation of the day when I must meet with Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin and other revolutionary leaders; in this way, our people throughout the country, our comrades in the Party, and our friends in the world will not be taken by surprise.
First I will talk about the Party: Thanks to its close unity and total dedication to the working class, the people and the Fatherland, our Party has been able, since its foundation, to unite, organize and lead our people from success to success in a firm struggle.
Unity is an extremely precious tradition of our Party and the people. All comrades, from the Central Committee to the cells, must preserve the unity and union of thought in the Party as the apple of their eye.
Within the Party, establishing a broad democracy and practicing self-criticism and criticism regularly and seriously is the best way to consolidate and develop solidarity and unity. Affection and comradeship must prevail.
Ours is a party in power. Every Party member, every cadre, must be deeply imbued with revolutionary morality, and demonstrate industriousness, frugality, integrity, probity, total dedication to the public interest and complete altruism. Our Party must preserve absolute purity and prove itself worthy of its role as the leader and loyal servant of the people.
The members of the Young Workers League and our youth, in general, are good; they are always ready to offer themselves, without fear of difficulties, eager for progress. The Party must promote their revolutionary virtues and train them to be our successors, both “red” and “expert”, in the construction of socialism.
The training and education of future generations of revolutionaries is of great importance and necessity. Our workers, on the plains and in the mountains, from generation to generation, have resisted hardship, feudal and colonial oppression and exploitation; they have also experienced many years of war. But our people have shown great heroism, courage, enthusiasm, and industry. They have always followed the Party since it saw the light, with unconditional loyalty.
The Party must carry out effective plans for economic and cultural development, in order to constantly improve the lives of our people. The war of resistance against U.S. aggression can be prolonged.
Our people can face new human and material sacrifices. No matter what happens, we must maintain our resolve to fight the U.S. aggressors to total victory. Our mountains will always exist, our rivers will always exist, our people will always exist, with the American invaders defeated, we will rebuild our land to make it ten times more beautiful.
In spite of the difficulties and setbacks, our people are certain that they will obtain total victory. The U.S. imperialists will certainly have to resign. Our Homeland will certainly be unified. Our compatriots in the South and in the North will certainly be reunited under the same sky. We, who are a small nation, will have won the honorable medal of having defeated, through heroic struggle, two great imperialisms – French and American – and of having made a valuable contribution to the world national liberation movement.
With regard to the world communist movement: As a man who has devoted his whole life to revolution, I feel more proud of the growth of international communism and workers’ movements, and I feel more hurt by the current discord between the brother parties.
I hope that our Party will do its best to contribute effectively to the restoration of unity among the Brother Parties on the basis of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism, in a way that suits both reason and feeling. I strongly trust that the brother Parties and countries will have to unite again.
Regarding personal affairs: all my life I have served my country, the revolution and the people with all my strength and with all my heart. If I must now depart from this world, I have nothing to regret except not being able to serve more and better. When I am gone, an onerous funeral should be avoided, so as not to waste the time and money of the people.
Finally: to all the people, to all the Party, to all the army, to my nephews and nieces, to the youth and children, I leave you my unlimited love. I also extend my cordial greetings to our comrades and friends, and to the youth and children all over the world.
My greatest wish is that our Party and our people, uniting their efforts closely, will build a peaceful, reunified, independent, democratic and prosperous Vietnam, and that they will make a valuable contribution to the world revolution.