The Trade in Silence

Teenagers executed in Iran in 2005 for homosexuality. Image from

I still can’t believe that the Cuban delegation at the United Nations added its vote to a group of “countries that include homosexuality as a crime under the law, including the application of capital punishment for that reason, in five of them.” I didn’t invent the quoted phrase, it comes from a statement published by CENESEX (The National Center of Sex Education) to try to explain this absurdity, to justify the abominable. On a peculiar list, where some of the great suppressors of individual liberties appear, this Island also appears, despite the official discourse that has assured us for some time that abuse of homosexuals is chapter from the past.

It goes without saying that no one consulted Cubans before ratifying — in our name — a resolution that gives carte blanche to the death penalty for reasons of the victims’ sexual orientation. Not a single word is said by the official press, no transvestites have been able to go out and protest in the Plaza of the Revolution or in front of the Foreign Ministry to demonstrate their displeasure with this act of political expediency. Initially, it was the Benin delegation that pushed for a change in the resolution about extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions in the world, a change that as a result of which — as of two weeks ago — the UN resolution will no longer apply if the accused is subject to execution for loving a person of their own gender. Frightened, we witness the circle joined by the intolerant, the complicity established between the doctrinaire, the silence before violations committed by others, to buy silence for when they themselves will have need of it.

It is sad that an institution like CENESEX, that has worked to promote respect for diversity, engages in verbal acrobatics so as not to call things by their name. Mariela Castro cannot take cover behind the terse words of a statement where one finds no condemnation proportional to the mistake committed by our delegation to the UN. This coming Sunday she will appear on a national television show, Journeys to the Unknown, to present a documentary that touches on the theme of tolerance towards gays and lesbians. I think that would be a good time to explain to us why her response has not been stronger, why her silence has the ring of an accomplice.


17 thoughts on “The Trade in Silence

  1. Wassup homos? It hurts you that your uncles Raul and Fidel don’t want to play with your private parts any more?

    My goodness, I’m gonna cry now…

  2. Castro brothers’ draconian anti-homosexual policies are coherent with their enslavement of the Cuban people. These policies share a totalitarian underpinning that bars basic human choice, like where you can live, whom you can love, etc. A regime that reduces human beings to personal property is hardly willing to allow manifestation of particular affection.

  3. at this point does not matter if the castros are relevant, their mere existence is a nsimbol for the real power, their aparatniks & self serving acolites.
    The generation who has learned how to hold on to power, first as adulators, then as collaborators & now as tolerant “buzzards” in wait for the death of theif future symbolds of greatness.
    I do not belive the castros are the power on their own, their’s is the pathetic existence of the has been, the one who now is been used to perpetuate a dictatorship, at their age used with no way out.
    They sold their souls & now the dues collector is at their door … all before their death & powerless to change their miserable situation …
    In this way of living, I wish the castros a very, very long life, as slaves of what they created, their families at the mercy of their former slaves, their fate in peril by the minute.
    In sum: a life of looking over their shoulders … forever thru the generations because, the people has long & lasting memory.

  4. Mariela Castro stated to the international press that in Cuba there is debate on sexual diversity. Homosexuality, however, remains a taboo for Cuban society and a problem silenced by the government and its mass media. The regime vote in the UN in support of the death penalty for gays is proof of it.


  6. The vote by the cuban government at the UN on this issue also carries a not so subtle hint of the current state of the political balancing act between the castro brothers. Just weeks ago we were subjected to a self-serving, disengenuous and phoney act of contrition by the walking corpse fidel regarding the anti-homosexual actions of his government. The current cuban governments vote at the UN hints at the further erosion of the walking corpse’s influence over raul’s decision making. Is this a sign that “the mummy” has been completely marginalized and is no longer relavent? Has raul taken off his skirt and is now finally wearing the pants in the family?

  7. Yub:
    I like your statement w/the words: “… collecting political chips …”
    The choices made by the few in Cuba do not I like to believe represent what Cubas think and/or belive, rather it represents (as you well stated) the mind & the attitude of omnipotence the leaders of the rebolution belive they have attained.
    The problem is & history proves it … what goes around comes around like the swing of the pendulum … like justice herself …

  8. The fact that any western oriented or influenced society in the 21 century can still support the execution of gays or lesbians simply for being gay or lesbian is abominable. It is shameful that Columbia should appear on this list of backward and or corrupt nations. Are we suprised that the castro government is in support, of course not, it would be surprising otherwise. Cuba’s vote in on this issue is despicable, politically expedient, hypocritical but totally consistent with the actions of a government that rules with self-perpetuation and self-preservation as it’s main concerns. In the eyes of the thugs running the cuban government collecting political chips is more important than being on the right side of a moral question, regardless of whatever words of atonement the walking corpse may have said just weeks ago regarding the gay issue.

  9. MIAMI HERALD: Cubans stage rallies, test new openness-In separate actions, ordinary citizens in Cuba are increasingly protesting everything from high taxes to poor bus services. Activists say civil unrest could result.-BY FRANCES ROBLES

    The streets of Bayamo, Cuba, are blocked by horse-drawn carriages, whose drivers for two days have protested a fivefold increase in taxes.
    Monday, hundreds of students in Santa Clara erupted in violence when the Barcelona-Real Madrid soccer match they had paid three pesos to watch at the Camilo Cienfuegos Theater was replaced by a documentary.

    And in the past month, bicycle taxi drivers in Las Tunas and truckers in Granma have refused to work until their various demands are met, say activists.

    The protests mark a significant departure for Cuba, where rallies are rare and repressed. As the country’s economic crisis worsens, a new trend appears to be bubbling: Ordinary citizens are daring to speak out against the government.

    Experts say that could become a critical threat to the Raúl Castro regime, which fears spontaneous protest far more than organized activism. While few Cubans are interested in politics, issues over transportation and food could serve as a lightning rod for a fed-up populace eager for change, experts say.

    “These are regular people, real people,” Yoandri Montoya, a dissident youth movement leader in eastern Cuba said Wednesday from his cellphone while “hundreds” of horse-drawn carriages abandoned their passengers. “People are taking to the streets because they are waking up to the new reality.”

    He said the protest began 6 a.m. Wednesday because drivers were furious that their monthly license fee rose from 120 pesos — $5 — to 571, or roughly $24.

    The taxes are part of a vast overhaul of the Cuban economy, which includes plans to lay off some 500,000 workers in the coming months.

    But when horse-drawn carriage drivers were forced to double fares to cover the increased tax, passengers complained, so the drivers stopped working, Montoya said.

    “Everybody is in the street,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”

    Weeks earlier, truckers who routinely transport people on the back of their flat-beds also went on strike to protest high gas prices they must pay with Cuba’s dollar-based currency.

    Two weeks ago, about 35 bicycle taxi drivers in Puerto Padre stopped working, because they were not allowed to pick up passengers in areas where tourists walk, said former dissident Magdelivia Hidalgo.

    On Tuesday, dissidents in at least six cities across the country held a “pots and pans” protest.

    The turn in strategy toward day-to-day issues is considered critical because the Cuban government in the past months released dozens of political prisoners, taking the wind out of the sails of one of the leading dissident groups, the Ladies in White. With their husbands freed, many of the “Ladies” now live in Spain.

    Hidalgo, now a reporter for U.S.-funded Radio Martí, founded a women’s group in Cuba that stages protests at cafeterias: the women eat and refuse to pay in the dollar-based currency known as “cucs.”

    “People are daring to speak out in ways I have never seen before,” said Hidalgo, who left Cuba in 2000. “When I called Cuba in the past, the person who answered the phone would whisper and say, `please hold.’ Now they say, `Oh God, you wouldn’t believe how bad things are!’ — knowing full well that if a call is coming in from Radio Martí, someone from the Cuban government is listening in.”


    While the Cuban government routinely stops dissident protests in their tracks, it has largely caved in to the demands of the civil rights protests, activists said. After the women’s group protests, the government has signaled that it will eliminate dual currency. Already, construction and agricultural supplies stores began accepting national pesos, a major concession.

    When a video of students at the Superior Institute of the Arts protesting lousy food went public last year, the government quietly went in and improved the menu, said former political prisoner Manuel Vazquez Portal.


    On Wednesday, the Cuban government kicked off a public debate over its historic plans to loosen rules over private business. The debates, similar to public gripe sessions that took place shortly after Castro took over the presidency in 2008, will be held from December until February.

    The state-controlled newspaper Granma said Cubans will be encouraged to voice their opinions and disagreements on the proposed changes through party organizations, union meetings and workplace sessions.

    “At stake is the future of the Cuban nation,” Granma said.

    But the government has only fueled discontent with layoffs, high taxes and closing workplace cafeterias, Vazquez Portal said.

    “One of these days, you’re going to have 50 people from some workplace show up at a pizzeria at the same time as 50 workers from another place on a day that there is no pizza,” Vazquez Portal said. “That’s when you’re going to have a big social explosion.”

    The economic crisis of the early 1990s led to a massive protest on Havana’s seaside boulevard, dubbed the “maleconazo.” Fidel Castro responded by letting anyone who wanted out to leave, unleashing the rafter crisis of 1994.

    But Cubans, Vazquez Portal said, know that the economic situation in South Florida is as bad as Cuba’s, so people are resigned to fixing their problems at home.

    “Now what you see is that people would rather take the risk of facing off against the government over facing off against the sharks and the sea,” he said.

    Social movements that topple regimes often begin when people suddenly feel orphaned by a paternalistic government, said Bronislaw Misztal, chair of the sociology department at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

    For Cuba’s scattered protests to gain momentum, a large group such as teachers, young people or the unemployed need to join in, followed by a group formerly loyal to the government, he said.

    “If it reaches a critical mass, then it may be a process that’s very difficult for the authorities to stop,” said Misztal, who is from Poland and has studied Cuba. “The question is: What will make the Cubans tick? It may be something that surprises us, and then it will be like fire in a bush.”


    ASSOCIATED PRESS: Tough year for wife of man detained as spy in Cuba
    WASHINGTON (AP) — In the year her American husband has been detained in Cuba, accused of spying for the U.S., Judy Gross has been forced to sell the family home in Maryland and move into a small apartment in Washington. Her younger daughter, distraught and crying as her father’s birthday approached, crashed and totaled her car. Her older daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

    More than 1,100 miles away, Alan Gross passes the time in a Cuban military hospital, watching baseball on a small television or jamming with his jailers on a stringed instrument they gave him.

    When he left for Cuba last December, his wife says he planned to spend just 10 days there helping to set up Internet access for members of the country’s small Jewish population, believed to number about 1,500.

    He was arrested at his hotel a year ago Friday, accused by Cuban President Raul Castro and other senior leaders of spying.

    “Every morning I wake up and for a few seconds it’s like a normal morning, and then I remember … he’s gone,” Judy Gross told The Associated Press in an interview.

    His detention has become a sticking point in relations between the U.S. and Cuba, two countries that have been at odds for decades. U.S. officials have denied claims he is a spy and said no progress can be made on relations until Gross is released.

    His work was part of a program of the U.S. Agency for International Development, a government agency that provides economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide but has also been criticized by Cuba for seeking to promote democratic change on the island.

    The specifics of what he was doing or what he might have done to upset the Cuban government are unclear.

    Judy Gross is adamant that her husband is not a spy. After all, she says, why would the U.S. government pick someone who didn’t know Spanish?

    “He’s a humanitarian, an idealist, and probably was naive and maybe not understanding enough of what he was getting himself into … that he could be arrested,” she said.

    The Cuban government did not respond to requests for comment, but officials have said previously that there is nothing unusual about how long he has spent in jail without being charged.

    State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Judy Gross was meeting with State Department officials Thursday afternoon to discuss the case.

    “We will continue to use all available channels to urge the Cuban government to show humanitarian compassion and put an end to Mr. Gross’ long and unjustifiable ordeal,” Crowley said.

    Judy Gross doesn’t know what he might have put in his suitcase, whether he had electronic equipment that could have angered the Cuban government, which keeps strict control over communication on the island. But she says he never went anywhere without his laptop and a cell phone.

    His wife says he was working at a Jewish community center in Havana, helping Jewish groups on the island communicate with one another and get access to the Internet so they could look at Wikipedia and online prayer books. The visit was his fifth to help the same group, Judy Gross said.

    The leaders of Cuba’s two main Jewish groups say they haven’t worked with Alan Gross, who is Jewish. While it is possible he was working with one of the other Jewish groups scattered across the island, they represent very small numbers of people.

    Adela Dworin, president of Havana’s Temple Beth Shalom and Cuba’s largest Jewish organization, the Jewish Community House, told The Associated Press it’s possible Gross came to the center as one of hundreds of foreign visitors it receives each year. But she said she doesn’t remember meeting him and he certainly was not doing any work with her group.

    Dworin said many visitors bring donations — medicine for a community pharmacy, books, DVDs, computer games, food for religious festivals — but she stressed that the group would not accept any contraband equipment.

    “We have all the necessary media to communicate with the entire Jewish world,” Dworin said. “We are able to communicate freely.”

    Gross was a subcontractor for an economic development organization called Development Alternatives Inc. of Bethesda, Md., that was working for the U.S. government.

    In a statement earlier this year, the group said Gross was working with a peaceful non-dissident civic group it did not identify to improve its communication capabilities. The company said his activities included distributing basic information technology equipment such as cell phones and laptops.

    For now, Gross is being held at the Cuban military hospital, where he shares a three-person room. To keep busy, he writes a lot, including letters to family and friends. Judy Gross, a psychotherapist, says in some letters he sounds depressed or angry, in others cheerful. Last week she sent him a letter with a menorah since Hanukkah began Wednesday night.

    “He didn’t know it was Hanukkah,” she said. “You know, days fall into nights when you are stuck inside.”

    Gross passes time by reading books and magazines his wife sends. He loves the Economist and The Atlantic and Washingtonian magazine.

    He isn’t allowed outside very often, but he exercises. On Friday nights he takes out a picture that his wife sent of a group of friends celebrating the Jewish Sabbath and says the prayers they would say together. Often, it’s also the night he calls his wife.

    The first six months his jailers kept the lights on all night, and he couldn’t sleep, but that changed as he befriended them.

    He has learned some Spanish, but is still not fluent. This summer he was finally allowed a small air conditioner and television, on which he watches Cuban baseball. His jailers also gave him the stringed Cuban instrument, which he uses to play music with them. And on Thanksgiving the cook made him a turkey, serving it in a Cuban style, with beans.

    “He was really grateful for that,” Judy Gross said.

    When she was finally able to visit him for three days over the summer, she was shocked by his sunken cheeks. He was 50 pounds overweight when he left, but in the past year he has lost 90 pounds, leaving him emaciated, she said.

    Most of the visit was spent at the hospital, but Judy Gross was not allowed to see her husband’s room. The second day, they were taken to a house outside of Havana with a view of the ocean. They had some time alone, but felt they were always being watched.

    Judy Gross doesn’t know what happens next, though she would like the U.S. and Cuban governments to sit down and work things out.

    Gloria Berbena, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, which Washington maintains instead of an embassy, said that she knew of no new developments in the case, though officials continue to press the Cuban government to release Gross.

    Judy Gross says both countries seem to be using her husband as a pawn, and she said she’d really like the White House to get involved.

    “I feel like: Well, he’s still there,” she said. “In that sense, we’re not any closer than we were a year ago.”

    Associated Press Writers Paul Haven and Peter Orsi in Havana and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.


    HUFFINGTON POST:United Nations: It’s Okay to Kill the Gay -buy Thor Halvorssen-President, Human Rights Foundation

    The tiny West African nation of Benin (on behalf of the UN’s African Group) proposed an amendment to strike sexual minorities from the resolution. The amendment was adopted with 79 votes in favor, 70 against, 17 abstentions and 26 absent.
    A collection of notorious human rights violators voted for the amendment including Afghanistan, Algeria, China, Congo, Cuba, Eritrea, North Korea, Iran (didn’t Ahmadinejad tell the world there were no gays in Iran?), Egypt, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, Uganda, Vietnam, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

    Add to this Bahamas, Belize (where you get 10 years for being gay), Jamaica (10 years of hard labor), Grenada (10 years), Guyana (life sentence), Saint Kitts and Nevis (10 years), Saint Lucia (10 years), Saint Vincent (10 years), South Africa (Apartheid? What apartheid?), and Morocco (ruled by a gay monarch!). They are all on the list of nations that do not think execution of gays and lesbians is worthy of condemnation or investigation. (The full vote tally is published beneath this column.)

    To its shame, Colombia was among the 16 nations who abstained.

    Those against the amendment include every European nation present, all Scandinavian countries, India, Korea, most of Latin America, all of North America, and only one Middle Eastern nation: Israel. In most countries in the Middle East, it is a crime to be gay–in some, like Saudi Arabia, it is punishable by beheading and in others, like Iran, by hanging.

    The UN has a remarkable track record of doing virtually nothing when presented with mass killings or genocide. “Never again!” was the cry after the holocaust. Since then, the world has witnessed a dozen more never agains with strong condemnation from the UN coming after the corpses pile up. A resolution of the sort that was voted on in the General Assembly is significant for its clarity of message: “It’s okay to kill the gays.”

    The British government had pleaded: “The subject of this amendment–the need for prompt and thorough investigations of all killing, including those committed for … sexual orientation–exists in this resolution simply because it is a continuing cause for concern.”

    Not a single African nation voted against the amendment. This is not surprising. Homosexuality is illegal in most of Africa. So acceptable is the notion of extra-judicial killings of gay men and women for their consensual private conduct that one of these countries, Uganda, is considering legislation making homosexuality (not the behavior, just being gay) punishable with death. The proposer of the bill, David Bahati, and the Ugandan “Minister for Ethics and Integrity,” Nsaba Buturo, have vowed the bill will pass before parliament dissolves on May 12, 2011.

    Uganda is not a Muslim nation. It is a Christian country. And it was American evangelical preachers in Uganda who fanned the flames of what could turn into mass executions in a continent that has seen genocidal murder occur numerous times in the last two decades on the basis of religious belief, ethnicity, and membership in a linguistic minority (Burundi, Darfur, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, Zimbabwe…).

    I had the opportunity to meet one of the courageous individuals in the struggle against this potential mass killing in Uganda. Her name is Kasha Jacqueline and she was one of the presenters at this year’s Oslo Freedom Forum. Jacqueline was concerned for her safety when she made her way to Oslo given that she could have been the subject of retaliation upon her return.

    Upon arriving in Norway, she was approached by several members of one of Oslo’s gay and lesbian organizations who urged her not to speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum because they disagreed with our inclusion of several speakers who were outspoken critics of left-wing dictatorships. Sadly, some people in Oslo believe that only those on the left can call themselves human rights defenders — their double standard usually will manifest itself when they ignore the crimes of the governments they favor.

    Kasha Jacqueline was quick to tell them that she was using us, and not the other way around. Her speech was so powerful that she was invited to stay an extra day and give the same speech at an event open to the public. She kindly accepted.

    Just days later, the inclusion of Kasha Jacqueline in the program of the Oslo Freedom Forum was one of the subjects of public condemnation by an American pro-life activist. The irony was excruciating. Here was a man who devotes his life to what he describes as stopping the mass killings of babies chastising an event for including someone in our program who wants to stop the mass killings of gays and lesbians. My response to his jeremiad, which was never published, concluded: “There is nothing to discuss in a circumstance like the one faced by Ms. Jacqueline and those affected by this legislation other than to offer: ‘Ms. Jacqueline, how can we help you and your organization prevent what could become a horrific massacre?'”

    Thus the left, dear reader, thus the right. They deserve each other.

    Thor Halvorssen is president of the Human Rights Foundation and founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum.

    In favor of the amendment to remove sexual orientation from the UN resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (79 nations):

    Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brunei Dar-Sala, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

    Opposed to the UN amendment to remove sexual orientation from the resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (70 nations):

    Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bhutan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Micronesia (FS), Monaco, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Abstain (17 nations):

    Antigua-Barbuda, Barbados, Belarus, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Colombia, Fiji, Mauritius, Mongolia, Papau New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Vanuatu

    Absent (26 nations):

    Albania, Bolivia, Central African Republic, Chad, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Marshall Island, Mauritania, Nauru, Nicaragua, Palau, Sao Tome Principe, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Togo, Tonga, Turkey, Turkmenistan


    Mauvaise Conduite or Improper Conduct is the title of a 1984 documentary film directed by Néstor Almendros and Orlando Jiménez Leal. The documentary interviews Cuban refugees to explore the Cuban government’s imprisonment of homosexuals, political dissidents, and Jehovah’s Witnesses into concentration camps under its policy of Military Units to Aid Protection. The documentary was produced with the support of French television Antenne 2 and won the Best Documentary Audience Award at the 1984 San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

    Conducta Impropria – Improper Conduct (Part 5)

  13. Within ourselves we are free to choose & that freedom to choose makes the difference in our lives.
    If we are not allowed to exercise our freedom to choose by someone or some “power” there is no freedom.
    We are free to choose, to judge, to love, to believe, to follow or not, what we choose is what makes our lives but perhaps is worth to keep in mind, with choice comes acountability & responsibility …

  14. The way to help the Cuban LGTB to put an end to their misery by their counterparts in other parts of the world is by helping themselves to avoid falling into similar predicaments by being easy prey of deceptive political systems. They should learn as much as they can about the realities of their counterparts trapped in Cuba. Promoting the truth about them will set them free.

  15. Be interesting to see whether those few usual suspects who dominate this site with multiple posts are equally condemning of this action?

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