Fidel Castro took responsibility for the notorious persecutions against Cuban homosexuals launched by his revolutionary government in the 1960s. The communist revolutionary tells a Mexican newspaper that he was distracted by threats from the United States, reports Reuters.
The former Cuban president told La Jornada the persecution of gays, who were rounded up at the time as supposed counterrevolutionaries and placed in forced labor camps, was a "great injustice" that arose from the island's history of discrimination against homosexuals.He said he was not prejudiced against gays, but "if anyone is responsible (for the persecution), it's me. I'm not going to place the blame on others," he said.
Castro, 84, said he was busy in those days fending off threats from the United States, including attempts on his life, and trying to maintain the revolution that put him in power in 1959. "We had so many and such terrible problems, problems of life or death," Castro said. "In those moments I was not able to deal with that matter (of homosexuals). I found myself immersed, principally, in the Crisis of October (Cuban Missile Crisis), in the war, in policy questions," he said.
Cuba's official persecution of gays continued well into the 1970s before sodomy was decriminalized in 1979. There have been recent changes: Two years ago, the state announced its health care system would cover sex reassignment surgery (SRS) for transgenders. Although the communist nation has allowed IDAHO events for the past two years, authorities have refused to issue permits for gay Pride. In 2008, police shut down what would have been the nation's first gay pride march.
Cuba's systematic persecution and imprisonment of gays was famously documented by expatriate Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas. The autobiography Before Night Falls described his time in prison and escape to America. It was adapted to an Academy Award-nominated film by Julian Schnabel.