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Cuba's first daughter meets LGBT leaders in San Francisco

Gay rights activist Mariela Castro has been granted a visa to visit the US, sparking fury among some Cuban-American lawmakers
Cuba's first daughter and gay rights activist Mariela Castro will meet LGBT leaders in San Francisco this week.

Mariela Castro will meet with leaders and members of the LGBT community in San Francisco this week.

The daughter of current president Raul Castro and niece of former president Fidel Castro is scheduled to be interviewed at the San Francisco LGBT Center at 1800 Market Street on Wednesday (23 May) from 6pm to 7:30pm Pacific Time.

The event is co-sponsored by the San Francisco LGBT Center, humanitarian group Rainbow World Fund and San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener. More details are available online on the event's Facebook page

Mariela Castro will also chair a panel on sexual diversity at the Latin American Studies Association International Congress, taking place 23 to 26 May in San Francisco.

Castro's visit to the US, though of an academic nature, has ignited outrage from some politicians.

Cuban-American Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, slammed the visa decision and called Mariela Castro 'a vociferous advocate of the regime and opponent of democracy'.

Four other Cuban-American lawmakers also cried out against the decision in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and David Rivera of Florida, along with Albio Sires of New Jersey wrote: 'The administration's appalling decision to allow regime agents into the US directly contradicts Congressional intent and longstanding US foreign policy.

'It is shameful that the Obama Administration would waive the common sense restrictions in place to appease the Castro dictatorship once again.'

Supporters say Mariela Castro's visit represents an important development not only for Cuban-American relations, but for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights around the world.

Wayne Smith, America's former top diplomat in Cuba and a long-time critic of the US embargo on the island told the Associated Press: 'It's a very positive thing they give her the visa.

'You have to consider the source, where the criticism is coming from. They don't want dialogue,' said Smith.

Mariela Castro has long-been an advocate of sexual rights in Cuba. She has praised Obama's endorsement of marriage equality and spearheaded Cuba's gay-rights campaign associated with International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) on 17 May. 

She was instrumental in the passing of a 2008 law in Cuba that allowed free sex-change surgeries into the island's universal healthcare policies.

As the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) in Havana, Castro campaigns for effective AIDS prevention and the acceptance of homosexuality, bisexuality, transvestitism and transsexualism human rights.

Though CENESEX presumably receives state funding, Mariela Castro has no official link to the Communist government. It is not know whether she is a member of the Communist Party.  

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