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Niece of Cuba’s Fidel Castro denied permission to pick up gay rights award in Philadelphia

Niece of Cuba’s Fidel Castro denied permission to pick up gay rights award in Philadelphia

The niece of retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro has been denied a visa by the US State Department to travel to Philadelphia to accept an award for her work on behalf of gay rights.

Mariela Castro, director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, is already in the US attending meetings in New York. But Cuban diplomats are prevented from traveling more than 25 miles from the United Nations without permission.

The Equality Forum, the group which was to give Castro the award on 4 May, called the visa denial ‘shocking.’

“Over the past 11 years, Equality Forum has invited leaders of the featured nation to attend. For those who needed a visa, all past visas have been approved,’ Executive Director Malcolm Lazin said in a statement.

He added: ‘It is shocking that our State Department would deny Ms. Castro travel to a civil rights summit – especially one held in the birthplace of our democracy that enshrines freedoms of speech and assembly.’

Lazin praised Castro for running the leading Cuban LGBT organization that offers support and services to LGBT youth and seniors, provides HIV and STD education and prevention, and combats homophobia.

‘These are shared values that deserve the right to be heard regardless of political systems,’ he said.