A transgender man dies in custody, and other news about LGBT Cubans

Published: September 15, 2011

A number of expat Cuban websites, such as EU-funded Cuba Encuentro, are reporting the death in police custody in Havana of a trans man on Sept. 8.

Nelson Linares García, 34, had been arrested along with "about a dozen of homosexuals, transvestites and transsexuals in Old Havana" in Fraternity Park and "died while under arrest." A doctor certified "respiratory arrest" as the cause of death, but the authorities did not conduct an autopsy, according to Penúltimos Días.

According to Imbert Leannes Acosta, director of El Observatorio Cubano de los Derechos de la Comunidad LGBT (OBCUD LGBT, Cuban Observatory of the Rights of the LGBT), Linares García’s friends informed the police repeatedly that he had hypertension but they did not pay attention.

The report is traced to Ignacio Estrada, a "noted dissident and gay rights activist" who married his transgender partner on Aug. 14 in what was billed as Cuba’s “first gay wedding.”

Another dissident, Roberto de Jesús Guerra, who was released from prison after two years in 2007, said that recent weeks had seen repeated raids by police on LGBT meeting at several sites in the Cuban capital.

Progress on LGBT rights in Cuba has been led by Mariela Castro Espín, the daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro. In June she told a conference in Glasgow, Scotland, that Cuba’s Communist Party may soon be ready to recognize gay rights.

Despite this progress, continuing police harassment in Cuba, including arrests, has been reported on gay Cuban blogs, such as that of the Reinaldo Arenas Memorial Foundation.

Herb Sosa, president of Unity Coalition, a Latino LGBT organization based in Miami that has provided materials and resources to LGBT groups, has accused the Cuban government of engaging in extrajudicial executions.

According to Acosta of OBCUD LGBT, repression of LGBT in Cuba is increasing, not only in Havana but "we have documented Matanzas [North Cuba] and Guantanamo [East Cuba] cases." He said that his group would protest repression to the United Nations. The organization has not been allowed to officially register. Under the slogan "Homosexuality is a matter of rights, not of opinions", OBCUD LGBT ran the "National Campaign for LGBT rights" in June which included a march on June 28.

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