HAVANA – Cuba announced the opening of its first hotel exclusively dedicated to the LGBT sector in the midst of a controversy over the cancellation of its annual gay pride parade in Havana and fueled by the refusal of entrance to the country of foreign journalists who were going to cover the event.
The new facility will be managed by Gaviota, one of the main Cuban hotels, belonging to the military group Gaesa, and will be located in Cayo Guillermo, one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island.
The hotel will have 250 rooms and its implementation is among the “immediate projections” of the company, said the vice president of marketing of the hotel chain, Frank Oltuski, in a statement on the official website Cubadebate.
Gaviota, included in the “black list” of Cuban entities with which the United States prohibits doing business to its citizens, currently has 33,020 rooms in 95 tourist facilities throughout the country and soon plans to add another three, with more of 850 new capacities.
This announcement coincides with the state decision to cancel the twelfth edition of the “Conga Against Homophobia,” the most anticipated event of the year with which Cuba makes visible the struggle for human rights.
The suspension of the annual gay pride parade in Havana and Camagüey was announced by the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), “given the current situation” of the country, which has launched austerity measures.
Cenesex, led by director Mariela Castro, daughter of the head of the Cuban Communist party Raul Castro, said the decision was made by the Ministry of Health and does not mean the suspension of the rest of the program’s activities.
The parade would have been the first to be held after the approval, in April, of the new Cuban Constitution, in which initially a modification was planned that opened the doors to gay marriage on the island but which was finally not included.
It was one of the most controversial issues in the popular debates to which the draft of the new constitution was submitted last year, in the midst of a strong campaign of rejection by the evangelical and Catholic churches, to which the LGBT community responded with creative initiatives in favor.
This group has been gaining visibility in the last decade in Cuba, where after the triumph of the Revolution (1959) homosexuals were persecuted and sent to work camps called Military Units to Aid Production (UMAPs), one of the darker chapters of the country’s recent history.
Before the cancellation, LGBT activism on the island called for an alternative march for next Saturday, organized on social networks under the hashtag #marchamos to gather those who want to parade peacefully “for a diverse Cuba,” even if they defy the official decision.
Critics on Twitter and Facebook suggest that the parade was the most anticipated event of the Cuban Day Against Homophobia, organized annually by Cenesex, and perhaps the only occasion in the year in which the collective can present their work and their demands before the great audience of the country, where demonstrations are not allowed without the authorization of the state.
Many reproached that the cut did not affect the massive parade for Workers’ Day, held on May 1 in Havana, and stress that Cenesex should also suspend the “Fiesta for Diversity,” convened for Saturday at one of the recreational clubs in the capital.
They also criticized the decision of the Cuban authorities to deny entry to American journalist Michael Lavers, who traveled to Havana as a reporter for the Washington Blade, the oldest LGBT newspaper in the United States and the second of its type with the largest circulation in that country.