HAVANA, Cuba – In what Cuban officials from CENESEX described as necessary, the state-run center of sex education issued a second statement Thursday to clarify the reasons behind the decision to cancel this year's gay pride parade in Havana for the first time since its inception.
Cancellation of the most visual display of gay pride on the island according to the release has had ample repercussions on social media. The statement adds in Spanish that the U.S. aggression against Cuba and Venezuela has encouraged groups to attempt to use the event to discredit and divide. They also urged supporters not to join in "provocations or politically prejudiced attacks."
Officials asked activists to keep calm, act responsibly and to contribute to future events. Local 10 News reported Mariela Castro, a Cuban lawmaker and daughter of Communist Party chief Raul Castro, was present when officials told members of the Cuban LGTBQ community that foreign forces were planing to use the event to promote their own agenda.
The statement also echoes the allegations made at a recent meeting.
A handful of concerned Cuban citizens attended the meeting that was organized on social media to show up together at the Ministry of Health building in Havana to get answers from officials about why the Conga pride event was cancelled.
Mariela Castro, who heads CENESEX, the organization at the forefront of the parade, was there. Some of the concerns officials had included the possibility that anti-government groups could attack members of the LGBTQ community during the event. This could force police officers to act. It's a strategy that could generate images to be distributed on social media as propaganda.
"We would become part of the agenda of other groups," one of the participants wrote in a group chat.
The participant, who did not want to be identified by name, said the exchange between members of the LGBTQ community and health officials was cordial, and Mariela Castro, who seemed interested in their activism, said conservative religious groups were asked not to spread propaganda in public areas.
"We told them we weren’t going to give up our rights," the participant wrote.
The Evangelical church played a crucial role in fighting Article 68 of the proposed constitution, which would have allowed a pathway to same-sex unions. The article was removed before Cubans voted on the referendum, which passed in February 2019.
As for the possibility of an alternative pride parade -- an idea that has gained momentum on social media -- officials told the group that it had been organized by dissenting groups working out of Miami. CENESEX Assistant Director Manuel Vazquez claims to have evidence to show that the alternative parade was planned outside of the country.
According to publicity published on social media, the alternative event is at 4 p.m. Saturday at Havana’s Central Park. CENESEX's statement said Cuba's support of the LGBTQ community in the political and civic arenas must predominate over "any attempt to distort or sabotage."
CENESEX began to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in 2007. This year's 12th anniversary will include 29 activities in Havana and Camagüey.