24 May 2012

Castro’s cordial reception contrasts US visa criticism

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Despite criticism over the decision to grant Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, a US visa reaching all the way to the presidential election, Ms Castro received an overwhelmingly positive reception.

US visa

Reaction to Mariela Castro's US visa may have been negative, but her reception proved overwhelmingly positive.

Ms Castro, an outspoken advocate for gay rights, was granted a US visa so she could address a conference in San Francisco on sexual diversity in Latin America as well as several other events.

However, the decision to grant a Cuban official, especially one as prominent as Ms Castro, a US visa sparked outrage from several politicians. The US has maintained a tenuous relationship with Cuba since Ms Castro's uncle, Fidel Castro, seized power in 1959.

Yet despite the criticism, anti-Castro protesters remained absent at the events Ms Castro attended, instead she received two standing ovations while she spoke at a panel on health care for transgender patients at San Francisco General Hospital.

While Ms Castro, who runs Cuba's National Center for Sex Education and has lobbied her father's government for equal rights, mainly concentrated on the debate's subject matter. Ms Castro took the opportunity to praise President Obama for his support of gay marriage last week, yet she also criticised America's policies towards Cuba.

Speaking through a translator, Ms Castro criticised America's ongoing Cuban trade embargo, established during the Kennedy administration, saying its supporters are a 'tiny Mafia' who have 'no scruples'.

Criticism of Ms Castro's visit has ranged from Cuban American politicians from both parties, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, all the way to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who accused the Obama administration of "welcoming the daughter of a dictator".

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