August 30, 2011
By Paolo Paranagua, The Guardian
Leannes Imbert Acosta, 34, has been trying since May to obtain legal recognition for Cuba's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Observatory. But in so doing she has encroached on the prerogatives of the National Sexual Education Centre (Cenesex) set up by Mariela Castro, Raul's daughter.
Although the government is much more tolerant of gay rights, some have accused Mariela Castro of monopolising the cause, and divisions have taken hold within the gay movement. The Observatory wants to set up an information centre open to everyone, but Imbert cannot access the Cenesex library without official accreditation.
In June Cenesex opposed a gay pride event, which it regards as an unjustified protest movement.
Imbert has turned to the Cuban Law Association (AJC), which represents several dozen lawyers and is also struggling to gain recognition. The AJC is involved in a similar campaign for the Brotherhood of Blackness, established to combat racial discrimination.
In January Wilfredo Vallin, a key figure in the law association, won the first round in the AJC's fight. "There is no separation of powers in Cuba," he says. "The judiciary is subordinate to the executive and receives instructions from state security."
Only lawyers working in "collectives" – all of whom are public-sector workers – can represent their clients in court. The government recently issued a list of 178 trades now open to the self-employed, but it does not include architects, computer programmers, teachers or doctors.