Fidel Castro's niece is in San Francisco to talk about gay rights. And that means it's time to talk politics.
Mariela Castro -- whose father is current Cuban President Raúl Castro, revolutionary leader Fidel's brother -- is in San Francisco to participate in a series of panel discussions at a conference hosted by the Latin American Studies Association, according to the San Francisco Examiner. Castro, a "sexologist and gay rights activist," will appear at the LGBT Center on Market Street on Wednesday, and at San Francisco General Hospital and the downtown Marriott Marquis, the newspaper reported.
Castro needed to get special approval from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in order to get her travel visa approved for the conference, the newspaper reported. Other Cuban academics were denied entry into the country for the talk, according to the newspaper.
American and Cuban relations have been frosty since the 1960s. A trade embargo between the two countries is still in place, and one cannot travel directly from the United States to Cuba.
Gay rights have also been spotty in Cuba (not that the American record is perfect). Following the 1959 Communist takeover, homosexuals were persecuted and sent to reeducation camps, the newspaper reminded. That is partially why Mariela Castro is coming to San Francisco, local leaders said.
"She has a unique position as the president’s daughter, and she has a lot of influence in the country," Jeff Cotter, the executive director of the San Francisco-based Rainbow World Fund, told the newspaper. "That sends a really fantastic message to everybody that it’s time for change."
The visit is drawing national attention, as Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, issued a statement blasting the visa and the visit. President Barack Obama's camp responded by noting that Mariela Castro visited the United States in 2002, when George W. Bush occupied the White House.