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Cuban Government Agency Investigates Incident of Homophobic Violence First Reported Online

Afromodernidades[All links lead to Spanish language pages.]

The Cuban intellectual Alberto Abreu Arcia reported in his blog Afromodernidades about an incident of physical violence against a group of homosexual men in the city of Cardenas, in the western province of Matanzas, on October 4. The National State Center for Sex Education (CENESEX in Spanish) then started an investigation.

This is yet another example of how events in Cuban society which are first reported on social networks and digital spaces ultimately find resonance in official institutions. 

La madrugada de hoy jueves estos actos de agresividad adquirieron connotaciones más violentas cuando varios hombres en un coche se presentaron en el Rápido ubicado en la esquina de Ruíz y Coronel Verdugo, frente a la Plaza Malacof, justo al doblar de mi casa, donde acostumbran a reunirse muchos de ellos y comenzaron a agredirlos verbal y físicamente, recibiendo uno de ellos, en la espalda, varios planazos machete.

This morning at dawn these aggressive acts became more violent when several men in a car came to Rapido located on the corner of Ruiz and Coronel Verdugo, in front of the Malacof Plaza, just before turning towards my house, where many of them began to verbally and physically attack them, getting one of them on the back, and several fell face down after being attacked with a machete.

Abreu, who, in addition to being an activist is a renowned cultural studies scholar, later writes about about the implications of homosexuals simply exercising their citizen rights, and the responsibility of state institutions:

La actitud de este grupo de gays viene a recordar aquello, de que los derechos y los espacios no se mendigan, sino que se conquistan. (…) Y allí pienso estar, al lado de ellos, porque lo cierto es que a pesar del machete, los planazos, los fustazos, el coche, los cocheros y otros atributos de un entorno pre, uno se cansa. Si las leyes y las instituciones llamadas a ampararnos llegan: perfecto, sino ya da igual. Los maricones tan bien tenemos sangre en las venas, y vamos descubriendo otras formas de empoderarnos, quizás no tan civilizadas (contenidas, disciplinadas), pero son las armas, el otro saber: el saber de gente, que vamos encontrando noche a noche, para el vivir, pensar y enfrentar la calle.

The attitude of this group of gays reminds the issue of of rights and spaces not being begged for, but conquered (…) And I plan to be there, next to them, because truthfully in spite of the machete, falling face down, the whippings, the car, the drivers and other characteristics of a beautiful setting, it gets tiring. If the laws and institutions called to shield us arrive, then that's perfect, but it's not enough. We faggots also have blood in our veins, and we're figuring out other ways to empower ourselves, perhaps not so civil ones (neither contained nor disciplined), but they are our weapons, the other way of knowing: the way of knowing about others, that we are finding out night after night, to live, to think and confront the street.

On the bog, messages supporting the post were received continuously from other digital spaces:

Todavía hoy continúan llegando correos de solidaridad por el texto Cocheros homofóbicos agreden a grupo gays en Cárdenas, firmados por diferentes blogueros, activistas y luchadores contra la homofobia entre los que se encuentran el Proyecto Arcoiris y el sitio Afrocubaweb.

Even to this day, letters of solidarity still continue to arrive [...] signed by different bloggers, activists, and fighters against homophobia; among them the Rainbow Project and the Afrocubaweb site.

Additionally, the reprinting of the initial post signed by Abreu was uploaded onto the Rainbow Project and replicated from @bitacorasdecuba's account:

 bitcub

On October 8, the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), which is under the Ministry of Public Health, posted a note on their official site where they recognized the information: “For several days, information about supposed protests of violence against homosexual people in the Matancera city of Cardenas has been circulating online and through alerts received by LGBT activists (..)”. 

Later, the Center specified its intention to investigate this matter:

Por lo que esto representa para la población LGBTHI cubana, y por su repercusión en materia de respeto a los derechos sexuales como derechos humanos mismos, el Servicio de Orientación Jurídica del Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (CENESEX), desde que tuvo conocimiento del asunto desarrolla un proceso de indagación sobre los mencionados acontecimientos, el cual permitirá determinar su veracidad, darle seguimiento, y en próximos días publicar en este sitio nuestra versión de lo ocurrido.

Because of what this represents for the Cuban LGBT population, and its impact on sexual rights as being equal to human rights, the Service for Legal Advice of the National Center for Sex Education has developed a process of inquiry about the events since we have known about this matter, which will allow us to determine the veracity, monitor it, and in the coming days, to publish our version of what occurred on our site.

So specialists from the institution moved to the place where the facts were, as Abreu reports from his blog, in the post published on October 22:

De igual forma el pasado miércoles 16 de octubre un grupo de CENESEX visitó la ciudad de Cárdenas y realizó una minuciosa investigación sobre los sucesos descriptos en mi texto. Los resultados de la misma, según me comentaron, serán publicados en su sitio web.

In the same way, on Wednesday, October 16, a group from CENESEX visited Cardenas city and conducted a thorough investigation of the incidents described in my text. The results will be published on their website, according to what they told me.

Abreu is currently waiting for the conclusions of the investigation.

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