On Saturday, LGBT activists in Cuba were arrested for holding an unauthorized pride parade in the country’s capital, Havana.
Cuba’s 12th annual Cuban Conga against Homophobia and Transphobia march was scheduled to take place but canceled because of international tensions and the fear of outside groups.
“Aggression against Cuba and Venezuela has encouraged groups that, although they already existed, in recent times to try harder to distort the reality of Cuba, and they intend to use our Conga to discredit, divide and replace the true meaning of this activity,” the state-run National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX) said in a statement, according to Local 10.
Local 10 also reported that a group of concerned Cuban citizens was told at a meeting that the government feared “organized groups could attack members of the LGBT community forcing police to act and create negative images around the world.”
The meeting was reportedly attended by Mariela Castro, the head of CENESEX and daughter of Communist Party Secretary and former President Raul Castro.
In response, activists began to organize on social media to organize a march starting at Old Havana’s Parque Central despite the cancellation, according to the BBC.
On the morning of the march, activists claim they were harassed and threatened by state security forces to deter them from attending, reported Local 10.
At the unauthorized march, the demonstrators reportedly numbered more than 100, carried rainbow flags, and chanted, “Long live a diverse Cuba.” The activists were reportedly stopped by plainclothes security officers and subjected to violence.
Three activists have been confirmed to be detained so far.
The event was intended to be held ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17.
According to The Washington Post, Cuba has a troubling history with the LGBT community, including denying work opportunities for gay people and sending some to labor camps. In 1979, homosexuality was decriminalized and in 2010 Cuban dictator Fidel Castro accepted responsibility for the government’s treatment of the LGBT community. “If someone is responsible, it’s me,” Castro reportedly told Mexican newspaper La Jornada.
Many Cuban LGBT activists view the parade as their main platform that helps them push for the legalization of same-sex marriage, reported Reuters.
In January, The Daily Wire reported that the Cuban government was reportedly censoring text messages to suppress opposition to the then-proposed constitution.
Hearing that text messages with hashtags opposing the new constitution were being blocked, Eduardo Sanchez, 23, decided to test it out for himself, WPLG Local 10 reports. Sanchez posted a screenshot on Twitter showing several text messages he claims he sent and a screenshot of ones he claims were actually delivered.
Text messages containing pro-constitution hashtags, such as “#YoVotoSi” (I Vote Yes) and “#SomosContinuidad” (We Are Continuity), were successfully delivered, he says, while text messages containing opposition slogans, such as “#YoVotoNo” (I Vote No) and “Abstencion” (Abstention), were not.
In his tweet, Sanchez wrote that he believes ETECSA, the state-run telecommunications company, is to blame.
If enacted, the constitution would ensure that the Communist Party faces no opposition since it is the “superior political power of society and of the State.” An older draft from July included no mention of communism, but it was later added back in after concern from citizens, according to state-run media.