Francisco Rodríguez Cruz is a Cuban journalist and activist who for over a year has maintained a controversial blog committed to advancing the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in Cuba. This is a community that has experienced a difficult history of discrimination on the island.
Paquito, as he is commonly known on the web, does not only address issues of sexual diversity and gay rights in his blog. He has also been writing of his own personal experience, for the past five years, of battling HIV and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.
“Those who have the privilege to access Internet from Cuba should aim always at improving something in the country, not only deal with external hostilities. Perhaps then we would develop much faster,” he says.
In a previous interview last year, with TeleSur, Paquito was asked about his blog and said, “At first, some people said it was impossible for someone with my characteristics to exist in Cuba: HIV-positive, communist, gay, father, journalist.” But Paquito, with all his multiple dimensions and complexity, really does exist.
Here is the video of the TeleSur interview:
Paquito is a member of Hombres por la diversidad (Men for Diversity), a social network of the state-run program National Centre for Sex Education, but he has also supported civil society and independent associations and the recently founded Rainbow Project, which aims to participate in debate on public policies and raise awareness of institutional homophobia. They advocate changes to Cuban law that eradicate discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender.
On December 2, 2010, Paquito was received by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, at the ministry’s headquarters, along with other representatives of civil society in Cuba who questioned Cuba’s support for an amendment to remove reference to sexual orientation from a United Nations resolution condemning summary executions (executions without trial). During this meeting, the foreign minister said there would be no changes in Cuba’s policy to oppose any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender.
After this unusual dialogue, Paquito suggested to the authorities in March 2011 that they should support an international UN declaration to eliminate “criminal penalties and other human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” And they did, in June.
Meanwhile, Paquito continued denouncing irregularities committed by Cuban police, who repeatedly fined visitors to a gay spot in central Habana.
Gerardo Arreola, a journalist from La Jornada in Mexico, wrote about his efforts:
Su activismo ha tenido giros tan insólitos como el que lo puso frente a la policía, primero como infractor, luego como demandante y finalmente como interlocutor.
His activism has had twists so unusual as to make him face the police, first as an offender, then as a plaintiff, and finally as an equal.
Paquito is now fighting his latest battle. He has run, literally, after the Cuban Minister of Justice, María Esther Reus, to ask her what happened to the updated draft of the Family Code, a law that would approve, along with a number of important benefits for all Cubans, legal marriage for couples of the same sex. The minister replied that she has until 2013 to submit the law for parliamentary consideration.
Paquito does not give up: “There will always have to be someone to ask the questions that will prevent people from forgetting,” he says.
Elaine Diaz is a blogger, journalist, and professor at the Havana University. This article was first published in Global Voices Online on 29 September 2011 under a Creative Commons license. Cf. Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, “Wikileaks destapa proyecto LGBT de EEUU en Cuba o la naturaleza perversa de cierto dinero” (Paquito, el de CUBA, 4 September 2011, reprinted in CubaDebate, 5 September 2011).