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  1. Opinion

Cuba’s treatment of gay people is nothing to celebrate

Here’s what readers had to say in Tuesday’s letters to the editor.

Gay rights and Cuba’s bad record

Cuban HIV response saved lives | Column, Nov. 30

This column omits both Fidel Castro’s persecution of gay people over decades and Cuba’s faking of epidemic statistics. In 1964 Fidel and Raul Castro rounded up gay people and sent them to Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP), forced labor camps for those suspected of “improper conduct.” Cubans with effeminate mannerisms, what Castro called “extravagant behavior,” were interned. The 1986-1997 quarantine of HIV-positive Cubans must be considered in this context. Furthermore, claims that AIDS rates are lower in Cuba should be met with skepticism when considering the dictatorship’s failure to accurately report outbreaks.

In 1997 when dengue broke out, Castro tried to cover it up. When a doctor spoke out, he was locked up, sentenced to 8 years in prison. Amnesty International recognized Dr. Desi Mendoza as a prisoner of conscience, and he was released from prison in 1998 under condition he leave Cuba. Castro eventually recognized that there had been a dengue epidemic.

A 2012 cholera outbreak demonstrated how the Cuban public health system operates. News of the outbreak broke on June 29, 2012, thanks to reporting by journalist Calixto Martinez. He too was jailed. Thousands of Zika virus cases went unreported in 2017, according to an analysis of data on travelers to Cuba, which said “veiling them may have led to many other cases that year.” According to Avert, an NGO that provides information on HIV worldwide, “nearly 90 percent of new infections in the Caribbean in 2017 occurred in four countries — Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica.” Worse yet, prisoner of conscience Ariel Ruiz Urquiola accused the Cuban government last week of inoculating him with HIV while in its custody in 2018. Castro-ism’s track record of repressing gay people, faking health statistics and covering up epidemics is nothing to celebrate.

John Suarez, Falls Church, Va.

The writer is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

Together, we’re not alone

You can help fight loneliness | Nov. 28

Jeff Johnson offered a clarion call to communities to promote connection, volunteering and citizen engagement as an antidote to isolation and loneliness. Chair of the Florida Civic Advance, he welcomed readers to participate in its summit, “Celebrating Civic Excellence Through Engagement,” at St. Petersburg College’s Seminole Campus Dec. 12-13. We will be focusing on strategies to combat isolation, revitalize civic structures and celebrate projects connecting generations. Register at

Robert Jones, Tallahassee

The writer is secretariat of Florida Civic Advance, Florida State University.

How to keep America great

More leadership on climate change | Editorial, Dec. 2

A cyclist and vehicles negotiate heavily flooded streets as rain falls, in 2014 in Miami Beach. [LYNNE SLADKY | AP]

Many a septuagenarian haunting the halls of Congress knows well the history of this great nation. Harken back to a time when leaders of vision worked to make America great not just long enough to garner a few votes but to keep America great for generations to come. The interstate system and Hoover Dam come to mind. Pity our current leaders didn’t exercise their energy on improving the environment instead of wasting three years trying to unseat the president. Congress, do what we hired you to do: Keep America great.

Mark Campbell, St. Petersburg