Fidel Castro takes blame for persecution of Cuban gays

Fidel Castro talking to the Mexican journalist Carmen Lira, 30 August 2010 Mr Castro told Carmen Lira that he had not paid enough attention to the treatment of homosexuals

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Fidel Castro has said that he is ultimately responsible for the persecution suffered by homosexuals in Cuba after the revolution of 1959.

The former president told the Mexican newspaper La Jornada that there were moments of great injustice against the gay community.

"If someone is responsible, it's me," he said.

In the 1960s and 70s, many homosexuals in Cuba were fired, imprisoned or sent to "re-education camps".

Mr Castro said homosexuals had traditionally been discriminated in Cuba, just as black people and women.

But, nevertheless, he admits he didn't pay enough attention to what was going on against the gay community.

"At the time we were being sabotaged systematically, there were armed attacks against us, we had too many problems," said the 84-year-old Communist leader.

"Keeping one step ahead of the CIA, which was paying so many traitors, was not easy."

In 1979, homosexuality was decriminalised and, more recently, there have been efforts to legalise same-sex unions.

'At death's door'

In the interview with La Jornada, Mr Castro also spoke of the economic embargo against the island, which was imposed by the United States in 1961. He said it was just as damaging today as it was then.

"The biggest problem was always medicine and food, which is true even today," he said.

Mr Castro's comments came in the second instalment of a lengthy interview with the journalist Carmen Lira.

On Monday's instalment, he said he had been "at death's door" during the long illness which forced him to step down as Cuba's leader.

Mr Castro fell ill in 2006 and handed power to his brother Raul in 2008.

He underwent several operations for an intestinal illness.

"I asked myself several times if (the doctors) would let me live under these conditions or whether they would allow me to die," he told La Jornada.

Mr Castro led Cuba for almost 50 years after toppling the government of Fulgencio Batista in a revolution.

The Communists remain in power and Fidel Castro remains head of the Communist Party, although his brother Raul is president of the country.

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