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Castro Daughter to U.S.: Mariela Castro to Speak at LGBT Conference in Philly

Travelers Today       By    Maxine Wally

Updated: Apr 30, 2013 05:14 PM EDT

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Daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro will be allowed visitation rights to Philadelphia, to pick up an award she got for gay rights activism, following a denial from the State Department issued last Thursday.

Mariela Castro will speak at an LGBT community conference scheduled next week, sponsored by Equality Forum.

The advocacy group's executive director Malcolm Lazin said he was surprised by the news, when the United States first denied Mariela entry.

"We find it shocking that our State Department would deny freedom of speech, particularly at an international civil rights summit, to anyone, let alone the Cuban president's daughter," Lazin told the Associated Press. "She is unquestionably the leader for progressive change for the LGBT community in Cuba. Her accomplishments are nothing short of remarkable."

Mariela was given permission to attend an academic conference in San Francisco last year, just another reason why Lazin was so puzzled about her initial denial.

The State Department overturned their decision after taking a second look at her visa application.

Cuban government officials and Communist Party members are not allowed in the United States without specific permission. But now that President Obama has eased up on travel restrictions, Cuban scholars and entertainers find it's easier to come visit.

Mariela is currently the director of Cuba's National Center for Sex Education, a portion of Cuba's public health ministry. Many would call her the country's most well-known gay rights activist, due to her work in awareness campaigns, lobbies for same-sex unions and police training on LGBT community relations.

She is also niece to former leader Fidel Castro and a married mother of three.

As of last month, travel bans on trips to Cuba have waned slightly. Jay-Z and Beyonce were granted access to the country for vacation. Opposition group Ladies in White were able to receive a prize they won in 2005, after they were given permission to travel to Brussels. 

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