On Saturday's Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC, after recounting some of the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Cuban government against its citizens, host Harris-Perry praised the efforts of Fidel Castro's niece, Mariela Castro, in securing sex change surgery as one of the medical services covered by the government-run health care system of the communist country as a promising development.
Playing off on a guest last week who compared Harris-Perry to Fidel Castro for supporting more regulations, the MSNBC host declared while holding a cigar: (Video at end)
Well, it took a week, but I've decided I am Castro. What, you didn't think I'd say that?
Let me be clear. I am not saying that I'm Fidel Castro, and I'm certainly not saying I'm his brother, Raul. You can see that by the obvious gender differences and the lack of facial hair, I hope. But I am okay with you calling me "Mariela Castro," at least somewhat.
Harris-Perry recounted the lack of freedom in Cuba, and Mariela Castro's criticism of Cuban exiles who wish to keep the communist dictatorship isolated:
Now, we know that Cuba's not perfect. Far from it. In fact, Human Rights Watch notes that Cuba "remains the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent." Arbitrary detentions and short-term imprisonment are also used. In 2010, there were 2,074 arbitrary detentions by security forces. Well, between January and August 2011, there were 2,224.
And on Thursday, Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and the niece of Fidel herself referred to Cuban-Americans as a "Cuban mafia," calling them out for supporting economic and travel restrictions to her country.
But the MSNBC host then found a silver lining as she concluded:
But I do have to take at least notice when a country has a seemingly more progressive stance than ours on even one thing. And, in this case, Mariela is the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana, and has pushed for legalizing same-sex marriage.
Now, that has not yet happened, but, through her work, she has lobbied the Cuban government to cover sex reassignment surgery under the national health plan - that's right, the national health plan - and has been doing so since 2008.
So, while it's not perfect, it's a first step on Cuba's long road to fixing its wrongs when it comes to human rights. So, no, I'm not really Castro, but I can stop to take notice no matter how big or small when there' s a little progress.