Cuban police break up unauthorized LGBT rights march in Havana

©Agence France-Presse

Police swept in quickly to break up an unauthorized LGBT rights march in Havana

Havana (AFP) - Cuban police on Saturday broke up an unauthorized pro-LGBT rights march in Havana, held as an alternative to the government-sanctioned Gay Rights parade that authorities canceled earlier in the week.

To the cries of "Yes we can!" the demonstrators, several waving rainbow flags and carrying signs with slogans like "Diverse Cuba," managed to march a mere 400 meters along Havana's downtown Paseo del Prado before being dispersed by police.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists, numbering around 100, were protesting the cancellation of the parade against homophobia organized by the government's National Center for Sexual Education (Cenesex), an office under the Ministry of Health, and held for the past ten years.

The colorful parade, or "conga," used to kick off activities educating people about homophobia and transphobia that are nevertheless taking place.

At least three protesters who refused to obey orders to leave were arrested, according to AFP journalists.

Laydel Alfonso, a 31 year-old restaurant waiter who marched with his face concealed by a silver mask and waving a rainbow flag, was upset that police had broken up the march.

"I don't believe this is right because we're doing nothing wrong," he told AFP.

In a first for Cuba, where there is tight government control, the march was organized on social media.

Cenesex is led by lawmaker Mariela Castro, the daughter of former president Raul Castro, who at the age of 87 is still first secretary of the island's ruling Communist Party.

Earlier in the week Cenesex announced that the official march was cancelled due to unspecified "new tensions in the international and regional context." The office urged people to respect the official calls for unity.