Yesterday in Madrid a two-day discussion on homosexuality in Cuba and the repression that sexual minorities had undergone because of the island’s communist regime began.

Sexual diversity was seen by Fidel Castro as a corrupt consequence of capitalism.

Posters for the conference bore Che Guevara’s well-known picture along with the rainbow colours of the gay Pride flag.

Writer Zoe Valdes believes this “would have greatly irritated” Che.

“Che and his ideal of the new man was the ideal of the macho man, which rejects everything that has gathered us here,” Valdes said.

“In explaining Cuba’s recent history it is important to remember that behind a political issue there’s a sexual issue,” said said, including the repressed homosexuality of regime leaders.

She spoke about the ‘love’ that Alfredo Guevara, Cuban Film Institute founder, felt for Fidel Castro:

“He waited like a girlfriend every December 31st for Fidel to call him and wish him a happy birthday.”

Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, who has been Cuba’s acting president since Fidel fell ill in July 2006, has been accused of being a closeted homosexual.

Poet Leon de la Hoz said that many people on the island refer to him as “the little Chinese man with the sad eyes,” a reference to his supposed repressed homosexuality.

The two-day discussion began with presentations about Cuban poet Jose Mario, an important 20th Century figure in the country, who suffered in Cuban labour camps as Castro’s regime ‘re-educated’ homosexuals.

Gays were incarcerated in Military Units to Aid Production (UMAPs) between 1965 and 1968.

Castro believed that hard work would rid the men of their counter-revolutionary tendancies.

Writer Jacobo Machover said the at the entrance of the camp there was a sign which said “work shall make you men”, similar to the motto of the Nazi concentration camps, “work shall set you free.”

Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela, told EFE last year she would “enrich the Cuban Revolution” with her fight for the equality of the sexes and gay rights.

The 45-year-old psychologist is the National Sex Education Centre director since 2000.

Recently, she has been campaigning in defence of LGBT rights in Cuba, a task she describes as difficult due to the patriarchal society she lives in.

“I’m deeply sorry about what occurred in my country, about what occurred in the revolution, when the revolution has had a very strong orientation towards humanism,” she said.

The Madrid event was organised by Colegas , the Spanish LGBT Federation, and took place in the city’s Casa de la America.