Fidel Castro has said that he was responsible for Cuba persecuting gay men in the 1960s and 70s.

The former president told Mexican newspaper La Jornada that there had been moments of “great injustice” against the gay community.

“If someone is responsible, it’s me,” he said.

He added that he did not have any personal prejudice against gays and lesbians but was trying to work out how responsible he was for the persecution.

Castro was leader of Cuba from 1959 to 2009 and believed that sexual diversity was a corrupt consequence of capitalism.

During his rule, many gay men suffered in Cuban labour camps as the regime ‘re-educated’ homosexuals to rid them of their “counter-revolutionary tendencies”.

Castro added that he had not paid enough attention to the issue of homophobia, saying: “At the time we were being sabotaged systematically, there were armed attacks against us, we had too many problems.”

Homosexual sex was partially decriminalised in Cuba in 1979 and an equal age of consent was introduced in 1992.

In the last few years, Mariela Castro, the niece of the former president and the daughter of his successor, Raul Castro, has become a campaigner for LGBT rights.

Ms Castro, the head of Cuba’s National Centre for Sex Education, has been a strong supporter of legal moves to grant equal rights to all citizens, including steps towards same-sex unions and access to gender reassignment surgery.