Fidel Castro’s niece, Mariela Castro, has hailed President Obama for his endorsement of equal marriage, and said that if she were a US citizen, she would vote for him.

Ms Castro, who is the daughter of President Raul Castro, has been in the US for an academic conference on Latin America, and her visit has been denounced by Republicans, including the presumptive presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

Known for her steadfast manner, and her strong support for gay and trans rights in Cuba, Ms Castro said of Mr Obama’s endorsement of equal marriage: “I think he’s sincere and speaks from the heart,” adding, “I think it’s something that he truly believes in… If I were a US citizen, I would vote for President Obama.”

Speaking at a local gay rights centre in San Francisco, she also blamed a “small group of delinquents” in making it difficult for US and Cuba to bridge their diplomatic divisions, which have existed ever since Fidel Castro seized power more than five decades ago.

“We have a lot in common,” Ms Castro said, surrounded by several bodyguards, adding: “Don’t let them pull us apart.”

She also said that the current legal reforms in Cuba were backed by her father and her uncle, who were won over by her late mother, who, according to her, was committed to LGBT rights.

Not everyone in the LGBT community is happy about the visit, however. Several gay Cuban-Americans have condemned the visit as saying it promotes a particularly revisionist version of LGBT history in Cuba, and that the treatment meted out to them until recent was unduly harsh.

Ms Castro, a well-known sexologist, will lead another conference on sexual politics in San Francisco today, and will visit the New York Public Library next week for a conference on international gay rights.