Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Cuba Approves
Free Sex-Change Operations

Cuba has
authorized sex-change operations and will offer them free
for qualifying citizens, an official said Friday.

The move is the
latest in a series of changes implemented by President
Raul Castro since he succeeded his elder brother, Fidel, in

Raul Castro's
daughter, Mariela, heads Cuba's National Center for Sex
Education, which strongly backs the new policy.

Health Minister
Jose Ramon Balaguer signed a resolution approving
sex-change surgery, according to an official at the
center who spoke on condition of anonymity because the
measure has not been formally published. The
resolution will be posted on the Internet on Saturday, the
official said.

The procedure
would be available to Cubans for free as part of their
country's health care system.

The sex education
center has said previously that 28 transsexual Cubans
have asked to undergo the surgery and that Cuban doctors
have trained with physicians from Belgium to prepare
for the procedures.

According to the
center, a clinic for transsexual health will be created
to perform the procedures, but it was not clear when it will
start operating.

Cuba carried out
a successful sex-change operation in 1988, but future
surgeries were canceled because it sparked a negative public

Since becoming
Cuba's first new president in 49 years, the younger Castro
has done away with bans that kept most Cubans from owning
cell phones in their own names and renting hotel rooms
and cars. His government also has decentralized the
floundering state agricultural sector, raised pensions
for retirees, and hiked salaries for some state employees,
among other changes. (Will Weissert AP)

Tags: Health, Health

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