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Castro's niece in Philly for gay rights conference

| Friday, May 3, 2013, 8:39 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — The niece of Fidel Castro said on Friday during a trip to Philadelphia that she believes Cuba and the United States will have normal relations one day, but she doesn't know when.

“I wish ... I was a magician or (one of those) people who knows everything. That's not the case,” Mariela Castro said through a Spanish interpreter. But, she said, “that dream (is) going to be a reality someday.”

Castro spoke during a tour of the city's historic sites one day before she plans to attend a gay rights conference. The State Department had initially denied Castro permission to attend the event, but relented earlier this week.

Castro visited the Liberty Bell, an icon of democracy, even as critics say her family has run a repressive Communist dictatorship for decades. Her father, Raul Castro, is Cuba's president and the brother of the retired strongman.

She spoke briefly while sightseeing. Asked about the health of her uncle and father, Castro replied: “They're wonderful, and I learn a lot from their example.”

Commenting on the gay rights movement in the United States, she said, “In this election especially, they showed that they form a very important vote in American society.”

A married mother of three, Castro leads Cuba's National Center for Sex Education, which is part of the island nation's public health ministry. She is the country's most prominent gay rights activist, having trained police on relations with the LGBT community and lobbied lawmakers to legalize same-sex unions. She was elected as a deputy in Cuba's parliament in February.

On Saturday she'll speak on a panel at the gay rights summit sponsored by the nonprofit Equality Forum and receive an award from the advocacy group.

She also plans to hold a news conference on Saturday evening.

Castro took in the sights on Friday with Equality Forum executive director Malcolm Lazin and a few others.

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