HAVANA - The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro assured journalists Thursday that she is alive and well, contradicting reports that she had been onboard the Air Algerie plane that went missing in Mali.
Mariela Castro, a sexologist and gay-rights activist, said she had been told there was another passenger of the same name aboard flight AH5017, which disappeared 50 minutes after takeoff from Burkina Faso and is feared to have crashed.
"From what I learned from a journalist friend, it seems there was a Mariela Castro on the (passenger) list, but with a Spanish passport," she said in Havana.
"I've found other Mariela Castros on the Internet. But one of them has the second last name Espin, which is me," said Castro.
"Unfortunately there was a passenger by that name and it seems that, without confirming the objectivity of the news, (some journalists) rushed to create a media spectacle over something that wasn't so important. The most important thing is the number of victims of these recent air accidents." The 51-year-old spoke at Havana's National Hotel, where she was attending a scientific seminar organised by the National Center for Sex Education, which she directs.
Castro, who is also the niece of Cuban Revolution leader Fidel, said she had received calls from "many people" worried by the reports," which were widespread in Latin American media.
"It seems horrible to me that truly important, troubling news for international public opinion doesn't travel around the world as quickly as this false report. I don't think my death is as important as those of so many people who are dying in so many parts of the world with violent conflicts and other unjust situations," she said.
Castro, who is married to an Italian photographer and has three children, is the second of Raul Castro's four children with Vilma Espin, who died in 2007.