Cuba approves sex change operations

HAVANA, June 6 (Reuters) - Cuba, in the latest change since President Raul Castro took office in February, has allowed doctors to perform sex change operations, a specialist at the National Center for Sex Education said on Friday.

Center director Mariela Castro, the president's daughter, has pushed for the operations and said that at least 28 people in the country of 11 million want the surgery.

The specialist, who asked not to be named, said the Public Health Ministry approved the surgery this week. Cuba's health care system will perform it free of charge.

A sex change operation took place in Cuba in 1988. But there was so much opposition to it that the health ministry canceled the program, Mariela Castro said last month.

She said Cuban doctors were training with Belgian surgeons to prepare for the operations. It was not known when they would begin.

Since succeeding his brother Fidel Castro as president, Raul Castro has opened up a national debate on issues facing Cuba and taken steps to modernize the state-run economy.

Cubans can now buy computers, DVD players and mobile phones. But few people can afford them. (Reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes and Nelson Acosta; Editing by Jeff Franks and Xavier Briand)