Thursday, December 03, 2009


(Fuente: The Miami Herald - 12/02/2009)

(NOTA: Vea, por favor, los enlaces a 4 artículos asociados abajo.)

The Cuban government must confront a legacy of discrimination against black Cubans on the island, a group of prominent African Americans charged.



A group of prominent African Americans, traditionally sympathetic to the Cuban revolution, have for the first time condemned Cuba, demanding Havana stop its ``callo
us disregard'' for black Cubans and declaring that ``racism in Cuba . . . must be confronted.''

"We know first-hand the experiences and consequences of denying civil freedoms on the basis of race,'' the group declared in a statement. ``For that reason, we are even more obligated to voice our opinion on what is happening to our Cuban brethren.''

Among the 60 signers were Princeton professor Cornel West, actress Ruby Dee Davis, film director Melvin Van Peebles, former South Florida congresswoman Carrie Meek, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of President Barack Obama's church in Chicago, and Susan Taylor, former editor in chief of Essence magazine.

The declaration, issued Monday, adds powerful new voices to the chorus pushing for change on the island, where Afro-Cubans make up at least 62 percent of the 11.4 million people yet are only thinly represented in the top leadership, scientific, academic and other ranks.

"This is historic,'' said Enrique Patterson, an Afro-Cuban Miami author. Although predominantly white Cuban exiles ``tried to approach these people before, they lacked credibility. Now [African Americans] are listening.''

A news release accompanying the statement acknowledged that "traditionally African Americans have sided with the Castro regime and condemned the United States' policies, which explicitly work to topple the Cuban government.''

But more African Americans traveling to Cuba have been able "to see the situation for themselves,'' said David Covin, one of the statement's organizers and former president of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists.

The growing number of Afro-Cuban activists complaining about racial discrimination and casting their struggle as an issue of "civil rights,'' rather than "human rights,'' has helped to draw the attention of African Americans, said Victoria Ruiz-Labrit, Miami spokesperson for the Cuba-based Citizens' Committee for Racial Integration.

"The human rights issue did not make a point of the race issue, and now we have an evolution,'' she added.

"Cuban blacks moved closer to the term 'civil rights' because those are the rights that the movement here in the U.S. made a point of -- the race issues.''

Alberto González, spokesman for Cuba's diplomatic mission in Washington, said it was "absurd'' to accuse of racism a Cuban government that "has done more for black Cubans than any other in all areas, including health, education and welfare.''

The African Americans' statement was "part of a campaign of subversion against Cuba,'' he added, designed to impact the administration of the first African-American president of the United States."

The four-page statement demands that Raúl Castro end "the unwarranted and brutal harassment of black citizens in Cuba who are defending their civil rights. . . . We cannot be silent in the face of increased violations of civil and human rights for those black activists in Cuba who dare raise their voices against the island's racial system.''

The statement also demanded the immediate release of Darsi Ferrer, a well-known Afro-Cuban physician and activist jailed since July while under investigation on charges of illegal possession of two sacks of cement. The statement called Ferrer a political prisoner.

While the African American signers support Cuba's right to sovereignty "and unhesitatingly repudiate any attempt at curtailing such a right,'' the statement added they ``cannot sit idly by and allow for peaceful, dedicated civil rights activists in Cuba, and the black population as a whole, to be treated with callous disregard.''

"Racism in Cuba, and anywhere else in the world, is unacceptable and must be confronted,'' their statement declared.

A "briefing sheet'' issued with the statement noted that Afro-Cubans make up 85 percent of the prison population and 60 of the 200 political prisoners, but only 20 percent of the Havana University professors.


The statement was largely driven by Carlos Moore, a highly regarded Cuban author and black rights activist living in Brazil who has long criticized racial discrimination in Cuba.

Moore persuaded Abdias Nascimiento, a founder of Brazil's black movement and longtime Castro supporter, to send Raúl Castro a letter earlier this year denouncing racism in Cuba, then appealed to friends and contacts in the African-American community to add their support.
Jamaican-Nigerian author Lindsay Barret, who confessed he had been "an almost uncritical supporter'' of the Cuban government, also added his voice to the chorus of attacks on Cuba with a column he wrote for Nigeria's The Sun newspaper.

"It is . . . both disappointing and distressing for me at this point to have to acknowledge that . . . Carlos Moore's challenging assertions are beginning to ring true fifty years after we allowed ourselves to be enchanted by the glamour and courage of the Cuban insurgency,'' Barret wrote.

Read the press release
Read the declaration of African-American support
Read Cuba racial demographics
Read the open letter from Abdias Nascimento

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