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Afro-Cubans push back

Posted on Wednesday, 12.02.09
Afro-Cubans push back
BY CARLOS MOORE
carlosmoore2000@gmail.com

In a landmark “Statement of Conscience by African Americans,'' 60
prominent black American scholars, artists and professionals have
condemned the Cuban regime's apparent crackdown on the country's budding
civil-rights movement.

“Racism in Cuba, and anywhere else in the world, is unacceptable and
must be confronted,'' said the document, which also called for the
immediate release of Dr. Darsi Ferrer, a black civil-rights leader
imprisoned in July.

The U.S. State Department estimates Afro-Cubans make up 62 percent of
the Cuban population, with many informed observers saying the figure is
closer to 70 percent. Traditionally, African Americans have sided with
the Castro regime and unilaterally condemned the United States, which,
in the past, explicitly sought to topple the Cuban government. But this
public rebuke of Castro's racial policies may well indicate a tide
change and a more-balanced attitude.

Representing a wide spectrum of political opinion, the document was
signed by Cornel West, Princeton University scholar; Ruby Dee, famed
actress; Susan Taylor, former Essence magazine editor and current
president of the National CARES Mentoring Movement; Julianne Malveaux,
Bennett College president; Claudia Mitchell-Kernan, UCLA vice
chancellor; the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor emeritus of Chicago's
Trinity Church; retired U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek; Kathleen Cleaver, former
Black Panther activist; Ron Walters, former presidential campaign
manager for Jesse Jackson and current director of the African American
Leadership Institute; movie director Melvin Van Peebles; and Betty
Ferguson, former Miami-Dade County commissioner.

Deepening inequalities

What could have caused that reversal? Changing demographics in America
and the election of a black U.S. president seem to have spurred
African-American curiosity about the fate of Afro-Latins south of the
border. Through that process, many U.S. blacks have realized that
Castro, once admired for thumbing his nose at America, is now an
82-year-old dictator struggling to prolong five decades of absolute
power through terror and policies that deepen racial inequalities in Cuba.

Victoria Ruiz, U.S. representative of the islandwide civil-rights group,
Citizens Committee for Racial Integration, says Cuba's black movement —
vigorously suppressed in the 1960s, at the early stage of the revolution
– was resurrected in the 1990s. She complains that young, black Cubans
suffer aggressive racial profiling by police. She claims that about 70
percent of Afro-Cubans are believed to be unemployed, a staggering
figure by any standard. And 85 percent of Cuba`s jail population
is estimated to be black, Ruiz reports.

Representing 25-odd different groups, black dissidents in Cuba argue
that racial disparities on the island are worsened by the Obama
administration's recent decision to allow Cuban Americans to freely send
remittances (worth an estimated $1.5 billion yearly) to their relatives.
More than 85 percent of Cuban Americans are white, they say, so the
beneficiaries in Cuba of the new remittances policy will also be white.
“These remittances could morph into start-up investment capital for its
recipients, thus creating a de facto new race-class inside of Cuba,''
says Enrique Patterson, U.S. spokesman for the Progressive Circle Party,
a major multiracial, black-led dissident group.

Clearly, Cuba's black-led, multiracial opposition movement is an open
embarrassment to the Castro regime. But it is also a disquieting
development for the traditionally right-wing, anti-Castro organizations
around the world that have long claimed to be the heralds of the battle
for “freedom and democracy'' in Cuba. Taken by surprise by this new and
apparently growing opposition force in the island, many white exiles are
exhibiting confusion and frustration. When not openly hostile, the
right-wing representatives of the predominantly white Cuban-American
exile community seem unsure how to respond.

Cuba's new opposition has made no moves to elicit their support either,
said Ruiz, whose Citizens Committee for Racial Integration, a
multiracial organization, is led by the moderate black intellectual Juan
Madrazo Luna. The Progressive Circle Party, another large dissident
movement led by Afro-Cuban academic Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a
self-identified Social Democrat, has shown no inclinations it desires
such support either.

Patterson believes that it may very well be the absence of right-wing
exile support for these social-democratic oriented and multiracial
movements that now spurs African Americans to rush to their defense.
“Therefore, the time has come for Washington to directly engage the
island's majority about matters that will affect bilateral relations in
the future,'' he said.

Carlos Moore, ethnologist and political scientist, is author of Pichón:
Race and Revolution in Castro's Cuba.
Afro-Cubans push back – Other Views – MiamiHerald.com (2 December 2009)
http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/other-views/story/1360980.html

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