Why the delayed outcry?
Posted on Sunday, 12.20.09
BLACKS IN CUBA
Why the delayed outcry?
BY NINOSKA PEREZ-CASTELLON
“All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.''
Agroup of 60 African-American leaders, influenced by Brazil's Abdias
Nascimiento, a self-proclaimed admirer of Fidel Castro, condemned racism
in Cuba. Congratulations.
One exception, Makani Themba-Nixon wants her signature removed from the
Acting on our Conscience declaration because she feels it will be
manipulated against an “important social project,'' referring to
Castro's revolution. Like most of her colleagues, she ignores Cuba's
For Cuba's blacks, the humiliation is double. They are not allowed to
stay in hotels reserved for foreigners, and the new slave masters seldom
hire them to work in their exclusive installations.
Apart from former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, a champion of good causes who
has always been at the forefront defending all Cubans, or former
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Betty Ferguson, most of the signers have
been too long under Castro's wicked spell. Former political prisoner
Luis Infante pointed out that for years, sponsored by white Cuban
exiles, black Cubans like himself have called upon the Black Caucus in
Congress, the NAACP and even Al Sharpton — to no avail. Among the
Afro-Cubans whose wrenching stories, told by white exiles for decades,
have fallen on deaf ears in this country:
Marino Boffill was a black athlete who attempted to defect by jumping
the Berlin Wall. He was brutally beaten by Germans and Cubans, then sent
back to languish for 20 years in Cuban prisons disproportionately
overflowing with blacks. To name a few, Eusebio Peñalver's stay lasted
28 years, Pastor and Reinaldo Macuran's nightmare, 25. Ignacio Cuesta
Valle, a quiet, humble soul endured 30 years.
While most of these African-American leaders were praising the Cuban
Revolution, Olegario Charlot, upon years of suffering in Castro's
prisons, died during a hunger strike claiming his only possession, a
Bible. After his tragic death, his fellow prisoners witnessed how his
decomposed body was removed with shovels before they were introduced in
the same stench-filled dungeon. Where was the outrage?
I never heard political scientist Carlos Moore or his colleagues raise
their voices for a black adolescent named Angel Pardo Mazorra, forced to
remain in prison for over two decades, nor for a farmer known as
Esturmio Mesa Shuman. No outcry in 1990 when a young black student named
Jorge Luis Antunez was sentenced to 17 years for staging a public
protest. Or in 2009 every time he and his wife Iris were brutally beaten
for demanding freedom for blacks and whites. Neither for Angel Moya, who
inside Cuba's prisons today denounces human rights abuses. Nor for his
wife Berta Soler, whose photograph has appeared in newspapers as she was
dragged by Castro's police in the streets of Havana.
No solidarity for Angela Herrera, a courageous woman who in 1990 called
for civil disobedience in Cuba. Together with her daughter Guillermina,
Angela was arrested several times. Like Martin Luther King, she also had
a dream, drowned by the thunder of African-American leaders applauding
I wonder if overwhelmed by academic matters they did not read the papers
in the spring of 2003. Even The New York Times published the story of
three young black men who attempted to escape Cuba. No one was killed or
hurt in the attempt, yet they were arrested, tried, sentenced and shot
by firing squad within 72 hours.
No indignation in the case of another black doctor, Oscar Elias Biscet,
a follower of King and Gandhi who preaches peaceful resistance and
opposes the Cuban authorities' use of a drug that ends advanced
pregnancies. He has been in prison for 10 years. He is a Christian
opposed to abortion, but then, that might not be a proper cause for
In a video posted on his web page, Moore rightly calls Fidel Castro and
his men, “white supremacists.'' Yet he excludes Raúl Castro: “with
him, things have begun to change.''
Apparently not enough, because Orlando Zapata's mother, Reina Luisa
Tamayo, cried last week when I spoke with her on the phone, as she
denounced how her son was savagely beaten in prison. And Berta Soler and
so many others, blacks and whites, are still being repressed three years
after Raúl Castro assumed power, with the same brutality as when Fidel
In his Dec. 2 column in The Miami Herald, Afro-Cubans push back, Moore
claims Enrique 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
Absence of exile support? Right-wing exile? Perfectly cruel lies.
Pardon my lack of enthusiasm for the “rushed'' awakening of those who
claim to have seen the light, yet bear a certain responsibility in
perpetuating a dictatorship through their omissions and compliance. The
“acting'' part comes 50 years too late.
Ninoska Pérez-Castellón is director of the Cuban Liberty Council.
Why the delayed outcry? – Other Views – MiamiHerald.com (20 December 2009)