Wednesday, July 24, 2024

African American Leaders Criticize Cuban Government for Human Rights Abuses

Dr. Darsi Ferrer, an imprisoned black activist, is mentioned in the statement

A group of 60 African American thinkers and artists have released a statement attacking Cuba’s human rights record as it relates to racial equality on the island and treatment of black political dissidents.  The statement, entitled Acting on Our Conscience, claims “increased violations of civil and human rights for those black activists in Cuba who dare raise their voices against the island’s racial system,” and was signed by Princeton professor Cornel West, actress Rudy Dee, and director Melvin Van Peebles among others.

While numerous groups in the United States have long criticized the Castro government for various alleged human rights abuses, the statement released by this group of African Americans may signal a shift in how liberal black elites view the Cuban government’s handling of racial issues.  Since 1959, a number of black intellectuals have praised the revolution for improving the situation of Cuba’s black population, particularly by expanding access to education and healthcare.  Fidel Castro was warmly received in Harlem during visits in 1960 and 1995, and prominent black leaders including Rev. Jesse Jackson have met with Cuban officials in the past.  Mark Sawyer, a professor of political science at UCLA and a signer of the statement, said that he and others who put their name to the document acknowledge the advances brought by the revolution to black Cubans.  But, a changing understanding of conditions on the island has resulted in a greater focus on the continuingly marginalized economic state of Cuban blacks and their visible exclusion from important leadership positions.  Mr. Sawyer points to remittances sent by Cubans living abroad – and who are predominantly white – as a contributing factor to the widening racial economic gap on the island, along with hiring practices in the tourism sector that favor white employees.

Addressing what some consider to be a prolonged silence by black leaders on the issue of racial equity in Cuba, Ron Walters, a political scientist and campaign manager for Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential bid, explained that there were concerns that “those people who were opposed to the Cuban revolution, such as white Cubans in Miami and their organizations, would take advantage of it.”  Christopher Sabatini, senior director of policy for the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, attributes the shifting view toward the Cuban government to a change in the American political climate brought about by the election of Barack Obama, saying that previously, “no human rights groups, which largely come from the left, wanted to be seen as lackeys for George W. Bush.”

LA Times Article


  1. Interesting.

  2. Didn’t the CBC go to Cuba recently and praise Castro?

  3. Economic and social disparities in Cuba are in many ways as bad today as they were before the revolution. Cuban society will have a difficult time progressing into a modern and successful state if it does not address these issues. And this is a task for Cubans as well as for Cuban officials; the latter will hopefully defer the challenge to a newer government representative of the former.