On January 7, 1999, Randall Robinson, the president of the Washington, DC-based TransAfrica Forum, had a 2½-hour meeting with Cuban tyrant Fidel Castro. Mr. Robinson was accompanied by a delegation of prominent attorneys and scholars and actor Danny Glover. The delegation denounced the US embargo and its effects particularly on the “Afro-Cuban” population. Mr. Robinson stated that it was, “simply unacceptable.”

I find it impossible to understand why Mr. Robinson and TransAfrica, who played a pivotal role in the elimination of the inhumane apartheid regime in South Africa and of Raul Cedras in Haiti, is in apparent total ignorance about Castro’s apartheid. Cubans are not allowed in places open to foreign visitors or tourists. Cubans, except those part of Castro’s ruling elite, are not allowed to participate with foreigners in business ventures. They are not allowed to prosper and make money. Castro is practicing a grand apartheid - not directed against a particular race - but to all ordinary citizens.

In Cuba today, where blacks and mulattos are the majority, has Mr. Robinson’s TransAfrica noticed that the ruling elite is 100% white? Castro has made things worse for black Cubans, especially when you consider that Batista was mulatto as were members of his dictatorial regime.

In the pre-Castro Cuba of my youth, my first private school teacher (who owned the school) was black. All of the schools I went to, private and public were racially mixed. I was used to seeing blacks as neighbors as well as maids, chauffeurs, farmers, teachers, merchants, doctors, lawyers, reporters, newspaper editors, politicians, president and dictator.

If Mr. Robinson and TransAfrica are choosing to listen and believe Castro’s propaganda and ignore the facts, they cannot uncover the real ongoing tragedy. Unless, of course, their sympathies lie with the Marxist regimes, even though they have proven to be failures and lethal for human rights.

Another fact apparently ignored by the delegation is that Cubans have always been just “Cubans”, no matter their ancestry of long ago. My ancestors came from Spain. But the subsequent descendants where all born in Cuba, therefore, we do not call ourselves “Spanish-Cubans”. We were just Cubans. And those descended from the XVI century African slaves never called themselves “Afro-Cuban,” but were also just Cubans. Now, in order to be “politically correct” they have to be separated from the rest of the Cubans and classified as “Afro-Cuban”?

We did have a religion - Santeria - defined as an Afro-Cuban religion and of course Afro-Cuban rhythms and music. The “Afro-“ was there for descriptive purposes. Cubans: black, yellow or whatever, are Cubans and nothing else, therefore I resent TransAfrica’s imposition of their own US conventions. Cubans like equality not division.

The US embargo has not discriminated against any group of Cubans; Castro is the one who placed an embargo against the Cuban population since 1959 and has single handedly ruined a once prosperous country.

How can the US embargo be of greater hardship for Cubans of African descent than for others? The one who has been controlling who gets what in Cuba for 40 years is Castro. If Mr. Robinson’s TransAfrica was really interested in helping blacks eliminate Cuba’s type of apartheid and discrimination, they should do as they did in South Africa and Haiti. However, so far they have been doing the opposite.

There are all kinds of US products for sale in Cuba today, from Kellogg’s cereal to GE refrigerators. But Castro allows their sale in US dollars only. Cubans are finding an increasing number of goods for sale only for US dollars. In order to survive in Castro’s Cuba you need that currency. Doesn’t it seem odd to Mr. Robinson and TransAfrica that foreign companies are paying Castro in US dollars for the worker’s labor while he pays them in worthless Cuban pesos? And the products the workers need are available only in US dollars?

That’s why the exiled Cubans in the US and other countries have been forced to send millions of US dollars to help their relatives in Cuba, all of which ends up in Castro’s hands. The exile’s dollars are even more profitable for Castro than the tourist industry.

I have not seen Mr. Robinson and TransAfrica denouncing the institutional violation of human rights in Cuba or the overcrowded prisons harboring a majority of blacks. There are many blacks involved in the clandestine dissident and independent journalist movement in Cuba who suffer harassment, threats, incarceration and torture by the white Castro regime, but you don’t hear Mr. Robinson and TransAfrica protesting.

Castro has caused 97,000 deaths. Among them many blacks have been executed and others died while in prison or trying to escape, but where is the public outrage for those crimes from Mr. Robinson and TransAfrica?

It is preposterous to imply that the US embargo has particularly harmed Cubans of African ancestry. Mr. Robinson and the TransAfrica Forum, get your facts straight or stop meddling in Cuban affairs. Thanks but no thanks.


Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton

Agustin Blazquez
Producer/Director of the documentary COVERING CUBA
email: Jaums100@hotmail.com

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