by Ashaki Binta for the Cuban Working Group of the Black Left Unity Network

Despite President Obama’s declaration of his administration’s desire to “seek a new beginning with Cuba” and to “learn from history, not be trapped by it” in April of last year, Cuba has remained under attack by the U.S.

In January, new U.S. air security policies included Cuba on a list of countries whose air passengers would get extra security screening as they enter U.S. territory. And Cuba remains on the State Department’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism,” notwithstanding the lack of any evidence of Cuban involvement in acts of terrorism. Cuba has vigorously protested all of these unconscionable attacks.

In fact, Cuba’s policies of internationalism have arguably been the most politically advanced in the world – from the direct military intervention to help in the defeat of Apartheid in southern Africa in 1988 (Cuito Cuanavale, Angola) to direct medical aid and solidarity with Haiti (before the earthquake). Since the earthquake, Western media has been suspiciously silent on the exceptional role Cuba has played in support of Haiti with more than 900 health care providers on the ground, the largest and most organized contingent on the island.

Yet, one of the most disturbing new attacks against Cuba occurred late last year when a host of prominent African Americans signed on to a so-called “Declaration of African American Support for the Civil Rights Struggle in Cuba.”

This misguided declaration accuses the Cuban state of racism. It cites the imprisonment of a Dr. Darsi Ferrer, an active critic of the Cuban government, as an example of racism in Cuba. Dr. Ferrer was reportedly accused of attempting to establish a private medical clinic outside of Cuba’s world-renowned medical system, by receiving illegally obtained construction materials. Whatever the case, Dr. Ferrer’s situation should immediately bring to mind the 50 year history of attempts by the U.S. to subvert the Cuban Revolution through internal dissent and direct attack harkening back to the Bay of Pigs invasion and so on.

Certainly the struggle against racism anywhere in the world is of paramount importance to all of humanity. But can this attack against Cuba under the guise of fighting racism really be justified? We think not.

Many African Americans may not know about some of the unique features of Cuban history even though African Americans and Cubans have a deeply rooted history of solidarity with each other.

For example, during Cuba’s first War for Independence from Spain in 1868, plantation and slave owner Carlos Manual de Cespedes freed and armed the slaves on his plantation and called on them to join the struggle for Cuba’s independence. Afro-Cuban Gen. Antoneo Maceo emerged as one of Cuba’s most renowned revolutionary leaders of all time. As a result of this struggle, slavery was abolished in Cuba by 1886.

What a contrast to U.S. history, where the maintenance of slavery was a pre-condition of unity between the colonies in the American fight for independence from Britain. Although more than 5,000 Blacks fought in the American Revolution, legalized slavery continued for nearly another 100 years.

And the U.S. has historically played a role in maintaining racism in Cuba. The U.S. intervention and occupation of Cuba starting in 1898 during Cuba’s second War for Independence (1895), where more than half the fighters were Black, re-established institutional racism in Cuba. Under the intermittent U.S. occupations there, Afro-Cubans and women, as well as the poor, were barred from voting, holding elective office, owning businesses, land etc. Sound familiar?

Most Cuban historians and scholars agree that the Cuban Socialist Revolution in 1959 abolished legalized institutional racism in Cuba. Cuba’s revolutionary constitution outlawed racial discrimination while open and public debate and education since the revolution have tackled Cuba’s history as an Afro-Cuban nation. However, the legacy of 500 years of slavery, racism and all forms of discrimination is difficult to completely eradicate in just 50 years, especially while also under the U.S. led attacks and blockade against Cuba.

Even so, the conditions of all Cubans have improved under the covenant of the socialist revolution in Cuba, which has provided free education, free health care, land for poor farmers, reduced cost rent and utilities, the elimination of unemployment and so on.

Racism, institutionalized or otherwise, has not been abolished any place in the world. Yet Cuba, in our view, remains a hopeful beacon in the Western Hemisphere that humane societies can be constructed that provide the basis for the elimination of all forms of discrimination, exploitation and oppression.

You may contact the working group at Documents from the Cuba Working Group may be viewed at


  1. Enjoyed the well balanced glimpse into the racial history of Cuban society.We’ve been there every year since 2005 and have thoroughly enjoyed the people: educated,honest and warm ; the safest country in the Americas,sauf Canada.A good book on Cuba that is readily available is Richard Gott’s : Cuba A New History.Also The Cuba Reader.Keep up the good work to put light on the subject, Yours,Maurice

  2. In your own words, you make a serious mistake by acussing prominent African Americans as intruments of the US foreign policy in Cuba.
    You wrote:

    “Yet, one of the most disturbing new attacks against Cuba occurred late last year when a host of prominent African Americans signed on to a so-called “Declaration of African American Support for the Civil Rights Struggle in Cuba.”

    Also please notice that the declaration was against CIVIL RIGHTS, equally violated by the Cuban Goverment regardless of race.

    Please get your hands in a copy of the Cuban Constitution and compare the description in that document of the letter of the Law with the actual implementation of it. Afterwards, see if you can justify the present condition of the average Cuban citizen.

  3. Any budy can swim out of the water. you need to be in cuba to andertains the rality there. you mention the politic from USA againts Cuba why you not do that backward to. Misil crisis, IRA, ETA, FAR of colombia, Moles in the pentagon working for Cuba(Ana Velen Gonzalez)And yes it is a lot of discrimination in Cuba toward the Black’s in the goverman, I am WHite Cuban and I can really talk abouth that. Cuba is not the paradise of equality that it sell to the media. on the contrary Cuban people we DO NOT discriminated each ether for the color of the skin we see the people for what it is no for how he looks, but the Goverman is a diferent story. before Juan Almeida Bosques pass away, for 20 years only being 2 Afro-Cubans in the hight levels of the state the other one and the only one remains is Estevan Lazo.

  4. A sound article – i have been in Cuba many times and it is very true that the US (indeed the English language) media spreads big lies about Cuba day by day – as Salvador Allende commented way back in 1961 – most of the accusations of civil rights violations in Cuba are rubbish, and little more than pretexts for the ongoing US policy of intervention – Cubans participate in their society, including their elections and their policy making, at a very high rate. For example, the 2008 change to the retirement age was discussed very widely, for at least six months, returning many amendments, before the National Assembly proceeded with it. Most people in the English speaking world have little idea of these processes.

  5. Unfortunately, all those “benefits” of the Cuban revolution are pretty much tainted by reality. Not the reality of Americans “offering” their solidarity, but that of the regular Cuban.

    And, yes, in the reality of the regular Cubans racism is a constant. Solidarian Americans do not feel it, see it or even notice it. They simply cannot! And they simply would not understand why they can’t.

    Certainly, media distort this reality, too. It is extremely infrequent to see a bit of information which actually reflects reality as it is. Say, your own article, as well crafted as it is, denies reality by hiding the facts of daily life in Cuba, i.e, being black walking down Habana Vieja is not a walk in the clouds. The “land” given to farmers carries too many restrictions as for them to be able to produce anything at all, either.

    Recent statements by Raul Castro support your idea: 50 years are not enough, looks like! How many then?

  6. Juan Carlos, or you're really a brainless alienated guy by the propaganda or you're simply stupid.

    I love (I hate it) how your media manipulate all majorities in USA and a buch of biggest countries, and how the paid "dissidents" does live talking shit about Cuba just because they have emigrated. When you just doesn't take count of the different treat to other emigrants.

    Simply showing how Mexico (my natal country) has a good relationship with USA but we have a paramilitar goverment with the army in the streets ready for suppress any popular insurgency, but meanwhile, as a plus, they're are eliminating Chapo's Guzman competence.

    Yeah, but Cuba isn't selling his people to transnationals and desn't has the same geopolitical iterests.

    That's the fucking capitalist and occidental doble moral.

    And you are too busy being "morally superior" for take count of that.

  7. i live in cuba. i´m white. married with a black woman.
    it ´s true that since the fall of the soviet union (our biggest political-comertial partner in that time) some racist manifestation can be seen in cuba. since the nineties to this time the mayority of the films watched in cuban televition are from US. An does films and tv shows are very racists. so, maybe is that…

    However, in Cuba you never can´t see a policeman shoot and kill a black person and go away with that.

    in the US black people are african-american, and white people are americans. in cuba black people are cubans, and white people are cubans. do you see the diference?

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