September 1, 1999

Havana, August 25, 1999

Congressperson Maxine Waters, President

Black Caucus, United States Congress

Congresspersons, Members of the Black Caucus

I am writing prompted by your recent visit to our country and the impression you may have had about the liberties of Black people in Cuba. I would respectfully like to suggest that you were not allowed to observe the full reality of Black people's life in Cuba.

Blacks in Cuba are routinely deprived of their basic rights: Freedom of expression, of assembly, and other fundamental human rights are routinely denied by the State.

Eighty percent of the penal population is of Black extraction, incarcerated without the minimum procedural guarantees by the system of justice.

Ninety percent of the Black population lives in substandard conditions in decrepit buildings or in improvised lodgings, in unsanitary conditions and under constant threat of eviction.

Blacks have been systematically denied jobs in tourism, in the dollar stores and in other well-compensated fields, and they haven't been well-accepted in leadership positions.

The opportunities available to Blacks in the government are null, with the exception of a few tokens placed there to foster an image of racial tolerance.

Blacks are also at an economic disadvantage in the dollar economy, since relatively few Blacks have relatives abroad to send them hard currency. The bulk of Cuban emigration has been White.

The majority of Cubans are either Black or of Black extraction, and so are those of us who are struggling for the reestablishment of democracy and for the rule of law. Black and White together, we have been driven to engage in civil disobedience to propitiate the conditions for a transition in the political system. We have tried to obtain the government's cooperation to work toward a national understanding and we have been ignored, persecuted and jailed.

In this we have been inspired by the struggle for civil rights of Blacks in your country and by the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am convinced that the Cuban government did not allow you the opportunity to appreciate fully the Cuban reality. I would respectfully ask you to keep this in mind when it comes time to analyze, or take a decision concerning, the situation in our country.

In Cuba, Blacks are doubly discriminated against: by virtue of their Cuban citizenship and by the color of their skin.

Very truly yours,

William E. Herrera Díaz, President
José Martí Civic League

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