Sixty prominent African-Americans signed a four-page declaration to the Cuban government, calling on Havana to confront racism and demanding that President Raúl Castro end “the unwarranted and brutal harassment of black citizens in Cuba who are defending their civil rights.” The “Statement of Conscience by African-Americans” also petitioned for the immediate release of Darsi Ferrer, a well-known Afro-Cuban physician and civil-rights activist, who has been in jail since July while under investigation for the illegal possession of two sacks of cement.
Signatories to the declaration include Princeton professor Cornel West, actress Ruby Dee Davis, and former congresswoman Carrie Meek. Afro-Cuban author Enrique Patterson called the declaration “historic.”
Alberto González, spokesman for Cuba’s diplomatic mission in Washington, called the accusations against the Cuban government “absurd” and accused the declaration of being “part of a campaign of subversion against Cuba.”
Afro-Cubans make up at least 62 percent of the 11.4 million people in the country, but are not adequately represented in Cuba’s science, academic and leadership ranks. Victoria Ruiz-Labrit of the Cuba-based Citizens’ Committee for Racial Integration estimates that 70 percent of Afro-Cubans are unemployed and a briefing statement included with the declaration noted that Afro-Cubans make up approximately 85 percent of the country’s prison population.