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In Their Own Words, This Is What It's Actually Like for Black and Brown People in Cuba

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Billy Binion | 7.21.2021 3:09 PM

In 1979, Assata Shakur of the Black Liberation Army achieved a near-impossible feat: She escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women, where she was serving a life sentence for the first-degree murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster after a shootout on the state turnpike.

She has remained a free woman ever since, having been officially granted political asylum by Cuba in 1984, five years post-breakout.

Shakur's story serves as something of a symbol for the relationship between some American social justice movements and Cuba's authoritarian regime. Take the statement released last week by Black Lives Matter (BLM), addressing the ongoing protests in Cuba amid the government's inability to provide basic food and medicine: "Since 1962, the United States has forced pain and suffering on the people of Cuba by cutting off food, medicine and supplies," the group wrote, referring to the U.S. embargo on trade. "The people of Cuba are being punished by the U.S. government because the country has maintained its commitment to sovereignty and self-determination….Instead of international amity, respect, and goodwill, the U.S. has only instigated suffering for the country's 11 million people—of which 4 million are Black and Brown." The statement also mentioned Cuba's protection of Shakur.

It's true that U.S. trade policies have exacerbated Cuba's woes—insomuch as the communist island has been unable to reap the rewards of American capitalism. Apart from that, the "sovereignty and self-determination" of the country's government has led to mass oppression of those 11 million people, who are only equal in that they are equally starving.

But don't take it from me. "[Black Lives Matter is] using the situation in Cuba to club their own government over the head," says a 35-year-old black Cuban activist, whose identity has been redacted as he participates in the nation's first protests in more than 60 years. "What's wrong with them?"

In a conversation recorded and sent via WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging service, two Cuban demonstrators, who are both black, responded to the claim that the 4 million black and brown people of Cuba are truly free. After I reached out via an intermediary and asked them to react to BLM's statement, the clip of the two speaking to each other was sent to DADE magazine's Nicolás Jiménez, who translated and shared the transcription with Reason.

The correspondence was dispatched via encrypted messaging because Cubans cannot talk openly about the Cuban government. In fact, the conversation heavily features the two protesters going back........

© Reason.com

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