Political Prisoners of the Empire  MIAMI 5      



Havana.  April 7, 2009


Reflections of Fidel
The seven Congress members
who are visiting us

AN important US political delegation is visiting us right now. Its members belong to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) which, in practice, has functioned as the most progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

The Congressional Black Caucus was founded in January 1969 by the 12 African-American legislators who were members of the U.S. Congress at that moment. During the first 50 years of the 20th century only four African Americans were elected to Congress.

Presently, as a result of the struggles they have waged, the CBC has 42 members. Several of its representatives have maintained very active and constructive positions on Cuba-related topics.

The first Caucus delegation visited us in February 1999 and was headed by Maxine Waters; the second came in January 2000.

Influential members of that Congressional group publicly expressed their positions and carried out other positive actions during the battle for the return of young Elián to his homeland.

In May 2000, another Caucus delegation visited us. It was presided over by the then Caucus President James Clyburn, from North Carolina, and was made up of Bennie Thompson from Mississippi and Gregory Meeks from New York. These congressmen were the first to learn from me of Cuba’s disposition to grant a number of scholarships to low-income youths, to be selected by the Congressional Black Caucus, so that they could come to Cuba and study medicine. We made a similar offer to the "Pastors for Peace" NGO, which is presided over by Reverend Lucius Walker, who sent the first students to the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM).

When the anti-Cuban pressures and activities of the Bush administration were intensified with respect to travel and the presence in Cuba of persons under U.S. jurisdiction, Black Caucus legislators addressed Secretary of State Colin Powell and managed to secure a license that legally allowed American youths to continue their medical studies – which they had already begun – in Cuba.

Powell, a military chief of great authority and prestige, could possibly have become the first black president of the United States, but he turned down the nomination out of respect for his family who, on account of the assassination of Martin Luther King, strongly opposed his nomination.

The Black Caucus delegation visiting Cuba this time is headed by Barbara Lee, the representative of the state of California. She first traveled to Cuba accompanying the then black Congressman Ronald Dellums. She was his assistant and afterwards occupied his seat when he retired. On that occasion I had the honor of meeting her and admiring her combative spirit and capacity for struggle.

The group she is presiding over right now is made up by seven members of Congress. The other members of the delegation are: Melvin Luther Watt, from North Carolina; Michael Makoto Honda, from California; Laura Richardson, also from California; Bobby Rush, from Illinois; Marcia L. Fudge, from Ohio; and Emanuel Cleaver II, from Missouri.

Patrice Willoughby, executive assistant of the Congressional Black Caucus, plus four military personnel from the Congressional Liaison Office under the orders of Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Wolf, are accompanying the delegation.

I value the gesture of this legislative group. They have been strictly adhering to the program they requested. The aura of Luther King is accompanying them. Our press has given broad coverage of their visit. They are exceptional witnesses to the respect that U.S. citizens visiting our homeland always receive. It is unlikely that they have seen any face displaying a look of hatred, and perhaps they admire the total absence of illiterate people or children shining shoes on the streets. The swarms of children, teenagers and youths attending schools and universities; the day-care centers, senior citizens homes, hospitals and polyclinics run by highly skilled medical staff offering assistance to all citizens will not be lost to a critical eye. In the midst of this international economic crisis there are no citizens queuing in search of jobs. People walking through the streets, active and almost always happy, do not conform to the stereotyped images of Cuba that are often shown abroad.

Our homeland demonstrates that a small Third World country, which has been besieged, attacked and blockaded for decades, can bear its poverty with dignity. Many citizens in the world’s richest nation do not receive the same kind of treatment and a considerable number of them do not even vote. However, that right is exercised by more than 90% of our population, who know how to read and write and who have acquired a significant level of culture and political knowledge.

Within the delegation, there are opinions which are shared by all; others are personal points of view. Generally speaking, its members believe that 68% of the U.S. population favors a change of policy toward Cuba.

One of them expressed the need to take advantage of this historical moment, when the presence of an African-American president in the White House coincides with a current of opinion that favors the normalization of relations.

When Alarcón commented that removing Cuba from the list of terrorist states –on which it is arbitrarily included – was a moral duty, he was reminded that both Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress were labeled as terrorists by the U.S. Congress.

Another member of the delegation thanked the Cuban authorities and the presidency of the Black Caucus for organizing the trip and maintaining this kind of exchange.

Another representative explained Obama’s tremendous significance for the United States and the need for him to be reelected. He said that the president sees himself as a political leader who should govern all social sectors of the country. Nevertheless, he said he was sure that Obama would change Cuba policy, but that Cuba should also help him.

A fourth member of the Caucus said that despite Obama’s electoral victory, U.S. society is still racist. He added that Obama represents the only opportunity that nation has to move forward and leave behind all the wrongdoings accumulated by former governments. He said that the president cannot go beyond lifting travel restrictions and allowing remittances by Cuban-Americans, because announcing an end to the blockade or the full normalization of bilateral relations would mean that he would never be reelected. He also confirmed that the anti-Cuban right wing still has enough power to attack him and prevent his reelection.

Finally, speaking frankly during a visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, another legislator stated that the United States should not waste the opportunity of acknowledging that its Cuba policy has been a total failure. He added that his government should apologize to Cuba for all these years of hostility and for the blockade, because only then will we be in a position to move on together towards resolving the bilateral dispute. He affirmed that he would do whatever is possible to eliminate the blockade.

During a visit to the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Center, one CBC member, expressing the sentiments of the others, described Cuba’s results in the field of biotechnology as "excellent," and said that, at this moment in time, the political atmosphere was favorable for building bridges of understanding and communication between the scientific communities of our respective countries. He recommended that we should be careful to patent everything, in line with international copyright standards, to prevent us being robbed of the efforts that led to such wonderful work.

All of them expressed how greatly impressed they were during the visit to the center, where the minister of science, technology and the environment, together with the directors of several scientific institutions, explained to them the work being undertaken by our country in that field.

The main activity on April 4, the day that marked the 41st anniversary of the death of the human rights martyr, was a visit to the park in the Cuban capital named after Martin Luther King, where there is a black-veined dark green marble monolith bearing the bronze embossed image of the great black combatant who was assassinated by racists. Barbara Lee, Laura Richardson, Emanuel Cleaver II and Bobby Rush spoke at the event. The four of them publicly emphasized the positive impact of the meetings they had had.

Yesterday Sunday, at 13:20, Congresswoman Barbara Lee arrived at the Ebenezer Church of the Martin Luther King Center’s Ebenezer Church, where she was welcomed by Raúl Suárez and other leaders of the Cuban National Council of Churches. Also present were Alarcón and other officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Prior to that, Barbara visited two other churches in Vedado. She addressed the congregations, reiterating certain previous public statements and stating her intention to take certain steps with the administration in order to promote a change in Cuba policy and the reactivation of exchanges between the churches of both countries.

I have summarized the exchanges that have taken place. I have been careful not to disclose the names of those who have made certain statements, because I do not know whether they are interested in making them public.

I simply wished to offer the necessary details so that our population may have as much information as possible on the sensitive subject of relations between Cuba and the United States under Obama’s presidency and the visit of the Black Caucus delegation to Cuba.

Fidel Castro Ruz
April 6, 2009
2:03 p.m.

- Reflections oF Fidel

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Havana.  April 8, 2009


Reflections of Fidel
Meeting with Barbara Lee and
other members of the Black Caucus

 THE morning was stormy, humid, cold. A strong wind was blowing and the sky was clouded. It was not a spring day, or warm.

Barbara wanted to visit the ELAM [Latin American School of Medicine], where 114 young people from the United States are studying Medicine.

The official aircraft that brought them to Cuba had advanced the return flight 24 hours; they were leaving at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, rather than Wednesday.

I did not attempt a meeting with all of them because I do not have enough space for the seven of them, plus an interpreter and the minister accompanying them. I asked her to visit me with two other legislators selected by the group. Thus I could meet with her once again.

On this occasion, circumstances had changed a lot. The Congressional Black Caucus represents a sector of significant weight in the United States.

The long struggle for equality and social justice was illuminated by the life and example of Martin Luther King, whose thinking and work today captivate millions of people in the world and was what, in my judgment, explains how – in a time of profound crisis – a Black citizen could attain the presidency of the United States.

Hence, for me, in personal terms, another meeting with the Black Caucus would acquire special importance. I knew about the details of their stay in Cuba via the compañeros who looked after them during their visit, the basic ideas of the congressional organization and the opinions of its members.

Raúl also transmitted to me the magnificent impression that they left on him during his meeting with them, which extended to nearly four hours last night, Monday.

When Barbara Lee arrived at the house accompanied by Bobby Rush, Democratic congressman for Illinois, and Laura Richardson, for California, together with the CITMA [Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment] minister, José Miyar Barrueco, who was secretary of the Council of State for many years, it was 11:35 am; the sky had cleared and a radiant sun was beaming down on the patio. I was really happy to see Barbara again and have the opportunity to personally greet Bobby and Laura, whose names were already familiar, for their words at the meetings with Raúl, Alarcón, Bruno, Miyar and the families of the five heroes.

The meeting with me lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes, according to the clock; in reality, half a minute, if I go by the speed with which it went by and the desire to listen to them.

I briefly related to them my experiences of two years and seven months of hospital confinement and the activities to which I am now dedicating. I explained what I had learned in that time of obligatory reclusion; above all, my great interest in what was happening in the world and particularly in the United States, as I compiled news and concentrated on studying.

I remembered that I had invited them to listen to them and I was beginning to forget what most interested me: to know their opinions. The interest and depth with which they expounded their points of view, the sincerity and quality of their words, simple and profound, was comforting. The three reflected transparency, pride in their work, their organization, their struggle and their country. It is evident that they know Obama and reflect confidence, security in and warmth toward him.

Barbara is proud of presiding over the Black Caucus, of actively participating in the politics of her country with a new spirit and optimism, of her son, who was far from being born when the Revolution triumphed in Cuba, and of her five grandchildren. She had voted alone against Bush’s genocidal war in Iraq. That was insuperable proof of her political bravery. She merits all honors.

She especially recalled Dellums, who brought her to Cuba for the first time, when she was his assistant and they were with me in a cay talking for hours. He is no longer a legislator, she told me, but is the mayor of Oklahoma, attending to a population of 400,000 inhabitants, and she also told me about the ex-congresswoman who visited Cuba with Dellums, who is now 98 and sent effusive greetings.

Laura is a congresswoman in California, for the Long Beach district; she spoke with particular pride of the port of California which, as she explained “is the third in the world.” I really couldn’t resist making a joke and, bearing in mind that she is an active defender of the environment, I said to her: “Laura, if the polar ice cap melts, your third port in the world will be under water.” In the atmosphere created she wasn’t at all upset, and continued saying interesting things.

Then it was the turn of Rush, the oldest and most experienced member of the delegation, a radical fighter in his early years, whose life has been an incessant growth of political and human knowledge. He is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Communications, Technology and Internet Subcommittee. For a period of 15 or 20 minutes I listened to him without any interruption. He explained that, in his youth, he read the works and writings of important modern revolutionary thinkers, which were the starting point for his later political maturity, through observation of and meditation on what was taking place in his country and the world. He mentioned by name Mandela, Che and other exceptional people who sacrificed themselves for others. As is a generalized truth among leaders of the Black Caucus, passages from the Bible are quoted, as Martin Luther King used to do to sustain his points of view; “The word justice is mentioned on 2,000 occasions in the Bible, almost as many times as the word love,” he told me. He spoke about his health, the battles that he waged to preserve it and survive a carcinogenic illness.

He knows Obama personally, given that he has had close dealings with him for years, even as an adversary on occasions, expressing a high and sincere opinion of him; he described him as an honest and good person who wishes to help the U.S. people.

He expressed admiration for the health services available to the population in Cuba and the research centers devoted to fighting disease.

I could have listened to him for hours as an inexhaustible spring of knowledge and maturity. 

I asked him a question on the meaning of his affirmation: “Obama can improve relations with Cuba, but Cuba has to help Obama.” We were not the aggressors nor did we threaten the United States. Cuba did not have any alternative that would allow it to take the initiative. We were starting from the certainty that his [Obama’s] words were sincere and we had affirmed that publicly before and after his election. At the same time, we were expressing the belief that the objective realities were, in the United States, more powerful than Obama’s sincere intentions.

Finally, I asked him which were the best works published in English in the United States on Martin Luther King and if they had been translated into Spanish. He spoke of the three in Taylor Branch’s trilogy as among the most interesting, among them, “Letters from Prison.” They weren’t sure about their translation into Spanish and promised to send me the pertinent material.

It was a magnificent meeting.

Fidel Castro Ruz
April 7, 2009
6:31 p.m.

 Translated by Granma International