NAACP takes steps toward an independent foreign policy: four news releases on dealings with Cuba

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Dec 4 12:06:05 MST 2002


Back in the middle 1980s, the NAACP responded to the growing challenges
facing the Black community by attempting to set a new course, reflecting the
more combative spirit of some in the ranks of the organization. At that time
Ben Chavis became executive director, with Don Rojas -- a leader of the
Grenadian revolution and now the new managing director  of Pacifica station
WBAI in New York -- as the communications director.

Chavis's radical departure did not amount to much more than reaching out to
the Nation of Islam (which he later joined) before it was buried in
controversy, scandal, and withdrawal of financial backing heightening a
fiscal crisis..

The current shifts, taking place under the leadership of Executive Director
Kweisi Mifune and Chairman Julian Bond,  have so far centered, to the extent
they have come to my attention, on foreign policy.  The NAACP has adopted a
critical stance toward the U.S. drive to war against Iraq and has negotiated
a deal with Cuba in the interests of Black farmers, who have been subjected
to a history of discrimination which, together with the general problems of
working farmers, came close to wiping them out.  The NAACP has taken a stand
against the blockade of Cuba not only in words, but in deeds.

This reflects the need and the drive of the Black nationality to have their
own foreign policy independent of the U.S. rulers -- something that all
working people in this country desperately require.

The four news releases that follow reflect this development, which should be
studied particularly from the point of view of  helping the NAACP deepen its
involvement in the U.S. war against Iraq.
The introductory remarks in parentheses are by Walter Lippmann.
Fred Feldman


(You can see by reading these why the Washington Times
would be on the warpath against such contacts between
the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the US
and the government of Cuba.)
=====================================================


November 27, 2002
No Plans For NAACP Office In Cuba
Published report of possible Cuban Branch is untrue

Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO, National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said today that a
report published in The Washington Times that the NAACP
plans to open an office in Cuba is not true.

Mfume said: "We had no discussions with Cuban government
officials or citizens regarding a possible NAACP branch in
that country during our recent goodwill and trade mission to
that nation. Our four-day trip was part of the NAACP's
historical mission to establish people-to-people contacts
both inside and outside of the United States.

Founded in 1909, the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation's oldest
and largest civil rights organization. Its half-million
adult and youth members throughout the United States and the
world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their
communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring
equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.


###

Contact:    NAACP Office of Communications 410.580-5125
http://www.naacp.org/news/releases/cubabranch112702.shtml

November 12, 2002

NAACP President Leads Trade And Goodwill Mission To Cuba

Havana, Cuba -- Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO, the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP) is leading a four-day goodwill and trade mission to
Cuba. The mission delegation includes three members of the
NAACP National Board of Directors, Bishop William F. Graves,
Nancy Lane and Nicholas Wiggins, and several senior staff
members. The group will meet with agriculture, health,
trade, government officials and community leaders.

Mfume said: "We are going to Cuba in an effort to extend
goodwill on behalf of our 500,000 members and to lend
support to black farmers in the United States who would like
to win export contracts with that nation. We hope to build a
bridge between the NAACP and the people of Cuba, many of
whom are descendants of Africa." The NAACP has 2,200
branches in the United States, as well as branches in
Germany, Japan and Korea.

While some agriculture products may be sold to Cuba, the
U.S. embargo restricts financing of such trade by U.S.
citizens. The NAACP delegation also includes John Boyd,
president of the 80,000-member National Black Farmers
Association. Boyd said, "The association represents African
American farmers in 38 states. We are hoping that meetings
with Cuban agriculture officials and farmers will pave the
way for new markets for our goods."

During the visit Mfume said the delegation hopes to meet
with President Castro and members of Cuban dissident groups.
There will also be meetings with the Ministries of Foreign
Trade, Health, Education, Tourism, Agriculture, the National
Assembly of the People's Power (Cuban Parliament), ALIMPORT
(Cuban Agency in Charge of Abroad Purchase of Food Stuff),
the Department of Foreign Relations (Central Committee of
the Communist Party of Cuba) and the Abel Santamaria Special
Education School.

The delegation will also tour the Latin American School of
Medical Sciences, the University of Havana, a farm
cooperative, and the Martin Luther King Community Center.

The delegation will examine and review the Cuban health
system, reportedly the best in the Caribbean. Dr. Willarda
Edwards, Director, the NAACP Health Advocacy program, will
study how the Cuban free health care system compares with
the pay-as-you-go system in the United States.

Dr. Thelma Daley, volunteer Director of the Women in the
NAACP (WIN) program, will also conduct outreach to women's
groups in Cuba to study how they deal specifically with the
issue of women's rights.

Founded in 1909, the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation's oldest
and largest civil rights organization. Its half-million
adult and youth members throughout the United States and the
world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their
communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring
equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.


###

Contact: NAACP Office of Communications 410.580.5125


November 14, 2002

Cuban President Fidel Castro Meets With NAACP
President Kweisi Mfume Leads Historic Meetings in Cuba

HAVANA - Cuban President Fidel Castro met for four hours
yesterday with Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO, the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP),
and a delegation from the organization that included
national board members and senior staff to discuss health,
education and agricultural and trade issues in his country.
The NAACP is visiting Cuba as part of a good will and trade
mission. John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers
Association, is also a part of the mission and was present
at the talks in the Cuban presidential headquarters.

Mfume said: "This is a good-will, people-to-people mission
that seeks to build bridges with the people of Cuba. During
our time here, we hope to learn more about Cuba's education
and health care systems, which offer free schooling and
medical care to all citizens. It is also important that the
NAACP assist African American farmers in their quest to sell
farm goods in this emerging market. Historically the NAACP
has worked to establish people-to-people contacts, both
inside and outside of the United States."

During the wide-ranging talks with the NAACP, Castro
directed Pedro Alvarez, the director of ALIMPORT, the Cuban
agency in charge of overseas purchase of food, to meet with
the NAACP and Boyd. The purpose of that meeting is to
explore ways for black farmers to win agriculture contracts
with the Cuban government. In addition to Alvarez, the NAACP
is scheduled to meet with the Cuban Minister of Foreign
Trade, Raul de la Nuez.

"It is important that we reach out to Cuba to do business
and to supply farm goods here," said Boyd, whose group
represents 12,000 full-time and 7,000 part-time African
American farmers in 38 states. Under the terms of the U. S.
government trade embargo, food and agricultural products may
be sold to Cuba on a cash only basis. Cuba is expected to
purchase $165 million in food and agriculture products from
American farmers, according to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture.

Mfume said the NAACP would, among other things, investigate
ways to encourage major U.S. agriculture companies that
export to Cuba to partner with black farmers. Castro also
talked with the NAACP about the struggle for equality of
African Americans in the United States.

Mfume proposed yesterday that the NAACP convene a summit at
the 2003 NAACP Annual Convention in Miami to discuss trade,
education and health issues that impact Cuba, other
Caribbean nations and Central America.

While in Cuba, Mfume said the NAACP would also work to
establish links between the Federation of Cuban Women and
WIN (Women in the NAACP), an auxiliary program of the NAACP
that exclusively targets a wide range of issues affecting
women.

The NAACP delegation plans meetings with Cuban health
officials to study how this country's free health care
system compares with the care-for-cost system in the United
States. Although the U.S. has some of the best health care
facilities and physicians in the world, African Americans
continue to have a shorter average life span than whites and
to suffer disproportionately from heart disease, kidney
disease, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, certain types of cancer and
other life-threatening diseases.

In addition to Castro, the NAACP yesterday met with six
members of the Cuban Parliament, the National Assembly of
the People's Power. Ramon Pez Ferro, the Assembly president
of the Commission on International Relations, led the talks.
Ferro said, "It is important for us to move ahead with the
formal normalization of relations with the United States."

The NAACP delegation also met with the Rev. Raul Suarez,
pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and director of the Martin
Luther King Center in Havana. Suarez, a member of the
Progressive Baptist Convention, has worked since 1971 to
eradicate racial prejudice.

Founded in 1909, the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation's oldest
and largest civil rights organization. Its half-million
adult and youth members throughout the United States and the
world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their
communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring
equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

###

Contact: NAACP Office of Communications 410.580.5125


November 15, 2002

Cuban Government Agrees To Buy Food From Black Farmers
Trade Accord Reached Gives Black Farmers Access to $1.5
billion Agriculture Market

HAVANA -- Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO, the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP),
said an agreement was reached earlier this week with the
Cuban government to purchase some of its food products
directly from African American farmers. The accord
represents a major breakthrough in the NAACP's efforts to
help black farmers win business in new and emerging markets.
Mfume and John Boyd, president, the National Black Farmers
Association, announced the deal after meeting with Pedro
Alvarez, director of ALIMPORT, Cuba's food import company.

"This is an historic announcement and one that I personally
find very heartening," Mfume said. "President Fidel Castro
promised to establish trade links with black farmers, and it
appears he has kept his word."

Mfume is leading a good will and trade mission to Cuba that
includes three members of the NAACP National Board of
Directors, senior staff and Boyd. Castro, after a lengthy
meeting earlier this week with the NAACP, promised that
African American farmers would have full access to Cuba's
$1.5 billion import agricultural market.

Alvarez told Boyd that if African American farmers can
deliver the many tons of food that Cuba wants to buy, "you
will not be standing in line behind anyone." Alvarez said
Cuba would be buying more than a billion dollars worth of
food in the coming year. Boyd and Alvarez will hold
additional talks to iron out the final agreements before
signing a contract for food products such as rice, chicken
quarters, flour and other grocery products.

Boyd said, "On behalf of 12,000 full-time and 7,000
part-time black farmers, we certainly appreciate the
opportunity to do business in Cuba." He thanked Mfume and
the NAACP for its support in this venture. Black farmers met
previously with the Cuban government, but were unable to win
a contract before this week. Mfume said the NAACP would
press major agricultural corporations that export to Cuba to
partner with black farmers. Under U.S. law enacted in 2000,
Cuba is allowed to make cash purchases of food and
agricultural products from United States farmers.

"African American farmers want to aggressively pursue
business opportunities in Cuba the same as major farm
cooperatives and agribusiness corporations that have
traveled here and sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth
of food to Cuba in the past two years," Mfume said.

The four-day trip is part of the NAACP's overall objective
to establish people-to-people contacts both inside and
outside of the United States. "The most fascinating and
compelling part of this mission is our contact with everyday
Cuban people," Mfume said. Moreover, the NAACP is examining
Cuban education and free health care systems. The NAACP
group, which includes Dr. Willarda Edwards, director, NAACP
Health Advocacy, met yesterday with Cuban health officials
and toured the Hermanos Ameijeiras Clinical-Surgical
Hospital. The delegation also met with education officials
and toured the University of Information and Computer
Science, a recently opened institution that is being built
on a former Soviet Union military base about 30-minutes from
Havana.

On November 15 the delegation is scheduled to visit the
Latin American School of Medical Sciences and an
agricultural cooperative. A meeting is planned with the
Federation of Cuban Women to help establish links between
Cuban women's organizations and WIN (Women in the NAACP), an
auxiliary program directed by Dr. Thelma Daley.

Founded in 1909, the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation's oldest
and largest civil rights organization. Its half-million
adult and youth members throughout the United States and the
world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their
communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring
equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.



###

Contact: NAACP Office of Communications 410.580.5125


November 15, 2002

NAACP Meets With Cuban Dissident Leaders
Meeting Is Part of People-to-People Mission

HAVANA - The National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People (NAACP), on a goodwill and trade mission to
Cuba, met earlier this week with the leaders of four major
dissident organizations calling for reforms in this island
nation 90-miles from the United States.

At the suggestion of Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, Kweisi
Mfume, NAACP President & CEO, three members of the NAACP
National Board of Directors and several senior staff members
met with the group at the home of James Cassan, chief of the
United States Interest Section. The dissidents claim that
under the leadership of Cuban President Fidel Castro, the
Cuban people are denied freedom of expression and freedom of
religion.

Mfume said: "Meeting with the Cuban dissident leaders is a
part of our people-to-people outreach and our planned
contacts with non-government organizations (NGOs) while we
are here. This is a good will and trade mission, and talks
with people of different views both in and out of government
is one of the major reasons the NAACP made this trip." The
NAACP, which has branches in all 50 states, Japan, Germany
and Korea, has applied to the United Nations for
international NGO status.

The NAACP met for two hours with dissident leaders, Oswaldo
Alfonso, Dr. Oscar Biscet and his wife, Elsa Morejon,
Vladmiro Roca and Oswaldo Jose Paya Sardinas. Sardinas is a
lead organizer of the Varela Project, a petition drive
calling for a referendum so citizens can decide upon change
in the government from within. They freely expressed their
views to the NAACP delegation. The dissident leaders said
they had been imprisoned and harassed by the government at
one time or another because of their efforts to organize and
call for change within Cuba.

Ramon Pez Ferro, President of the Commission for
International Relations and a member of the National
Assembly of the People's Power, said, "Most of these people
(dissidents) just pretend to represent organizations. They
have absolutely no support in our country." Ferro and five
other Assembly members met with the NAACP and called for the
normalization of relations with the United States. Since the
early 1960s there has been a United States trade embargo
against Cuba.

Founded in 1909, the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation's oldest
and largest civil rights organization. Its half-million
adult and youth members throughout the United States and the
world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their
communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring
equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.


###

Contact: NAACP Office of Communications 410.580.5125


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