by Corey Sabourin
NOVEMBER 23, 2002. Call it "chicken and rice" diplomacy. The NAACP announced on Wednesday that it reached an agreement with Cuba's food-import agency, Alimport, which could help give preference to African-American farmers in future food purchases by the country.
Congress passed a law in 2000 that diluted the United States', four decade-long economic embargo with Cuba by allowing it to purchase U.S. food and medicine, so long as it paid in cash.
Because U.S. rules stipulate that Cuba is not allowed to make cash purchases from American farmers directly, NAACP president and CEO Kweisi Mfume said his organization would press agricultural corporations to partner with African-American farmers. Such companies may feel an incentive to do so in order to sign future deals with Alimport, which is expected to make $165 million in purchases of U.S. food products by the end of this year.
Fidel Castro and his government have a history of mutual support with the political black community in the U.S. In 1960, while attending the United Nations in New York, the newly triumphant Cuban leader stayed at Harlem's Hotel Teresa, where he met with Malcom X. Castro recalled later, "There were many Americans who were giving the thumbs down as we were passing along the streets, but when we got to Harlem, it was the other way around."
Cuban outreach to the U.S. black community broke new ground three years ago when Cuba received eight Americans, including four African-Americans, for a free medical school education at its Latin American School of Medical Sciences, located outside of Havana. U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel and the congressional black caucus assisted in initial student recruitment for the program.
In language alluding to racial inequality in the U.S., Alimport director Pedro Álvarez told John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, that if African-American farmers are able to supply Cuba's food-import needs, "you will not be standing in line behind anyone."
For the NAACP.
For an Afro-Cuban perspective, Afrocubaweb.com.
For a debate on racism in Cuba:
Cuba, S. Africa Abandon Racism Talk, The Guardian
The Cuba Files
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