Orlando Zapata Tamayo
Human Rights Defender
May 15, 1967 - February 23, 2010
The Gov of #Cuba affirms there is no racial majority or minority and thus no social segregation exists in #Cuba. According to the Gov 2012 census, 64% self-identifiy as ""white", 26% as "mulatto and 9% as "black"https://t.co/zhbhD430h9 pic.twitter.com/ev8819ZWN3— IMADR (@IMADR_Geneva) August 16, 2018
Finally, the Cuban government told the UN-CERD that human rights defenders in Cuba face no limitations to exercise their activities. The dictatorship's diplomats assured that there have been no reprisals or harassment of activists.
|Cuban human rights defender impeded from attending UN-CERD Cuba review|
Despite the claims of the dictatorship, racism remains a problem in Cuba that worsened during the Castro regime. Black nationalist Carlos Moore in his book "Pichon: Race and Revolution in Castro's Cuba: A Memoir" exposed the Castro regime's deep seated racism.
Abdias Nascimento Born in the town of Franca, State of São Paulo, in March 1914, Nascimento is the grandson of enslaved Africans. His father was a cobbler and a musician; his mother made and catered sweets and candies. He received his B. A. in Economics from the University of Rio de Janeiro in 1938, and post-graduate degrees from the Higher Institute of Brazilian Studies (1957) and the Oceanography Institute (1961). Nascimento participated early in Brazil’s equivalent of the civil rights movement, the Brazilian Black Front (São Paulo, 1929-30). He led the organization of the Afro-Campineiro Congress, a meeting of Brazilian blacks to protest discrimination in the city of Campinas in 1938. This is what he said in an open letter on October 30, 2009 on racism in Cuba:
"The facts as I have come to know them indicate that we are facing a clear case of political intimidation against those, in Cuba, who raise their voices in protest against racism, discriminatory practices, and all kinds of intimidations meted out to citizens who dare call for the establishment, in their country, of a State that is respectful of Civil Rights, of the right of citizens to freely congregate and form organizations and to freely demonstrate their opposition to discriminatory practices of which they feel they are a target for one reason or another."On January 4, 2010 the late civil libertarian Nat Hentoff wrote a column published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch titled Racism in Cuba that explores the reality the Castro regime denies:
Throughout the course of these columns on the Castro dictatorship, I have cited the chronic racial discrimination against black Cubans throughout Fidel's Revolution, a "revolution" that gladdens such visitors as celebrity documentarian Michael Moore, who never mentions Jim Crow on the island. The extensive marginalization of blacks in Cuba has failed to break through into general American consciousness; but as of the Nov. 30 release of "Statement of Conscience by African Americans," the big dirty secret of the Castro brothers has been exposed. According to the resounding news release -- which had the authoritative ring of Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues" -- "60 prominent black American scholars, artists, and professionals have condemned the Cuban regime's stepped-up harassment and apparent crackdown on the country's budding civil rights movement. This statement is the first public condemnation of racial conditions in Cuba made by black Americans."There have been martyrs of African descent who suffered at the hands of regime authorities because of the color of their skin. Orlando Zapata Tamayo was a Cuban of African descent and an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience who was moved around several prisons, including Quivicán Prison, Guanajay Prison, and Combinado del Este Prison in Havana. According to Amnesty International on October 20, 2003 Orlando was dragged along the floor of Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after requesting medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations. Orlando managed to smuggle a letter out following a brutal beating it was published in April of 2004:
My dear brothers in the internal opposition in Cuba. I have many things to say to you, but I did not want to do it with paper and ink, because I hope to go to you one day when our country is free without the Castro dictatorship. Long live human rights, with my blood I wrote to you so that this be saved as evidence of the savagery we are subjected to...Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on February 23, 2010 after a prolonged water only hunger strike in which prison authorities over the course of more than two weeks on and off refused him water. Following his death the Castro regime and its agents of influence sought to slander Orlando's memory. However, activists who knew Orlando had already spoken on the record, as had Amnesty International. On the same day Orlando Zapata died, Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in a heartfelt message explained the circumstances surrounding his untimely death:
Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died on this afternoon, February 23, 2010, after suffering many indignities, racist slights, beatings and abuse by prison guards and State Security. Zapata was killed slowly over many days and many months in every prison in which he was confined. Zapata was imprisoned for denouncing human rights violations and for daring to speak openly of the Varela Project in Havana's Central Park. He was not a terrorist, or conspirator, or used violence. Initially he was sentenced to three years in prison, but after successive provocations and maneuvers staged by his executioners, he was sentenced to more than thirty years in prison.The slander campaign failed because people of good will paid attention and refused to remain silent. However the attempt of the Castro regime to portray this human rights defender and humble brick layer as a criminal relied on racist stereotypes.
The Castro regime is, among its many sins, not only a dictatorship that denies racism is a systemic problem, exploits racist stereotypes to demonize opponents of African descent, a police that operates with impunity, but also with poverty that disproportionately impacts Cubans of African descent. An issue that was raised at the CERD examination of racism in Cuba.
Finally, three Cubans to be shot by firing squad following a speedy "trial" in 2003 were all of African descent. On April 2, 2003 eleven Cubans hijacked a ferry traveling to Regla from Havana with 40 people on board with the intention of traveling to the United States of America but ran out of fuel 28 miles off the Cuban coast and were towed back to the island. Despite verbal threats made against the safety of the passengers to maintain control of the vessel, the situation, according to the authorities, ended without violence and that “all of those who had been on board were rescued and saved without so much as a shot or a scratch.”#UN anti-#racism body #CERD expert, Mr. M Martinez, raises concerns to the Gov of #Cuba that poverty is disproportionately affecting people of African-descent https://t.co/zhbhD430h9 pic.twitter.com/eQlNgr8wOH— IMADR (@IMADR_Geneva) August 15, 2018
|Lorenzo Enrique Copello, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla and Jorge Luis Martínez|
In the early morning of April 11, 2003, following the decision handed down by the Council of State, the sentences were carried out and Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García, and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac executed. Nine days after the hijacking and three days after the trial.
On October 21, 2006 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded that the State of Cuba is "responsible for violating Articles XVII and XXVI of the American Declaration to the detriment of Messrs Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, by not providing them with a fair trial." Furthermore that the State of Cuba "is responsible for violating Article 1 of the American Declaration, to the detriment of Messrs. Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán García, and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, by executing them on the basis of a sentence handed down in a proceeding that did not ensure due judicial guarantees."
|Some of the artists who signed a letter calling on criticism of the executions to stop|
Many of them, like Cuban singer and dancer Omara Portuondo, and Cuban pianist, composer and arranger Chucho Valdés of African descent themselves. There are two possibilities here. Either these artists and thinkers sincerely believed that three young black men, who had not physically harmed anyone, should be tried and executed by firing squad in the space of 72 hours for reasons of national security or they were forced to sign the document to avoid falling out of favor with the dictatorship.
At the time the question of anti-black racism was raised surrounding the executions. “By executing [three young blacks], Castro was sending a clear message to the Afro-Cuban population” that dissent will not be tolerated, said Jaime Suchlicki, director of Cuban studies at the University of Miami, in a report on Cuban racism in June of 2003.