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It's Time to End the Embargo of Cuba, a Position Paper, 8/00

NBCC announces trip to Cuba 7/29

Contacting the NBCC & their web site

The National Black Chamber of Commerce

The NBCC lead a trip to Cuba in July-August, 2000. See:

National Black Chamber of Commerce Visits Cuba During Humanitarian Mission, 9/5 - an account

Latin America is Black America, too! 10/00

Latin America is Black America, too! 10/00

Latin America is Black America, too! 
By: Harry C. Alford 
NBCC President & CEO

Slavery in the United States indeed taught us to hate ourselves. A lingering
effect of that self-hatred has been the denial of recognizing our own
relatives in the Western Hemisphere. We sit here in the United States and
call Cuba "Hispanic" when it is predominantly Black. Brazil has a Black
population that is twice ours (76 million!) and we say they have a
Portuguese heritage.

The fact is that South America and the Caribbean holds over 100 million
Black folks whose blood, legacy and heritage is exactly the same as ours. We
come from the same villages, took the same despicable voyages and endured
the same vile slavery that was conjured up by European royalty and the
Vatican hundreds of years ago. We are the same! So letıs start acting like

Until we solidify our relationships at home with our "cousins" we will not
be adequately prepared to reassociate ourselves with the motherland of
Africa. The 15% of the Black Diaspora that is located in the Americas must
form to become one. Thus, there is a need to build a viable infrastructure
and that must be through economical interaction. International Trade from
the United States and from a Black perspective must begin with South America
and the Caribbean. The recent Brazil trade mission conducted by the NBCC
clearly shows the vast opportunity that awaits us throughout Latin America. 
No longer will we look at our cousins down South and view them as some other
race, i.e. Hispanic. Hispanic is a culture, not a race. People with African
blood and various shades of brown, black and bronze are Black people, and
thatıs a race. 

Itıs time for all people of African descent to start working together and
merging our economic forces. From Canada to Argentina, letıs find each other
and pool our precious resources. 

The beat of the tap dancing in "Bring in the Noise", the drummers in Nassau
and the Samba band in Rio de Janeiro: the three were absolutely identical.
That beat from the motherland, developed a thousand years ago is still in
our "bones" here across the Atlantic Ocean. That is just one of thousands of
similarities in mannerisms, clichés, swagger, etc. that demonstrates that we
are truly the same people. 

We will begin to put chambers in each and every country in the Western
Hemisphere. Trade missions and trade offices will be a major component to
each. To our cousins in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Panama, Peru, and every
other island, nation and territory in so called Latin America: We have to
awaken and get ready ­ family will be visiting. 

I want to thank Goodyear Tire Co., Procter & Gamble, Shell Oil and a few
other companies for drawing our attention to South America. Two years ago,
we were alerted to Black stereotyping in television commercials sponsored by
these companies. In our fight, we first thought they were targeting us here
in the United States but we soon learned that it was our cousins down there
they were mocking with racist venom. From that experience, we learned what
the news media and others had kept from us ­ 100 million Black folks waiting
to be recognized. 

"The recent Brazil trade mission conducted by the NBCC clearly shows the
vast opportunity that awaits us throughout Latin America. " 

National Black Chamber of Commerce Visits Cuba During Humanitarian Mission, 9/5/00

Release Date: September 5, 2000
Contact Name: Yvonne DeBow,
202-466-6888, fax202-466-4918,

National Black Chamber of Commerce Visits Cuba During Humanitarian Mission

Washington, DC - The National Black Chamber of Commerce and 50 business owners traveled to Havana, Cuba recently to assess the plight of the people of Cuba; 80% of its 12 million residents are of African descent. The group received a license from the United States Treasury Department and chartered a flight from Miami to Havana.

The contingent arrived on a Saturday night and spent five days at the five star hotel, Novetel Miramar (July 29 – August 2). The NBCC was welcomed by the Cuban Chamber of Commerce which scheduled three days of meetings and activities. Members of the group were given professional Microsoft powerpoint presentations by Castro’s cabinet members including the Ministers of Foreign Trade, Construction, Light Industry, Public Health, Information and Communications and Economics.

The United States embargo has prevented the nation from true international trade and interaction with the total world, but it has survived and progressed. “We were surprised that we could venture into the populace as freely as in the United States,” says NBCC president, Harry C. Alford, “There were no appointed guides and cabs were everywhere. Our contingent was given the opportunity to explore Havana and its people. That liberty was exploited and what we found was a free interaction that would rival New York or Los Angeles.”

NBCC Executive Vice President, Kay DeBow described her experience this way: “I expected to see armed military personnel roaming the streets, but what we saw were civilian Cubans walking and interacting in the neighborhoods and streets of urban Havana; we saw statues of Jesus Christ; we had direct access to CNN, ESPN and HBO—it was an eye-opening experience. This trip gave new meaning to the saying: “you gotta see it to believe it.”

For more insight, visit the NBCC web site at




Embargo is a very mild and cute term for what the United States is doing to this southern neighbor. A more accurate term is blockade. There is an immense and painful restraint of trade being inflicted on 12 million people (80% with African lineage). In addition to the restraint of trade is a full assault on capital access. The lack of capital access, which is the major barrier to minority businesses in this country, is also being used as a tool by this country against the populace of Cuba. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, two of the most viable means of capital access in the world of nations, is being denied to the 12 million Cubans via the veto power of the precious member of both entities - the United States.

What has Cuba done to the United States to be the recipient of such a vicious wrath? Has it done what was done in the Korean War? The communist North Koreans and Red Chinese killed over 32,000 American soldiers and brutalized and expunged many American prisoners. But yet, we have normal trade relations now with both. Has it done what was done in Vietnam? The communists killed over 52,000 American soldiers but now we enjoy normal trade relations. The fact is not one American soldier has been killed during the current government of Cuba. The US sanctions against Cuba are more vicious than the current sanctions against Iraq. The sanctions clearly appear to be beyond reason.

Cuba being a communist country has nothing to do with it. The above examples of former enemies, with the exception of Iraq, were and still are communist countries. What is also important to note is that Cuba has the oldest communist pedigree amongst these nations. Communism has been embraced within the Cuban political spectrum since 1925. The Communist Party, before his exile, supported even the dictator Batista in 1944. He came back into power, in 1952, via the assistance of the US mafia and the CIA which provoked the revolution, led by Fidel Castro, that overthrew him and the mafia operatives
and returned the nation to communism.

Cuba's history has a rich Black heritage. Christopher Columbus completed his mission of exterminating over 3 million indigenous people within 20 years (the first new world holocaust). From that point on slaves from Africa began arriving to work the fertile land of Cuba. According to the census of 1794 there were 172,620 inhabitants: "96,440 whites, 31,847 free blacks, and 44,333 black slaves". The significant number of freed Blacks is what has led to Cuba's fascinating political and economic history. The United States yearned to seize this island, the size of Florida, and so close to its border but feared the amount of freed Blacks and the legacy of rebellion. The big query of the United States? How to manage this valuable neighbor and exploit its riches without having to deal with its large and proud Black populace. The United States took its turn behind Spain in trying to harness the Afro-centric personality of Cuba through the Platt Amendment, which gave the US military veto power on Cuba policy after independence from Spain in 1899. However, unlike the United States, Cuba dealt with discrimination via the Black trade unions revolt against discrimination in 1912. Subsequent to that, with the exception of the Batista regime, race was no longer an issue in Cuban policy.

Cuban history, unlike the United States, is replete with true accounting of Black contributions. The three founders of the Independence are Marti, Maceo and Gomez. Maceo was pure Black and Gomez was of mixed blood. The actual contribution of Blacks in the history and pride of Cuba is documented and openly on display. For example, the architecture of Old Havana is not referred to as Spanish Architecture, as it would be in the United States, but as Black Moorish Architecture as it was taught to the Spaniards. "Latin Music" is Afro-Centric music. This accuracy in history puts Cubans at an educational advantage over Americans.

It had been presumed by the National Black Chamber of Commerce that the American media has portrayed Cuba in an inaccurate manner. The "oppression", national hunger and legions of people fighting to "swim" or "paddle" away has long appeared to be beyond credulity. It became quite obvious that to see the real Cuba was to visit it. Thus, we applied for a license and began our historical visit.

We arrived on a Saturday night and were impressed with a marketing sign once we entered the international terminal of the airport, "Johnny Walker Black is Smooth". Is this a communist state? The reception from the officials and the many citizens outside the airport was apparently sincere. We saw thousands of Cubans walking and interacting in the neighborhoods and streets of urban Havana. Our hotel, Novetel de Miramar (Cuban owned, French managed), was every bit of the 5 Star rating it has been given and the welcoming reception was magnificent.

The American media has portrayed communist Cuba as Godless. This created a great surprise to me when I awakened Sunday morning and turned on the television to see a live Catholic Mass in progress. Later, we would see that the tallest statue in Havana is that of Jesus Christ and, also, many architecturally impressive churches throughout the city.

In addition to live church on the television, we had direct access to CNN news, ESPN, HBO 1& 2 and VH1 (an embargo?). In addition to those and the two national stations there were stations piped in from France and Brazil. The Cubans know us well through their own state regulated television. Our  members would find as they visited Cuban citizens that color television was a common event within their homes.

While the embargo has been a damaging blow on the everyday economic opportunity of the Cuban people, we see "holes in the dyke". Coca Cola and Sprite are everywhere. Jack Daniels is popular in all of the bars. Scott paper was the name brand of toilet paper and napkins in our hotel rooms. We experienced quite professional presentations from government officials via
Windows '98 and Power Point. The government website receives 30 million hits per month. We also learned that many American based Fortune 500 companies have been to Cuba with more than tourism in mind. Like the 55
miles per hour speed limit, if the law is "stupid" even law abiding people will abuse it.

We were surprised that we could venture into the populace as freely as in the United States. There were no appointed guides and cabs were everywhere. Our contingent was given the opportunity to explore Havana and its people. That liberty was exploited and what we found was a free interaction that would rival New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, etc. Havana has a good nightlife and the people were very friendly and opinionated. In touring the Hemingway Marina, we were surprised to find a boat with an American flag and a huge Indiana Pacers banner. Also, in one of the condo driveways, we saw a 1999
Chevrolet Corvette. The local restaurant's menu and napkins were in total English. Interesting?

Cuba has very little crime. That may be attributed to heavy community policing and a general feeling of equality amongst the people. Police, single foot patrollers, were everywhere. Despite the presence of the police, the spirits of happy life and festivities were prevalent.

This nation has gone through a phenomenal economic crisis. The old Soviet Union collapsed and with it went $9 billion in annual trade to Cuba. The embargo, actually blockade, has prevented the nation from true international trade and interaction with the total world. However, it has survived and, in fact, has progressed. What has made Cuba able to survive this blockade has been its rich tradition in education. The nation is 98% literate. 13% of its total workforce is professional (mainly engineers). Its free healthcare system gives it one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world and an average lifespan that rivals the US. In comparison with the rest of the nations in the western hemisphere, the quality of life in Cuba can only be
described as good. This, despite an awful impediment caused by an economic embargo that is mean spirited and dysfunctional in explanation.

Another thing that is puzzling is the people who jump into rafts and float away from Cuba. The smart thing to do, if you choose to renounce your Cuban citizenship and heritage, is to get a passport, save your money, buy a plane ticket and fly away. The Havana International Airport is quite busy and active. Many Cubans come and go as they please. Some of our new friends told us when they would be coming to the United States via conferences and requested that we meet again. Those, who choose to raft the deep waters are desperate and, perhaps, on the "run". Another thing to ponder is how many American Cubans travel back and forth to Cuba legally via the Miami Airport. In fact, we had to charter a plane in order to find vacancies versus the regularly scheduled flights to and from Havana via the Miami International Airport.

The Cuban federal agencies have detailed plans and timetables for progress and economic development. Entrepreneurship is encouraged! It is vital for each Cuban family unit, and the family units are strong in this nation, to have some access to US dollars. All we saw in retail transactions were US dollars. The Cuban peso is 21:1 versus the US dollar, which makes it twice as strong as the Jamaican dollar. It would be a shame if the US continues to allow the Canadians, British, French, Italians, Spaniards, etc. to have their way with this economy free of our competition. This allows them to overprice the Cubans for their goods and services and, more importantly, prevents American businesses from participating in a great market.

There is a distinct American minority that spews hatred and irrational rage at the Cuban people under the guise of demonizing Fidel Castro. How silly are we to take the rationale that one man controls a very structured government and 12 million people under a full "lock down with hunger and constant oppression". Cuba has changed since mafia dons Luciano, Genovese, Lansky, et al manipulated the economy under a bought dictator named Batista (with the official protection of the US Government). It will never return. The history of Cuba clearly shows us that Cubans do not tolerate oppression. These people are obviously quite happy. It may not be model Americana but what other nation is? How dare we buy the dysfunctional hate rationale and issue rage and economic horror on a people who are one of the hardest working, self loving and family centered societies on this earth.

As our Chairman, Dr. Arthur Fletcher, has predicted, "Cuba will one day become the Hong Kong of the Caribbean." It has the ingredients. This is why we should treat this independent nation as any other on this earth. Unfortunately, this very reason may be why we aren't.

The embargo, i.e. blockade, is a human rights transgression perpetrated by the nation that prides itself in liberty. It is a modern day irony and must be reckoned with as soon as possible. END THE EMBARGO AGAINST THE CUBAN
PEOPLE. The Helms-Burton Act must be rescinded.

Cuban Fact Finding Mission - July 29 - August 2, 2000

NBCC trip to Cuba 7/29

Let's Go To Cuba!                                         SOLD OUT!
Cuba Fact-Finding Mission
July 29 - August 2, 2000

The National Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc. has received an official license from the Office of Foreign Assets, Department of Treasury, to journey to Cuba. We are going to find out just what this nation of 14 million People (85% are Black) and the size of Florida is all about. Our mission will depart Miami on July 29, 2000 and return from Havana to Miami on August 2, 2000.

This is in conjunction with our strategic plan to link all of the Black Diaspora on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. One billion descendants of Africa not talking with each other is rather low tech so the NBCC will take leadership in this. You are encouraged to join us on this historical trip.

The Cubans are very excited to meet us and we promise you a very busy and productive schedule.

Our Cuban neighbors have met with the US Chamber and the Congressional Black Caucus and now they are very interested in learning what makes an African American entrepreneur "tick." Let's show them the potential of the NBCC membership.

Join us in the "Hub of the Caribbean" and learn why Cuba has become one of the favorite tourist stops for Europe. Click here for more details on this exciting opportunity. Time is of the essence and plane seats and hotel rooms are limited. First come, first served.

See you in Havana,

Harry C. Alford
President & CEO


Contacting the National Black Chamber of Commerce

Phone: 202.466.6888
Fax: 202.466.4918

Web site:

Contacting AfroCubaWeb

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