The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), on a goodwill and trade mission to Cuba, met recently 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.
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