Black groups in Houston welcome Cuban diplomat
By Joanne Gavin, Workers World, 5 December 1996
Houston -- "If we were to look for a single reason to justify the Cuban Revolution, the struggle against racism would be enough," Dagoberto Rodriguez, First Secretary of the Cuban Interests Section in the U.S., told a meeting here in early November.
The mostly African American audience at the Shrine of the Black Madonna gave Rodriguez a warm welcome.
Lenwood Johnson, president of the residents' council at the embattled Allen Parkway Village public housing development, noted that Cuba and Texas both produce sugar. But in Texas it's corporations like Imperial Sugar that dominate the economy. Prison farms often produce these crops. Johnson remembered how, when cane cutting time came around, county authorities made mass arrests of Black workers and gave them sentences just long enough to get in the crop.
Secretary Rodriguez was on a week-long tour of Houston and the Rio Grande Valley. Earlier, at an outdoor press conference, he mentioned that before the U.S. blockade Cuba had imported 90 percent of its staple food, rice, from Texas and Louisiana. Now, he said, this food must make a long and expensive sea voyage from China and Vietnam.
If the blockade were dropped, Cuba's annual import of 300,000 tons would prevent many Texas rice workers from losing their jobs.
Someone asked Rodriguez, what were the roots of racism in pre-revolutionary Cuba? He said that not long after the abolition of slavery in Cuba in 1886, U.S. control of the economy brought in corporate racism.
Would inviting U.S. companies to again do business in Cuba reopen the door to this old evil? Johnson answered, "It is a danger, but Cuba, having made a revolution, has a vaccine against it. Corporations coming in now must understand that the people are in power and that if they want to do business in people's Cuba, they will have to do it by our rules."
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