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    Black economist says Cuba needs affirmative action

    Posted on Thursday, 05.12.11

    Black economist says Cuba needs affirmative action
    He says economic reforms proposed by Raul Castro will hurt blacks more
    than whites
    By Juan O. Tamayo

    Black Cubans, already with the worst jobs and lowest salaries, will need
    "affirmative action" as the government tries to slash its inflated
    payrolls, a black Havana economist and former Communist Party member
    wrote Wednesday.

    Esteban Morales, 68, made it clear in his lengthy essay that he supports
    Cuba's "extraordinarily humanist" revolution and believes it took great
    pains to outlaw racism and provide equal opportunities for blacks over
    the past 52 years.

    An economist who has written previously on race, he also attacked black
    Cubans who criticize the revolution as racist, saying they have embraced
    a U.S. strategy for sparking a "political confrontation" that would
    change the island's regime.

    In unusually direct language, however, Morales also complains that
    blacks rank at the bottom of several economic measurements, that Cuban
    schools do not teach courses on race, and that government socio-economic
    statistics should be broken down by skin color.

    He was "separated" from the Communist Party last year for a similarly
    harsh essay in which he warned that a burgeoning string of corruption
    scandals was a bigger threat to the country's stability than "the

    Morales' latest essay essentially argues that questions about race must
    be a priority for the Raul Castro government as it tries to fix the
    stagnant economy by slashing state spending – on jobs and subsidies —
    and allowing more private enterprise.

    Blacks and mestizos "have always historically been the least qualified,
    the most disadvantaged in the workplace, with the worst jobs, the lowest
    salaries and the lowest retirement benefits," Morales wrote in his
    4,311-word essay, published in his eponymous blog.

    Castro himself spoke of the need to increase the number of blacks and
    women in leadership positions during a speech last month to a Communist
    Party congress last month. The 2002 census shows 65 percent of Cubans
    identify themselves as white, and 35 percent as black or mestizo.

    Morales went well beyond that, noting that fewer blacks than whites have
    relatives abroad who can send them cash remittances. He added that black
    Cubans in Florida also earn less – and therefore can send less to the
    island – because of U.S. racism.

    Blacks and mestizos on the island also have a harder time finding
    well-paying jobs and tend to "take refuge … in illegal activities,
    prostitution and pimping, the illegal re-sale of products," he noted.
    They make up 57 percent of the prison population, he added.

    Morales' essay notes that Cuba faces many challenges in race relations
    but adds that he would focus only on four, — starting with the need to
    create an array of school courses on modern-day racism.

    "How is it possible that in a multicolor nation like Cuba … there's no
    scientific treatment of those problems" he wrote . University-level
    education is "especially plagued by prejudices on the racial issue, weak
    institutional attention to it, ignorance and even fear of studying it."

    Cuba's National Statistics Office (ONE) should include racial breakdowns
    when it reports economic and social data such as unemployment, salaries,
    housing conditions, education levels and life expectancy, Morales noted
    in his second challenge.

    In his third, he urged Cubans to demand equal racial representation in
    all fields, and in his last he urged Cuba to embrace "the so-called
    affirmative action" as a way "to balance out the different historical
    points of departure for the racial groups that today make up our society."

    Cuban government officials have long cringed at the possibility of using
    affirmative action on the island, arguing that it would explicity admit
    that the revolution had failed to eradicate race-based discrimination.

    Morales' harshest criticism went to Carlos Moore, a black exile who has
    attacked Cuba's leadership as almost exclusively white and argued that
    blacks were denied the most visible jobs when Cuba opened its doors to
    foreign tourism in the 1990s.

    Morales alleged that some of Moore's publications were financed by
    groups that received CIA money. Moore, a black rights activist now
    living and teaching at a university in Brazil, could not be reached
    immediately for comment.

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