Letters and Messages

Message to people of Holguin

As I write this message, I am fully certain that today, on behalf of all of Cuba, you will hold one of the most magnificent rallies in the history of our Revolution.

The encouraging news received yesterday, while involved in the struggle we have been waging for seven months in extremely hostile and unfavorable conditions against a profoundly hurting injustice, will not lead us to lower our guard.

That legal process should never have been pursued in the United States whose courts have no jurisdiction over this case according to international standards and the laws of both Cuba and the United States.

There are still dangers that must not be underestimated. All it would take is for one member of the U.S. Supreme Court, which should now decide on this case, to accept the already announced request for an interdiction and the boy and his family would be forced to stay in the America for a number of months.

The criminal Miami mob and their allies in the U.S. extreme right still have power and room to maneuver and they will not hesitate to use them, for they have no scruples whatsoever about drawing out the torture of these victims of their hatred viciously seeking revenge through the boy, his family and his people.

Therefore, we will not rest for a minute, not even when Elián and his courageous father have returned to Cuba with the rest of their family and friends. It is our sacred duty to save the lives of many other Cuban children, mothers and other people from being devoured by the murderous Cuban Adjustment Act. We also have before us the unflagging fight against the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts and the dozens of amendments adopted by the U.S. Congress to asphyxiate our country. There is also the criminal blockade to fight, the economic warfare and the sustained policy of subversion and destabilization against a revolution that began over 130 years ago, and that we have fully and firmly established based on our inalienable rights as an absolutely sovereign and independent nation, paying a high toll in human lives, sacrifice and heroism. We have sworn to keep up that fight and we will do it!

But, we are also profoundly internationalists. During the most difficult days of the fight to free Elián, we had the support of over 70% of the American people which should not and never will be forgotten. As part of this decisive and admirable support, a full 90% of African-Americans defended the rights of the boy and his father. Then, barely 24 hours ago the African-American people and the majority of Americans were dealt a heavy blow at the tragic moment when Shaka Sankofa, as he decided to call himself after being sentenced to death, was murdered. Our people shared their pain. This was truly an unspeakable crime.

Despite the violations of the law emphatically and viciously described by his executioners as committed by Shaka Sankofa when he was an adolescent living in conditions of poverty, social exclusion and racial discrimination, the fact remains that he was sentenced to death while a minor, without the slightest consideration or pity, for a murder of which he could not be proven guilty. Everything done to him contradicts universally accepted legal doctrines and principles.

The only proof against him was the testimony of a person who was 40 feet away --quite a long distance to be able to specify details, particularly at night-- who claimed to have seen his face for a few seconds through a car window in the vicinity of the place where the event took place. Various witnesses who could have proven the opposite were not summoned to testify. Nor could he receive the services of an experienced defense attorney because he was poor.

The ballistic evidence showed that the bullets that killed the victim did not match those in the gun that he was carrying, again, according to his accusers. Numerous members of the jury that sentenced him have later stated that if they had known about these circumstances and irregularities, they never would have found him guilty.

During Shaka Sankofa’s long struggle to prove his innocence, those who knew him and supported his cause did not waver in their absolute conviction that he was innocent, and that the sentence he was given constituted a repugnant murder. The resolute spirit, eloquence and dignity with which he defended himself gave the same impression.

It is generally believed in the United States and the rest of the world that he was sentenced to death and executed simply because he was black.

In this case , the crime of sentencing a minor to death was compounded by the monstrous act of subjecting him to 19 years awaiting execution at what is crudely known as "death row". But this did not assuage the rancor of the racists enough to grant him a moratorium in order to shed light on what was quite obviously an irregular and arbitrary process. Any authority empowered to grant this would have done so, had they felt any compassion.

Shaka Sankofa has shown the world the bitter fruits of a social system with endless differences between the rich and the poor; a system where individualism, selfishness, consumerism, the widespread use of guns and violence stand as its philosophical foundation.

What is most admirable about that poor, marginal, black adolescent sentenced to capital punishment in the absence of the slightest proof --and perhaps for those very reasons-- is his evolution, throughout that endless wait on death row, the impressive political and social awareness expressed at the time of his execution. He did not go as a gentle lamb to the slaughter. Just as he had promised, he forcefully resisted the execution until the very moment of death. He spoke like a prophet. He urged others to keep up the struggle against what he described as a holocaust or genocide suffered by the African-American people. He demanded the vindication of his innocence. He died like a hero.

This is way in which oppression, exploitation, inequality and injustice create people who, even at the agonizing moment of an unfair death, are capable of moving an empire and exciting the admiration of honorable people throughout the world. Could such a thing possibly be justified by the mistakes made by a poor, black, discriminated and marginal adolescent in the wealthiest country of the world?

As for us, it is not only our duty of gratitude but also our internationalist duty to join in the vigorous protest of millions of Americans, black and white, native, Hispanic and mestizo, who are angrily condemning this hateful racist way of applying justice.

These events come to confirm, now more than ever, that the future will certainly be that of our dreams of equality and justice for all human beings.

The peoples will triumph!


Fidel Castro Ruz

June 24, 2000

12:42 a.m.