An Open Letter to Michelle Obama

Thursday, March 14, 2013
The Honorable Michelle Obama
First Lady of the United States of America
The White House
Washington, D.C.


For more than a half-century – 54 years – my country Cuba has suffered under one of the cruelest communist tyrannies, headed by the Castro family. From 1959 to the present day, there has not been one single day of liberty on the island. Prisons filled to capacity, torturous repression, political assassinations, and the lack of liberties have been the daily routine for everyone on the island.

The racial problem in Cuba increased with the Castro brothers taking power. In my country, women and men are beaten viciously on a daily basis regardless of the color of their skin. But the hatred the regime spews with the most animosity is reserved for black women, as evidenced in recent days with the beating of opposition member Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera.

This coming March 18th will mark one year since opposition member Sonia Garro Alfonso and her husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz have been imprisoned without a trial or sentence handed down. She suffers from a cyst on her kidneys and is gravely ill. He suffers from an ulcer. Nevertheless, Cuban authorities have prohibited their family members from taking them food and medication in prison. Her daughter, who is a minor, has had to move in with an aunt who has three children of her own and has been subjected to merciless repression by Castro agents.

Madam, you are a mother, a woman, an African American. You understand the significance of reaching the presidency in a country that demands the respect of all rights because that is how your husband became president of this great country and you became first lady. Meanwhile in Cuba, Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet and Jorge Luis Pérez García, also known as Antúnez, were imprisoned for dreaming of the liberty and democracy found in your country. Both of these men are black.

As Cubans, we need the U.S. government to stand united with the Cuban people, that it support Cubans like this with its words and actions. We need your government to speak their names and offer public support so the world can learn who they are and they can be liberated. So at last, the apartheid against the Cuban people can end, just as it ended in South Africa.

The Castro regime has initiated ridiculous and cosmetic reforms to keep itself in power. It is nothing more than a ploy to buy more time, as we have seen take place with other dictatorships. These reforms should not be considered real changes. Under the Castro tyranny, I do not believe there will be changes that benefit the Cuban people. While some are allowed to travel, others are imprisoned and some are even prohibited from leaving their own homes.

Today, Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White, is traveling outside of Cuba. She is an incredibly valiant woman, a black woman, who knows firsthand the cruelty of repression and of racism. Her husband, Angel Moya, a former political prisoner and active opposition member, has been denied permission to leave the country. You should meet with Berta Soler, you should speak to her face to face and support her. You should also meet with Reina Loina Tamayo who has been living in the U.S. for months now and is the mother of martyred Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo. This is what is expected from individuals who, as you yourself have said, have come from humble beginnings and have accomplished what you and your husband have accomplished with the support of the majority of the American people.


Zoé Valdés
Cuban Writer in Exile

Translation courtesy of Babalu Blog.