Tuesday marked the end of President Obama’s historic state visit to Cuba. His trip to the island nation was the first by a sitting U.S. president since 1928. But as the dissolution of the embargo between both nations becomes more and more probable, Black Americans stand to benefit considerably from restored diplomatic ties.

Just days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf states and left New Orleans almost completely underwater, Cuban president Fidel Castro offered to send 1,600 highly trained medics and over 80 tons of supplies to assist those waiting endlessly for help.

The response from the Bush Administration?

‘No thanks, we got it covered.’

The White House was swift to reject Cuba’s offer, and encouraged Castro to instead “offer the people of Cuba their freedom.”

But as video surfaced of elderly Black people climbing on roofs and wading through alligator infested waters to flag down emergency helicopters, it became increasingly clear that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had made a costly mistake—with Black Americans at the brunt of it— in refusing Cuba’s aid.

Maybe now we can call on Cuba for help the next time FEMA fails at its job.

The ending of the embargo also has the potential to grant Americans access to affordable healthcare within Cuba. The World Health Organization has praised Cuba for its “innovative” health care system based heavily on cutting-edge medical research. Because the system is state-run, healthcare has remained low in cost despite the impediments caused by economic sanctions.

Within the U.S., however, unaffordable health insurance plans (even post-Obamacare) are viewed by some doctors as one of the biggest factors in the health disparities facing Black and Latino communities. The flow of technological and medical information between the two countries, along with the openness of borders, could help improve them.

But it is the Castro regime’s overall solidarity with activists in the struggle against anti-Black racism that makes the prospect of rekindled diplomatic ties between nations seem so significant.

While the FBI and other law enforcement agencies continue to pressure the Cuban government into extraditing former Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur back to the U.S. for allegedly killing an officer during a shootout, the Castros have made it clear that they plan to do no such thing. Their sympathy to the those deemed political prisoners in the fight against racial injustice runs deep even outside of the U.S. Castro’s decision to send over 50,000 Cuban troops to Angola to counter the South African government’s 1975 invasion resulted in the latter’s sound defeat, which ultimately helped weaken Apartheid rule.

And while the Reagan Administration was crafting rhetoric to justify Nelson Mandela’s placement on the U.S. terrorism watch list (on which he remained until 2008) , Cubans welcomed his historic 1991 visit with open arms.
But now as the struggle for Black lives has reinvigorated the United States, Cuba’s reintegration to the political stage could not have come at a more crucial (and blacker) time.



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