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Pro-government group rejects Cuba racism claim

Pro-government Cuban writers and artists Friday rejected allegations by African-Americans of racism and repression on the island, calling the charges "delusional" and part of "an anti-Cuban campaign."

The reply came as four Afro-Cuban dissidents thanked the Americans for their support, and four prominent academics from the English-speaking Caribbean condemned Cuba's "continued racial prejudice."

The allegations issued Monday by 60 African-Americans touched a raw nerve because it was the first time that U.S. blacks, historically supportive of the Castro government, criticized the island's civil rights record and supported Afro-Cuban dissidents.

Friday's reply was signed by eight government backers who regularly address black issues, but seemed to have official approval because the government press office distributed their statement.

Victoria Ruiz-Labrit, a Miami supporter of black dissidents on the island, said she had received information from the island that government officials were pressing other black Cubans to sign the reply. Some refused and some signed, she said.

The Cubans' statement said the Americans' allegations would be "delusional craziness were it not for . . . evidence of the intention to add respected voices of the African-American community to the anti-Cuban campaign that attempts to undermine our sovereignty."

Cuba has sent troops and doctors to Africa to help blacks, it said, hosted 40,000 African students in its schools, outlawed discrimination in 1959 and promoted Afro-Cuban culture through museums, music, dance and other institutions.

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