NAACP to Open Office, Affirm 'Kinship' in Cuba.(PAGE ONE)

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Miller, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People plans to open an office in Havana.

"Cuba likes the idea of an NAACP chapter established there, and we are very open to it," said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP's Washington office. "We have no timeline on this and haven't set a date to open the office."

He added that establishing a chapter on the island run by communist dictator Fidel Castro is a "great move."

Mr. Shelton was part of an 18-member delegation that visited Cuba for four days this month. The group included NAACP Executive Director Kweisi Mfume and several members of the National Black Farmers Association.

The contingent visited dissidents, university students and government agents.

It also held a four-hour meeting with Mr. Castro and left with a promise from the dictator to buy produce from black farmers in the United States.

"President Fidel Castro promised to establish trade links with black farmers, and it appears he has kept his word," Mr. Mfume said in a statement.

The delegation visited the island with the belief that "policies were changing in Cuba," Mr. Shelton said. "This is a country in which 70 percent of the population is of African descent. We have a lot of kinship with those people."

Trade and visitation to Cuba are restricted by U.S. law, but the NAACP is likely to use legal provisions that allow religious groups to establish churches there.

Mr. Shelton said the NAACP office in Cuba, like the 500,000-member organization's 1,700 other branches, would be staffed by volunteers.

Black leaders - mostly Democrats - have long supported the Castro regime, making frequent visits as guests of the Cuban government. …