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News > U.S.

Civil Rights Activist Harry Belafonte Dies at 96

  • Late President Hugo Chavez (L) & Harry Belafonte (R) in Venezuela.

    Late President Hugo Chavez (L) & Harry Belafonte (R) in Venezuela. | Photo: Twitter/ @NicolasMaduro

Published 26 April 2023

Apart from his humanitarian activism, Belafonte was a longtime critic of the U.S. foreign policy. 

On Tuesday, singer, actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte died at the age of 96 in New York. His life and work was remembered by international leaders who highlighted his historical role in the struggle of the peoples.


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"On April 25, the world said goodbye to musician, actor and social activist Harry Belafonte, a defender of just causes in the United States. Venezuela will always remember him as a great friend. Our condolences to his friends and relatives," Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro tweeted.

"With the painful departure of Harry Belafonte, the United States and the world lose an extraordinary artist and human being. The people of Cuba say goodbye to their supportive and unforgettable friend. Our deepest condolences go out to family and friends," Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said.

"He was a close friend of Fidel Castro and of Cuba...he was a great U.S. artist and activist who stood up for justice like a true revolutionary," the Cuban leader added.

"United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and everyone at the world body extended their deepest condolences to the family, friends, fans, and countless admirers of Belafonte," said Stephane Dujarric, Guterres' spokesman.

"Beyond touching millions with his inimitable charm and charisma in music, film, and theater, Mr. Belafonte devoted his life fighting for human rights and against injustice in all its forms," he added.

"He was a fearless campaigner for civil rights and a powerful voice in the struggle against apartheid, the fight against AIDS, and the quest to eradicate poverty." 

Belafonte was appointed a goodwill ambassador of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in 1987, and over the decades set new standards for public advocacy on behalf of the world's children.

"With unrelenting dedication and boundless generosity, he engaged presidents, parliamentarians, and civil society to champion UNICEF's cause... At this moment of sorrow, let us be inspired by his example and strive to defend the dignity and rights of every human being, everywhere," Dujarric stressed.

Apart from humanitarian activism, Belafonte supported the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s and was one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s confidants. Belafonte was also a longtime critic of the U.S. foreign policy. 

On Wednesday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also expressed his "deep sadness" over the death of Belafonte, whom he recalled for his fight against the apartheid segregationist system (1948-1994).

"Harry Belafonte holds a special place in the hearts of South Africans and many around the world for his extraordinary talent and warmth of personality, but also for his stand against apartheid at the height of his international career," Ramaphosa said.

"He was instrumental in sustaining the United Nations-led cultural boycott against apartheid in South Africa...he worked closely with South African artists, including Miriam Makeba, to ensure that South Africa's struggle against apartheid continued to be the center of attention and the international agenda," he added.

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