Category: History

Vodka Ain't Good for Cuba Libre
by Dr. Robert A. Galloso

Chapter 9

The political prisons

The tyranny has over one hundred political prisons, “re-habilitation facilities” and forced labor camps all over the island. They could easily compete (and maybe even win) with the old Soviet Union gulags and Nazi stalags. Armando Valladares, former political prisoner, has written one of the most complete accounts of the sinister and brutal prison system under the tyranny. His book, “Against All Hope”, surpasses all the fiction/violence thrillers you might have read or watched in movies, with the difference that this is a real life situation. Be prepared to encounter unbelievable acts of cruelty, sadism and abuse. From that book we have taken one story that shall give you a brief idea of what the book is all about it. It is worth reading and maybe sending a copy to legislators, lobbyists, advocates and others trying to gloss over the hell that the enslaved isle is. No that we believe they would pay any attention, but at least to make them accountable to History later on so that they do not invoke ignorance as their defense.

The refined methods of cruelty, degradation and mistreatment of all prisoners can fill the pages of many books. Valladares has given us a broad, detailed and well written first hand account of a small section of the whole picture, the one that he lived through. Multiply that by the thousands who have been and are still there and you would wind up with an Encyclopedia of Torture, surpassing or, at least matching, the Dark Ages, Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, Vietnam, North Korea, et al. Remember that under the tyranny everybody, and we mean EVERYBODY, is considered guilty until somebody (high ranking person of the ruling mafia) decides that he/she is, for the time being, innocent. A person maybe taken away and “disappeared” for days, weeks or months without anybody in the family receiving information of his/her whereabouts. One favorite trick used by the tyranny is to send detainees/prisoners to jails as far away from the family as possible to make it very difficult, if not impossible, for them to have visitors. Tortures of all kind are their specialty. So much so that some of our Vietnam veterans have written books mentioning Cuban torture specialists that went there to help the Vietnamese torture them, with the Cubans physically carrying out the tortures.

One of the methods they employ to degrade and weaken the spirit of the detainees is forcing them to be naked during the interrogatories. The military come dressed in full uniforms and make them stand up naked during the questioning. Very often, almost always, they come in smoking cigarettes or cigars, with a whip or baton in their hands They burn the detainees/prisoners with their cigarettes and hit them with their batons while questioning them. That’s one of their favorite “warm up” exercises. From there on, anything goes. During this period they are placed in tiny cells where they cannot lay down. They can hardly sit. Lack of food and water is added to the “treatment”. In some cases they “cool” the cells to an unbearable temperature (the floor and walls are concrete). These are some of the “entry” treatments. After they are sentenced they are sent to the jails, “rehab” places, camps, etc. There the treatment changes. The local warden and guards decide how to treat them. If you decide to read Valladares’ book, look for the “Ho Chi Min” sticks treatment. It is not difficult to ascertain where the treatment originated.

We know a person who was a prisoner in one of these camps. Although he was there for “a minor political offense”, he was put through the same treatment than the rest. He told us about this man who was of the Adventist faith. That was his “big crime”. Because of his religious conviction he did not want to salute the flag at the camp. His punishment was to tie a rope under his arm pits to lower him into one of the latrines where he spent the whole day. When the time came to send the prisoners to the barracks they would take him out, hose him down and have him join the rest. This was done for several days. He never wavered or weakened so they finally decided to stop the punishment because it was “no fun anymore”.

One of the most infamous places of their political prison system is “Carcel de Boniato” (Boniato Jail), located in the town of that name in the Oriente Province. We have heard some of the stories and they can make you sick. We do not know of anybody who has written about that place, but we have heard on radio and seen on television some of the few surviving inmates who have managed to escape that hell and come to this country. Their stories make “Les Miserables” and any other similar work look pale in comparison. They have excelled in this field by combining all the torture and repression methods of different totalitarian systems to create a unique, highly refined, method of their own.

In Valladares’ book there is one prominent story that we said at the beginning of this chapter that we were going to mention. He explains how one of the guards murdered a priest who was in jail with them in the early days of the tyranny. He was there just for being a priest who did not agree with the government. Some of the prisoners were chatting in the prison yard when this “miliciano” (militia man) came with his machine gun to talk to them. Then, trying to provoke the religious man, he said a number of profane words against his religion, God and Jesus. His only reply to the provocation was, “Lord, forgive him as he knows not what he is saying”. The “miliciano” discharged his machine gun on the squalid body of the priest at point blank, practically cutting him on half. Then he just walked away like nothing happen. There were no inquires, investigations or reprimands or anything about this cold blooded, premeditated, murder. The miliciano just kept patrolling the yard as usual, just to prove to the rest that he could do whatever he pleased with them and that his behavior was tolerated, maybe even encouraged and rewarded, by the “Robolucion”.

We wonder and ponder how come “International Amnesty”, The Red Cross and other international organizations that supposedly police the violation of human rights and treatment of prisoners around the world, keep mostly quiet about the jail situation in Cuba, particularly these days when you here so much about the Taliban detainees in Gitmo (Guantanamo Base) with whom they are so concerned. Once in a great while you hear a fainted and timid remark about that. Other countries (those in the right side of the political spectrum) get front pages and bold accusatory reviews, but Cuba is hardly mentioned anywhere. We do not know whether they cannot get media attention (we would not be surprised at all) or if it is that the organizations do not want to “upset” a leftist tyranny. We would be dreaming the “Impossible Dream” if we would suggest that Hollywood should make a film about that. No way Jose! About Pinochet or Franco (still to this day they still attack them in some films and TV shows) you may see the subject treated. But the tyrant of the island and the murderer turned mythical hero, Che Guevara, only get rave reviews whenever they find an opportunity (or create one) to do so as well as elaborated spins that they turn into epical films.

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