The Miami Herald - Opinion
As a practical matter, it is impossible for this or any other newspaper to set the record straight every time the Cuban government tells a whopper. Orchestrating lies is the specialty of police states. Anyone who has ever listened to Radio Havana or watched a Cuban TV “news” program knows that Cuban leaders lie to their own people and lie to the outside world. They even lie to each other. But sometimes the lie is so blatant, so malign, so far removed from the painful reality of life in Cuba that it must be refuted, for the sake of common decency if nothing else.
That’s the case with Raul Castro’s recent claim that there has not been “one sole case of torture” in Cuba. Even by Cuba’s standards, this is an astonishing falsehood, a lie of such outsized proportions that even Raul Castro should have been ashamed to utter it. But since he was speaking before the National Assembly, where slavish agreement is the only acceptable response to the leader’s declarations, it doubtless went down like a smooth cafecito.
The truth, of course, is that torture and the humiliation of government opponents is a way of life in Cuba. The abusive legal and institutional mechanisms of the state deprive the people of Cuba of their most basic rights on a daily basis, and that extends to the practice of torture in Cuba’s jails for both common criminals and political prisoners.
Testimonies and documentation compiled by exile groups, human rights organizations and international bodies over half a century attest to this shameful record. One who should know is Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, a former political prisoner known as “Antunez” who has earned his knowledge of life in Cuban jails the hard way.
So outraged was he after listening to Raul Castro’s speech on Cuban TV that he dared write an open letter to the current maximum leader to express his objection. His letter reads in part:
“In our country and especially in its prisons, there is not ‘one sole case of torture,’ but rather there are thousands and thousands of human beings who have been treated in cruel, inhumane and degrading ways, and who are forced to live in abject conditions, constituting true acts of torture. They are a daily occurrence, and those who commit these acts do so with the most open and obscene impunity. ... You were behind the well-known forced labor programs, the indiscriminate executions before the firing-squad wall, beatings and every kind of physical and psychological mistreatment against political and common prisoners. These have been and continue to be the tactics customarily employed by Cuban prison authorities, as well as the use of poor medical attention and the denial of any medical attention as weapons with which to pressure and blackmail imprisoned opposition activists.”
It took unimaginable courage to write the letter. “Antunez” is still in Cuba, still subject to the whims of its ruthless police agents, corrupt courts and venal jail wardens — yet still willing to speak out. Cuba remains a captive nation, but as long as some of its brave men and women dare to speak truth to power, there is hope for the future. Such people will not stay silent in the midst of evil.