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Posted January 04, 2006 by publisher in Cuban History

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By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist

(original title: 9,240 victims, and counting)

THE LONGEST-RULING despot in the world is Fidel Castro, who seized power in Cuba 47 years ago this week. Like most dictators, Castro is a brazen liar, especially about his own regime. This, for example, is what he told an international conference in Havana in April 2001:

‘‘There have never been death squads in our country, nor a single missing person, nor a single political assassination, nor a single victim of torture. . . . You may travel around the country, ask the people, look for a single piece of evidence, try to find a single case where the Revolutionary government has ordered or tolerated such an action. And if you find them, then I will never speak in public again.”

One would have to be willfully blind—a useful idiot, in Lenin’s phrase—to believe such a reeking falsehood. But when it comes to Castro, useful idiots have never been in short supply. From Norman Mailer to Jean-Paul Sartre, from Jesse Jackson to Ted Turner, a long line of admirers has swooned over the bearded tyrant, lavishly praising his wisdom and charm—and never showing the slightest interest in his real record: cruelty, repression, and a death toll in the tens of thousands.

But Castro’s mocking challenge—‘‘try to find a single case”—is not going unanswered. The Cuba Archive project ( [url=http://www.CubaArchive.org]http://www.CubaArchive.org[/url] ) is working to document the cost, in human life, of more than five decades of Cuban dictatorship. The New Jersey-based archive’s tiny staff has set itself the monumental task of identifying every man, woman, and child killed by Cuba’s rulers since March 10, 1952, the day Batista ousted the island’s last democratically elected president. Meticulously, impartially, the archive’s researchers are assembling the evidence that Castro claims doesn’t exist—victim by victim, one death at a time.

It is heartbreaking work. The revolution’s victims have died in front of firing squads and been beaten to death by government goons; they have been sunk while at sea and shot down while flying; they have been killed for resisting communism at home and killed when sent to fight for communism abroad. In the hands of Castro’s jailers, some have been driven to suicide; many more have disappeared.

It is also slow and painstaking work. Each death entered into the archive must be confirmed by at least two independent sources and documented, to the extent possible, with photographs, eyewitness testimony, and the recollections of survivors. ‘‘We don’t want to just record names and numbers,” says Maria Werlau, the president of the Cuba Archive. ‘‘We want to tell each story. We want the world to know the magnitude of the Cuban tragedy.”

So far the archive has catalogued the deaths of 9,240 victims of the Castro regime. Who were they? Sister Aida Rosa Perez, who was sent to prison as an ‘‘enemy of the revolution” and died of heart failure brought on by torture and hard labor. Estanislao Gonzalez Quintana, who died in police custody four days after being detained for ‘‘unlawful economic activity”; his corpse was visibly bruised and had a deep gash in the forehead. The three Garcia-Marin Thompson brothers, who sought asylum at the Vatican embassy in Havana, only to be seized by Interior Ministry troops and executed after a summary hearing. Mrs. Alberto Lazo Pastrana, who died with her three children when the boat on which they were trying to leave Cuba was sunk by the Cuban navy; the mother was eaten by sharks and the children were never seen again. Carlos Alberto Costa, a 29-year-old American, who was shot down by a Cuban jet fighter as he flew an unarmed plane on a search-and-rescue mission over international waters in 1996.

Plus 9,230 others.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Werlau and the archive’s research director, Armando Lago, an economist who has spent years analyzing the costs of the Cuban revolution, expect the total number of deaths to be far higher. As many as 77,000 Cubans may have lost their lives trying to escape the island; their deaths, too, will eventually be added to the archive.

Werlau, who lived in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship, saw firsthand how international awareness of human rights atrocities helped Chile reinstate its democracy. ‘‘The Castro regime executed more people in just its first three years than the Pinochet regime killed or ‘disappeared’ in its entire 17 years in power,” she says. ‘‘Yet Castro’s victims, who number so many times more—and who include not just political opponents but entire families assassinated for trying to flee—remain unknown, ignored, or forgotten.

‘‘We just had to do something about it.”

Jeff Jacoby’s e-mail address is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

PS Read the Wall Street Journal article here: http://cubaarchive.org/downloads/CA22.pdf

  1. Follow up post #1 added on January 04, 2006 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    “...killed by Cuba’ rulers since March 10, 1952, the day Batista ousted the island’ last democratically elected president.”

    Why does this story not mention how many people Batista killed?

    Note that this is an Op/Ed piece and not necessarily based on facts.

    Does anyone know about CubaArchive.org? I have never heard of them.

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on January 04, 2006 by GregoryHavana with 196 total posts

    Cuba is not a pluralistic democracy, but more of a radical social experiment in a fortress mentality to protect itself from subterfuge by the United States. To draw conclusions on Fidel’ human rights record, one need only to consult Amnesty International. Whereas they do criticize the lack of individual freedoms, AI is honest enough to recognize that there are no “gross human rights violations”, these being systematic torture, disappearances, extrajudicial executions, death squads, etc. The bunk that Jacoby is spewing is propaganda Miami style. Moreover, from looking at the methodology of who they consider a victim of Fidel (people that have died in wars, etc.), we could apply that to the past couple U.S. governments, and if you add up all the civilian deaths caused during the Vietnam war, the Iraq war, Nagasaki & Hiroshima, then the U.S. government overshadows most other countries in the number of its victims.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on March 01, 2007 by Don

    I have to agree, in Jacoby’s rant, if a person died in a car accident, it is Castro’s fault.

    I would think any idiot would know NOT to fly their airplane in another countries air space without approval. If a government says, “not to leave the country” other than getting a valid via, I guess you just have to take your chances if you do.

    Here in the USA it is common for police to use excessive force unto death,  but does that make the State and Federal Government oppressive,  the most evil that walked on the earth? I think not.


  4. Follow up post #4 added on December 31, 2007 by Cassandra

    “One would have to be willfully blind—a useful idiot, in Lenin’s phrase”

    Just for starters, Jacoby, Lenin never said that.  See Wikipedia’s tracing of the phrase, first used when Lenin was long in his tomb.

    Put me down as one who would believe Dr. Castro Ruz over Cuban “exiles” in New Jersey any day. They can’t even get their press release ironed out. They claim “The comprehensive effort documents cases irrespective of political or ideological attributes of the victim or perpetrators.” So they include, by their own words, the 3,000 victims of Cuban “exile” terrorism against Cubans, which included such heroic acts as lynching several of the high school students who were teaching peasants to read and write. How can these be described as “crimes of the Cuban Communist Leadership”?

    Easily enough: “The Devil made me do it.”

    I’ve spent five years on message boards challenging “el exilio” to give me a single legitimate case that would disprove Castro’s statement—a case founded on more than a press-release from CANF claiming to quote Cuban human rights workers who claimed to have interviewed witnesses. Something a real human rights organization, for instance, hasn’t mysteriously overlooked, as they all seem to have overlooked the “seven extrajudicial executions” in 2007. Perhaps a case raised with Cuba by a UN oversight committee.

    The U.S. was kicked off the UNHRC in ‘89 for making allegations of torture and murder against Cuba which the UN investigated, finding “no evidence to support the charges.” See HRW 1989 report.

    I was often referred to a site which this site seems to be duplicating that listed among the murders by Castro the Bay of Pigs casualties. The only thing I thought needed investigation was the Sinking of the 13 de marzo—search Cassandra 13 de marzo and you should find my conclusions on line.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on December 31, 2007 by James August

    Cassandra, put me down as one who doesn’t believe any of them.

    Shit happens for a reason, Batista was a lacky of the Mafia, Fidle was an idealist, Che and Raoul were F*CKING animals and it’s all well documented.

    I hope you and everybody in the world have a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.

  6. Follow up post #6 added on December 31, 2007 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    the fact that there are no mention of abuses and killings under Battista also hurts the groups credibility.
    Am assuming the group is based in the USA, which welcomed Battista as an old buddy.  Pure coincidence of course.

  7. Follow up post #7 added on December 31, 2007 by James August

    “the fact that there are no mention of abuses and killings under Battista”

    Must be pure coincidence, Fulgencio did what his masters told him to do, the Meyer Lansky crowd including Santo Trafficante were big players, isn’t Cuba where Papa Joe Kennedy got the rum he shipped to Canada then smuggled into the US to make the family fortune ... a generous crowd in deed ........  hmmm.

  8. Follow up post #8 added on January 01, 2008 by Cassandra


    I have found very little documentation concerning Raul at all.

    Che is well documented, and I’m certain that if there was any documentation to the effect that Che was an “animal” I would have seen it.

    I have seen this ARGUED, but the arguments are absurd. They pretty much amount to “Che was a guerrillero. Guerrilleros shoot people. Therefore Che was a beast.” Is this a stretch, or what? Che frequently described the trajectory of a bullet wound in more detail than a lay observer. Rather than saying “He was shot in the middle of the forehead” Che would continue with the path of the bullet through the brain. Was this brutality? Both observers describe as much as they know—Che, having studied Grey’s Anatomy, just knew more.

    As soon as they had secured an area in the Sierras, Che built a jail. Think about it.

  9. Follow up post #9 added on January 01, 2008 by James August

    Cassandra, you are correct, there isn’t much about Raoul, you need to look into the original first hand accounts of Guerilleros, there is a surprising number of comments about his ways of doing things.

    I would hardly call Che’s tenure as the “Supreme Prosecutor” at Havana’s La Cabaña prison as the work of a Guerillero, he enjoyed killing.

    It’s gonna be years before all the truth comes out, and for Fidel hell he’s been lying longer than most, democratic elections were promised 49 yrs ago and they’re are still waiting.

  10. Follow up post #10 added on January 01, 2008 by GregoryinHavana

    James… I am curious to your basis for claiming that Che ‘enjoyed killing’. What particular books or historical documents have you read that lead you to this conclusion? I have read about Che extensively and the accounts I have read, including mainstream researchers, do not claim that he ‘enjoyed’ killing in the way you perjoratively imply.

  11. Follow up post #11 added on January 02, 2008 by James August

    Gregory, depends what you read, for what it’s worth ¿? Humberto Fontova refers to a letter that Che (allegedly) sent to his father where he is quoted as saying:

    At that moment I discovered that I really liked killing.

  12. Follow up post #12 added on January 02, 2008 by GregoryinHavana

    Most of the serious mainstream biographies do not imply that Che enjoyed killing. See the works by Jon Lee Anderson, Pablo Ingnacio Taibo or Jorge Castaneda. I am not sure if one ‘alleged’ letter can establish such a sweeping conclusion about a person. Established interests in the United States would love to discredit Che as a martyr and symbol for the Left, so I think it is reasonable to assume that if there was credible evidence that he enjoyed killing, it would have surfaced by now.

  13. Follow up post #13 added on January 02, 2008 by James August

    Gregory, mainstream biographies don’t do the “Supreme Executioner” justice.

    ¿What Ministry you work for?

  14. Follow up post #14 added on January 02, 2008 by GregoryinHavana

    James… If we are not to rely on mainstream biographies, what do you suggest we rely on? Hard-line Miami sources? Hagiographic writings from the Left? In regards to your quesion, I am not sure what you are asking when you ask “what Ministry do I work for”. Please explain.

  15. Follow up post #15 added on January 02, 2008 by James August

    Gregory, let’s go back to the title of this post, “Victims of… ” to me it’s about abuses and killings, I don’t think Fidel was bloodthirsty, Batista’s biggest mistake was to not hang Fidel and Raoul after the first attempted coup.

    I ask about your employment Ministry because I re-read your first post,

    ¿what Ministry does the Deparment of Propaganda fall under, MININT or MINFAR or is there a MINPROP, is Esteban your boss?

  16. Follow up post #16 added on January 02, 2008 by GregoryinHavana

    The facetiousness of your questions is duly noted. Often when people do not have cogent responses, they resort to ad hominem. But to engage you, I did not work for any Cuban Ministry, but instead the Canadian government and the United Nations Development Program (as a consultant on sustainable human development issues). I have been living as a foreign consultant in Cuba for almost 13 years and make it a point to read mainstream accounts of the country, to combine with my personal experience of living in Cuba.
    James, unfortunatley, you still have not responded to my question - if we are not to rely on mainstream and scholarly sources, as you strangely stated, than what are we to rely on? You present yourself as someone knowledgeable on Cuba, but I wonder about the quality of that knowledge if you pass of mainstream sources. (And by mainstream, I mean investigative journalists who are not sycophantic supporters of the Revolution.)

  17. Follow up post #17 added on January 02, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts


    You’ve chosen a seasoned Havana Journal member to spar with grin

    Gregory is very knowledgeable, logical and rational.

    If you’re going to go toe to toe with him, you’ll need some good information.

    Just FYI, good luck.

    Cuba consulting services

  18. Follow up post #18 added on January 02, 2008 by James August

    Great to hear your trying to do good stuff, now let’s get back to the original post asking for opinions about “Victims…”

    Your original post is completely off topic and totally irrelevant to the subject, the bunk you spew is nothing more than typical Havana style propaganda.

    Biographies or hominy grits, there was a revolution, people were killed and executed, some possibly because it felt good that day, somebody was responsible and it wasn’t the Tooth Fairy of the Easter Bunny, them is facts.


  19. Follow up post #19 added on January 02, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Okay, I guess this conversation has run its course.

    Let’s move onto other topics.

    Cuba consulting services

  20. Follow up post #20 added on January 02, 2008 by GregoryinHavana

    I agree Rob. It does not appear that anything edifying or illuminating will come from engaging James, except for claims that I am “spewing bunk” that is “typical Havana style propaganda”. Am I to take that as a compliment?

  21. Follow up post #21 added on January 02, 2008 by James August

    Hey Rob, I agree with you nuf said, BTW I think Gregory is none other than Jean-Guy Allard, there are few as “articulate”  wink

  22. Follow up post #22 added on January 03, 2008 by Cassandra

    Humberto Fontova was asked in an interview what research he had done. From his own mouth: it consisted of talking with Cuban exiles in Florida and reading CIA-ghosted books. He relied heavily on Valladares, who I’ve mentioned earlier as the cause of the U.S. being expelled from the UN HRC for making false allegations of human rights violations against Cuba.

    He says nothing about a trip to Argentina and being granted permission by Che’s family to read their hitherto unpublished letters from Che.

    He has no academic or professional credentials—he majored in history at Tulane, which is not the same thing as being an historian. He left Cuba as a six-year-old, so wait for a book on pre-Revolutionary kindergartens. For that he has qualifications.

    The quality of his intellect—hard to choose a single example—is demonstrated by two statements in adjacent paragraphs. He says the psychotic thugs and murderers who were tried and executed in the first months of the Revolution a) had no trials, and b) had public trials in order to intimidate the population. I’ll bet he believes both these statements.

    When the dictator Machado fled Cuba, unarmed mobs stormed through the streets of Havana hunting the political police and BITING THEM to death. There’s a book, with photos, of the scenes, which were witnessed by NYT reporters who were watching from their balconies. While Fidel was en route to Havana, Radio Rebelde kept repeating “Wait for us. Wait for us. We will give you justice.”

    Promise made, promise kept.

  23. Follow up post #23 added on January 03, 2008 by James August

    FONTOVA…..He has no academic or professional credentials—he majored in history at Tulane

    WOW Casandra, can you post links to where you got your information so I can educate myself better. 

    The man has more nerve than a broken tooth, on his own website http://www.hfontova.com/ they say

    He graduated from the University of New Orleans with a degree in Political Science. He recieved his Masters Degree from Tulane University in Latin American Studies.

    His father was in La Cabaña for three months at the start of the revolution so Humberto was not privy to some first hand information.

    Like the boss man said “time to move on”  grin grin grin

  24. Follow up post #24 added on January 07, 2008 by Cassandra


    Ask some people who’ve been to college. There is no conflict between my data and what you posted. Acquiring professional status in most things (maybe not POTS) requires more than a university degree.

    Would you regard anyone who had an M.A. in philosophy as a professional philosopher? How about everybody who was in Fontova’s class. Are they historians?

    Find a publication of Fontova’s in a peer-reviewed journal. (That should keep you out of mischief for a while.)

    The only thing people offer as credentials that is more over-reaching than “I passed a course in this” is “I studied such-and-such at university” which does not even affirm graduation.

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