Torture in Cuba

Since the U.N. Human Rights forum opened in Geneva this past week and Cuba’s Felipe Perez Roque made fallacious accusations against the U.S.—I thought it would be a good time to re-examine human rights in Cuba.
Armando Valladares is a Cuban poet who spent 22 years in castro’s gulag for publicly opposing his communist regime and the author of “Against All Hope”. Appointed by President Reagan, he served as a U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading “Against All Hope”, it will tell you all you need to know about human rights in Cuba.
From his 1988 address to the U.N. Human Rights Commission:

Mr. Chairman, today I want to speak about torture, about what it means for a human being to be tortured, to be humiliated, or what may be even worse, to watch a friend, a companion, or a relative being tortured.
As many of you know, I spent twenty-two years in prison for political reasons. Perhaps, I am the only delegate in this Commission who has spent such a long time in prison, although there are several persons here who have known in their own flesh the meaning of torture. I do not care about their political ideology, and I offer to you my embrace of solidarity, from tortured to tortured.
I had many friends in prison. One of them, Roberto López Chávez, was just a kid. He went on a hunger strike to protest the abuses. The guards denied him water, Roberto lay on the floor of his punishment cell, agonizing, deliriously asking for water. water… The soldiers came in and asked him: “Do you want water?”… The they took out their members and urinated in his mouth, on his face… He died the following day. We were cellmates; when he died I felt something wither inside me.
I recall when they kept me in a punishment cell, naked, with several fractures on one leg which never received medical care; today, those bones remain jammed up together and displaced. One of the regular drills among the guards was to stand on the steel mesh ceiling and throw at my face buckets full of urine and excrement.
Mr. Chairman, I know the taste of the urine and the excrement of other men… that practice does not leave marks; marks are left by beatings with steel rods and by bayonet thrusts. My head is still covered with scars and you can feel the cracks.
But, what can inflict more damage to human dignity, the urine and excrements thrown all over your face or a bayonet’s blow? Which is the appropriate article for the discussion of this subject? Under which technical point does it fall? Under what batch of papers, numbers, lines and bars should we include this trampling of human dignity?
For me, and for innumerable other human beings around the world. The violation of human rights was not a matter of reports, of negotiated resolutions, of elegant and diplomatic rhetoric, for us was a daily suffering.
For me (it meant) eight thousand days of hunger, of systematic beatings, of hard labor, of solitary confinement, of cells with steel-planked windows and doors, of solitude.
Eight thousand days of struggling to prove that I was a human being. Eight thousand days of proving that my spirit could triumph over exhaustion and pain. Eight thousand days of testing my religious convictions, my faith, of fighting the hate my atheist jailers were trying to instill in me with each bayonet thrust, fighting so that hate would not flourish in my heart. Eight thousand days of struggling so that I would not become like them, rejecting torture as a mean to fight, forcing myself to forgive, rejecting the thoughts of revenge, reprisal and cruelty.
And when cruelty is extended to one’s family, does not it become a means of torture? My father is an elderly man, he is very ill; he too suffered political imprisonment. Because he is my father he is not allowed to leave the country. For two years now, the authorities are preying on him as reprisal for my activities. They do not beat him, but they tell him that he will be leaving the country on the following day. My father travels to the Capital full of illusions. And when he is about to board the plane, they tell him that it was a bureaucratic error that he most goes back to his hometown. They do this to him every two or five weeks. They are damaging his mind, in the same manner that they destroyed my sister’s, who is currently undergoing psychiatric treatment.
The arbitrariness of tyrants reduces their victims to the condition of mere beasts… dehumanizes them. In the same manner that animals are tied down, locked up or beaten without explanation, totalitarian regimes treat their adversaries as beasts. And there are times, when one is being treated like a beast, that the only thing that saves us from the most degrading humiliation, the only thing that keeps us firm, is to know that somewhere else there is another soul that loves us, that respect us and that is fighting for the return of the dignity that has been snatched from us.

Read the rest of the address at Capitalism Magazine

1 thought on “Torture in Cuba”

  1. A cruel irony…

    August 1944 the “Dumbarton Oaks Conference” held in Washington, DC discussed the formation of the United Nations and the Security Council; it also discussed which states would be invited as members. Representatives of the following nations were in attendance: United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union and China. This conference was held in great secrecy.

    February 21-March 8, 1945, Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace, Mexico City, United States and Latin America agreed to work out a hemispheric defense treaty. In this Conference, Edward R. Stettinius Jr., U.S. Secretary of State demanded that the “Dumbarton Oaks” proposal for the U.N. be accepted without any arguments. Dr. Gustavo Cuervo Rubio, Cuban Minister of State and President of the Cuban delegation, as well as other members of the delegation: Dr.Ernesto Dihigo y López Trigo, Dr.Gustavo Gutierrez and Mariano Brull, did not agree with the proposal and in turn suggested several modifications. Prior to their departure to Mexico the Cuban delegation had met with then President Ramón Grau San Martín to inform him of their proposal. President Grau not only agreed to the text modifications, but also with the request the Cuban delegation planned to present: A “declaration of Human Rights.” For you see, the Cuban delegation believed that the “Dumbarton Oaks” proposal was not democratic enough in that it did not take into account the international rights of individuals, and the international rights of a nation.

    You would think that everyone at the conference would eco such a proposal. WRONG! The Cuban delegation was stoned walled by the United States and other countries soon followed suit. Ezequiel Padilla the Mexican Secretary of International Relations, did not want to “rock to boat” being the host country. In his own words “being the host country, Mexico couldn’t raise an issue that could create a problem.” Nonetheless, the Cuban delegation stayed firm and would not give in. Not even when Leo Pasvolsky a U.S. Department official met with them behind closed doors and insisted they drop their proposal because “though theoretically what they proposed was right, their ideas were not realistic and were due to fail.” Obviously Mr. Pasvolsky didn’t know Cubans too well. The Cuban delegation stayed the course.

    Dr. Gustavo Cuervo Rubio and the rest of the Cuban delegation had come well prepared. They had written a book called “La Carta Magna de la Comunidad de las Naciones,” and in Chapters XXIV and XXV they offered the antecedent and the text of both declarations. Finally the U. S. delegation agreed to the proposals thanks to the help from United States Ambassador George S. Messersmith, Senator Warren R. Austin, and Nelson Rockefeller. The result was Resolution XXX which proposed the establishment of a General International Organization that would supervise the revision of the “Dumbarton Oaks” proposal as well as suggestions from each participating country at the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco from April 25 to June 26 1945.

    No big surprise! Once in San Francisco, the participation of the Cuban Delegation was intentionally VERY limited. The Cuban delegation was represented by Dr. Guillermo Belt and Dr. Ernesto Dihigo y Lopez Trigo. Even so, they emphasized the need that the members of this new organization (UN) needed to adhere to the principles established in the proposal presented by the Cuban delegation (Declaration of Human Rights,) in Mexico and that the General Assembly adopt it as soon as it became established. Once again the Cuban delegation proposal did not find many takers in San Francisco. Leo Pasvolsky realizing this did not insist in carrying out a general discussion on the proposal. Neither did Mexico. However, Panama’s delegate to the Conference Dr. Ricardo J. Alfaro, Minister of International Relations and a good friend of Cuba, had been in contact with both Dr. Guillermo Belt and Dr. Ernesto Dihigo. He presented the completed declarations and insisted that they be included.

    The tremendous effort put forth by the Cuban Delegation to include the Declaration of Human Rights resulted in the creation of the Commission of Human Rights chaired by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. You guessed it! The Cuban delegation was not chosen to be a part of this commission but much of its text is included.

    On January 10, 1946, the First General Assembly, with 51 nations represented,
    opens in Central Hall, Westminster, London. Guy Pérez de Cisneros speech at the U.N. Article by Carmen Maria Rodríguez, Journalist N.Y.

    By the way, Leo Pasvolsky is known as the “Father of the UN” and Eleanor Roosevelt as the “champion of human rights.”

    It is a travesty that Cuba who fought so much for the Human Rights of others has had no champions.

    All the above information can be found in the United Nations Archives.

Comments are closed.