The next time you think it’s about time for the United States to be a little more conciliatory towards Cuba, try to remember Cuban political prisoner Antonio Villarreal.
Several reports in recent weeks have detailed Villarreal’s worsening condition, especially the psychological toll of being condemned to fidel castro’s gulag. Common prisoners threaten and steal from him, and the latest account, posted at Payo Libre, suggest he’s ready to give up the fight.
Tony Villarreal tells Payo Libre’s Pablo Rodríguez Carvajal that his father, now 57, weighs 78 pounds, down from 182 when he was arrested during the “black spring” of March-April 2003. The elder Villarreal, an economist, librarian and democracy activist, was convicted of being a traitor and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The younger Villarreal lives overseas, but his mother recently reported via telephone from Cuba that Antonio Villarreal “has lost his appetite, and appears very emaciated, as if he were in a concentration camp during World War II.”
Family members said they do not know if Villarreal has lost so much weight because of the bad food served to prisoners, or because of some undiagnosed medical condition, according to the Payo Libre report.
In the debate over what the United States should do about Cuba, those who suffer because of their opposition to the regime — Cuba’s political prisoners — are too often forgotten by those who see the island either as an example of American failure, or as a lucrative business opportunity. Fortunately, the decider, at least for now, of American policy has not forgotten.
No accommodation with the castro dictatorship is possible, as long as prisoners of conscience like Antonio Villarreal and too many others, continue to rot in its dungeons. That’s a hardline, intransigent position that must never be abandoned.