The Man Castro Couldn't Crack

Monday, October 30, 2006

Let me tell you the story of Armando Valladares, who spent 22 years as a political prisoner in Fidel Castro’s Cuban jails. He was, of course, one of many such prisoners. Valladares was guilty of opposing the adoption of communist ideology after the anti-Batista Cuban revolution.

Because he would not compromise his opposition to communism, Valladares was not only jailed but tortured as well. He was subjected to brutal beatings, isolation, and biological and psychological experiments that only a sadist could dream up.

Valladares was locked away in so-called tiger cages. The steel mesh ceiling was easily punctured by the guards who prodded and poked him with their clubs so he could not sleep. He was regularly doused from above by the guards with buckets of excrement and urine collected from the other prisoners.

Steel plates were welded on the cell windows and door so no light could enter his cell. According to his memoir, he lived mired in his own waste and went for years without a bath. In his 22 years as a prisoner of conscience, he was allowed 13 visits. He survived years of solitary confinement.

In 1963 he was given a blue uniform to wear, which would distinguish common criminals from political prisoners; he refused to wear it and went naked. Because Valladares refused to participate in any political rehabilitation programs, the Fidelistas tried to starve him into submission: no food for 46 days. That didn’t work.

In his 22 years as a prisioner of conscience, Valladares was allowed just 13 visits, and he survived years in solitary confinement.

By now his plight had become known worldwide: Valladares had become a symbol of resistance to the Castro dictatorship. An international campaign for his release was led by then-President Francois Mitterrand of France, who made a personal appeal to Castro to release Valladares. Upon his release, Valladares published a memoir, Against All Hope, which became an international bestseller.

Why this long story? Because the last U.N. Human Rights Commission had such a disgraceful collection of violators of human rights that Kofi Annan created a new commission. And guess what? Cuba is a member of the new commission.

Has the United Nations no shame?