Torture in Cuba
May 2008
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Cuba's leader tells another whopper
Posted on Mon, May. 05, 2008

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

That's the case with Raúl 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
Raúl 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 García Peréz, a
former political prisoner known as ''Antúnez'' who has earned his
knowledge of life in Cuban jails the hard way.

So outraged was he after listening to Raúl 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:

Degrading ways

'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. ''Antúnez'' 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.

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