On Feb 23rd, black human rights activist Orlando Zapata-Tamayo died after an 83-day hunger strike and a series of savage beatings by his Castroite jailer/torturers.
Some background: Shortly after Jimmy Carter (famous for his “Human Rights”-flavored foreign policy as president) visited Castro in 2002, played baseball with him and returned home proclaiming Castro, “a committed egalitarian who despises any system in which one class or group of people lives much better than another,” Zapata-Tamayo was beaten and arrested by Castro’s police for the crime of “disobedience.”
Castro’s KGB/STASI -trained secret police had a point. Tamayo, a humble rural plumber and bricklayer, had studied the (smuggled) works of Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi and had attempted some “civil disobedience” to protest the Stalinism imposed on Cuba by the Castro brothers, Che Guevara and their Soviet puppeteers.
“This nigra’s sure getting uppity!” decided Cuba’s lily white Stalinist rulers--and they pounced. Samizdats smuggled
Tamayo’s “disobedience” (against a regime hailed by “free spirits” from Johnny Depp to Bonnie Raitt) continued in proportion to his beatings and tortures. Tamayo remained –literally– “bloodied but unbowed.” Even Amnesty International recognized his plight and designated him an official “Prisoner of Conscience. His exasperating defiance simply prompted the regime hailed by Jesse Jackson, Charles Rangel and Danny Glover to more merciless beatings and to bump-up his sentence to 36 years in Castro’s dungeons.
A little perspective: After conviction for planting bombs in public places (by a judiciary process declared scrupulously fair by the attending international press and human rights organizations) Nelson Mandela got a lighter sentence than did Tamayo for a peaceful protest. Needless to add, the regime that jailed Mandela was universally embargoed and condemned-- and with particular virulence by the
"There's one place where Fidel Castro stands out head-and-shoulders above the rest. That is in his love for human rights and liberty!" Thus gushed Nelson Mandela himself (!) in 1991.
Shortly after the Congressional Black Caucus visited with Raul Castro last year and returned hailing him as “one of the most amazing human beings we’ve ever met! Castro is a very engaging, down-to-earth and kind man!” the Black human rights activist and Martin Luther King disciple, Tamayo, was beaten comatose by his Castroite jailers and left with a life-threatening fractured skull and Subdural Hematoma.
On December 3, already injured perhaps beyond recovery (certainly with Cuba’s medical facilities) and hoping his death might alert a nauseatingly two-faced “international community” to the plight of Castro’s subjects, Orlando Zapata-Tamayo declared a hunger strike that lasted 82 days.
“They finally murdered my son,” wept Reina Luisa Tamayo this Feb. 24 upon news of her son’s death. “They finally got what they wanted. They ended the life of a fighter for human rights. My son was tortured. But he didn't die on his knees. He died bravely. My son's death gives me much strength, valor; I want the world to demand the release of all the other prisoners of conscience that this not happen again. And no--I don’t accept Raul Castro’s ‘apology.’ He’s an assassin!"
Her son’s body was delivered to Mrs. Tamayo by Castro’s secret police who demanded he be buried quickly and without fanfare. Castro’s police have also blanketed Tamayo’s rural home town to further “emphasize” this last directive.
All press agencies that have earned a Havana bureau were very slow in reporting Tamayo’s death (though a skinned knee or sprained toe in Guantanamo would have buzzed through all news wires within seconds.)
These agencies were very prompt, however, in reporting “President” Raul Castro’s official reaction. “We are really sorry about his death, a lamentable accident,” said “President” Raul Castro. “In half a century in Cuba there have been no extrajudicial killings. We haven’t killed a single person. Here, there is no torture. Killings and torture only happen in Guantanamo.”
Nary a snark accompanied the reports by these Castro-approved reporters. “But how can anyone actually believe such bald-faced lies by Raul Castro?” might be the reaction from folks with a modicum of education or common sense.
Well, I give you excerpts from an article dated 12/6/06 by one of these Castro-approved “reporters”, Anthony Boadle of Reuters. “There are no credible reports of disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture in Cuba since the early 1960s, according to human rights groups."
Just what "human rights groups" were consulted by this Castro-sanctioned reporter, he doesn't specify. But his concern with "extrajudicial killings" presents a thoroughly fascinating specimen of logic for a presumably educated gentleman. Applying it to other historical settings we discover that the regimes responsible for the Great Terror and the Nuremberg Laws are preferable to the one responsible for the Kent State killings. The first two were perfectly "judicial," after all. The third was not.
Indeed, Stalin's massacres were usually preceded by "trials" featuring detailed "confessions" from the "criminals" with cameras and reporters on hand lest anyone doubt these proceeding's scrupulously "judicial" nature.
The very trademark of a totalitarian regime is that its mass-murders, mass-jailings and mass-larcenies are all perfectly "judicial," because every judge is a regime apparatchik. Any judge who temporizes over the rubber-stamping of a Communist regime decree disappears, not just from his bench, but from the face of the earth. His former colleagues, or perhaps his successor, then sign the proper documentation making his disappearance properly "judicial."
Furthermore, Castro's murder tally is not difficult to dig up. No need to consult the ravings of some "crackpot" scandal sheet from us “crackpot” Cuban-Americans. Simply open The Black Book of Communism, written by French scholars and published in English by Harvard University Press, neither an outpost of the vast right-wing conspiracy. Here you'll find a tally of 14,000 Castroite murders by firing-squad. "The facts and figures are irrefutable. No one will any longer be able to claim ignorance or uncertainty about the criminal nature of Communism." wrote the New York Times (no less!) about the Black Book of Communism.
The Cuba Archive project headed by scholars Maria Werlau and the late Armando Lago estimates the death toll from Castro's regime, including firing squads, prison beatings and deaths at sea while attempting escape at slightly over 100,000. This project has been lauded by everyone from The Miami Herald to the Boston Globe (again, no right-wing outposts) to the Wall Street Journal.
Castro's chief hangman, Che Guevara, had laid down the rules very succinctly: "Judicial evidence is an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution. We execute from revolutionary conviction."
Now let’s fast forward to that period Boadle assures us is untainted by any "extra-judicial killings." A 17-year-old named Orlando Travieso was armed with only a homemade paddle when he was machine-gunned to death in March 1991. His “crime,” as spelled out perfectly judicially in Cuba’s legal code, was trying to flee Cuba on a tiny raft. Loamis Gonzalez was 15 when he was machine-gunned to death for the same “crime.” The “criminal” Owen Delgado was 15 when Castro’s police dragged him out of the Ecuadorian Embassy where he sought asylum and clubbed him to death with rifle butts.
Boadle will be pleased that these boys and thousands upon thousands of others who perished in similar fashion well after the early 1960s were all deemed "criminals” by Castro’s judicial system.
Angel Abreu and Jose Nicol were 3, Gisele Borges and Caridad Leyva were 4 and Cindy and Yolindis Rodriguez were 2 on July 17, 1994, when their mothers held them in a tight embrace on the deck of a tugboat. Castro’s coast guard rammed the tugboat and water-cannoned them from their screaming mothers arms and into a turbulent sea to drown. Boadle will be pleased that Castro’s regime ruled this—quite judicially—an "accident," exactly as they rule Tamayo’s death.
May Orlando Zapata-Tamayo rest in peace, may his family accept our condolences and may his murderers eventually face justice.