Che Guevara wrote these lines in his famous “Motorcycle Diaries.” But you will search Robert Redford’s famous movie based on the book in utter vain for their mention. Redford, this muscular champion of “artistic freedom,” by the way, meekly acquiesced in screening The Motorcycle Diaries for Che's widow (who heads Cuba's Che Guevara Studies Center) and Fidel Castro for their approval before release.
"N**ger!" taunted my jailers between tortures,” reported the world’s longest suffering black political prisoner about his suffering. "We pulled you down from the trees and cut off your tail!" laughed my torturers. For months I was naked in a 6 x 4 foot cell. That's four feet high, so you couldn't stand. But I felt a great freedom inside myself. I refused to commit spiritual suicide.”
That wasn’t Nelson Mandela. No, the prisoner was a black Cuban named Eusebio Peñalver, whose incarceration and torture at the hands of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s Stalinist regime stretched to 29 years, surpassing Nelson Mandela's record in time behind bars and probably quintupling the horrors suffered by Mandela during this period.
Sr Peñalver served several months of this almost thirty-year sentence in a "punishment cell" barely big enough to stand in, where he languished naked and in complete darkness. "Castro's apologists,” he said in an interview with this writer, “those who excuse or downplay his crimes -- these people be they ignorant, stupid, mendacious whatever--they are accomplices in the bloody tyrant's crimes, accomplices in the most brutal and murderous regime in the hemisphere."
More perspective: according to Anti-Apartheid activists a grand total of 3,000 political prisoners passed through South Africa’s Robben Island prison in roughly 30 years under the Apartheid regime. Usually about a thousand were held. These were out of a South African population of 40 million.
According to the Human Rights group, Freedom House, a grand total of 500,000 political prisoners have passed through Castro’s various prisons and forced labor camps. At one time in 1961, some 300,000 Cubans were jailed for political offenses. This is out of a Cuban population in 1960 of 6.4 million.
Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit www.hfontova.com.