South Africa's apartheid regime was no model of liberty. But even its most violent enemies enjoyed a bona fide day in court under a judge who was not beholden to a dictator for his job (or his life.) When Nelson Mandela was convicted of "193 counts of terrorism committed between 1961 and 1963, including the preparation, manufacture and use of explosives, including 210,000 hand grenades, 48,000 anti-personnel mines, 1,500 time devices, 144 tons of ammonium nitrate," his trial had observers from around the free world. "The trial has been properly conducted," wrote Anthony Sampson, correspondent for the liberal London Observer. "The judge, Mr Justice Quartus de Wet, has been scrupulously fair." Sampson admitted this though his own sympathies veered strongly towards Mandela. (Indeed, Sampson went on to write Nelson Mandela's authorized biography.)
In sharp contrast, when Ruby Hart Phillips, the Havana correspondent for the flamingly Castrophile New York Times, attended a mass-trial of accused Castro-regime enemies, she gaped in horror. "The defense attorney made absolutely no defense, instead he apologized to the court for defending the prisoners," she wrote in February 1959. "The whole procedure was sickening." The defendants were all murdered by firing squad the following dawn.
In 1961 a Castro regime prosecutor named Idelfonso Canales explained Cuba's new system to a stupefied "defendant," named Rivero Caro who was himself a practicing lawyer in pre-Castro Cuba. "Forget your lawyer mentality," laughed Canales. "What you say doesn't matter. What proof you provide doesn't matter, even what the prosecuting attorney says doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what the G-2 (military police) says!"
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, (all after trials similar to the one described above by Anthony Sampson.) Usually about a thousand were held. These were out of a South African population of 40 million. Here's what Mandela's "jail cell" looked like towards the end of his sentence.
"N*gger!" taunted my jailers between tortures. “recalled Castro’s prisoner Eusebio Penalver to this writer. “We pulled you down from the trees and cut off your tail!" they laughed at me. “For months I was naked in a 6 x 4 foot cell That’s 4 feet high, so you couldn’t stand. But they never succeeded in branding me as common criminal, so I felt a great freedom inside myself. I refused to commit spiritual suicide,” continued the late Mr Penalver.
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 (many after trails like the one described by R.H Phillips above, others with none whatsoever.) At one time in 1961, some 300,000 Cubans were jailed for political offenses (in torture chambers and forced-labor camps designed by Stalin's disciples, not like Mandela's as seen above.) This was out of a Cuban population in 1960 of 6.4 million.
So who did the world embargo for "injustice?" and "human-rights abuses?" (Apartheid South Africa, of course) And who currently sits on the UN’s Human Rights Council? (Stalinist Cuba.)
In brief, none of the craziness Alice found after tumbling down that rabbit hole comes close to the craziness Cuba-watchers read and see almost daily.
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.