But enough cold statistics. Among those tens of thousands of murdered Cubans was a 20-year-old boy named Tony Chao Flores who in 1962 took his place at La Cabana’s execution stake. But he hobbled to it on crutches. He'd taken 17 bullets from their Czech machine guns when the Castroites captured him. On the way to the execution stake at the old Spanish fort turned to a prison and execution ground by Che Guevara, Tony was forced to hobble down some cobblestone stairs. Tony tumbled down the long row of steps and finally lay on the cobblestones at the bottom, writhing and grimacing. One of Tony's bullet-riddled legs had been amputated at the hospital, the other was gangrened and covered in pus. The Castroite guards cackled as they moved in to gag Tony with their tape.
Tony watched them approach while balling his good hand into a fist. Then as the first Commie reached him “BASH!!” Tony punched him right across his eyes.
"I'll never understand how Tony survived that beating," says eyewitness former political prisoner Hiram Gonzalez who watched from his window in la Cabana prison. The crippled Tony was almost killed in the kicking, punching, gun-bashing melee but finally his Soviet-trained captors stood off, panting and rubbing their scrapes and bruises. They'd managed to tape the battered boy’s mouth, but Tony pushed the guards away before they bound his hands. Their commander nodded, motioning for them to back off.
Now Tony started crawling towards the splintered and blood-spattered execution stake about 50 yards away, pushing and dragging himself with his hands as his stump of a leg left a trail of blood on the grass. As he neared the stake he'd stop and start pounding himself in the chest. His executioners seemed perplexed. The crippled boy was trying to say something. But his message was muzzled by the gag Dan Rather’s idol (“Fidel is Cuba’s Elvis!”) made obligatory for his thousands of execution victims.
Tony's blazing eyes and grimace said enough. But no one could understand the boy's mumblings. Tony kept pushing himself, shutting his eyes tightly from the agony of the effort. His executioners shuffled nervously, raised their rifles, lowered them. They looked towards their commander who shrugged. Finally Tony reached up to his face and ripped off the tape Diane Sawyer’s cuddle-bunny required for his condemned.
The 20 year-old freedom-fighter's voice boomed out. "Shoot me RIGHT HERE!" roared Tony at his gaping executioners. His voice thundered and his head bobbed with the effort. "Right in the CHEST!" Tony yelled. "Like a MAN!" Tony stopped and ripped open his shirt, pounding his chest and grimacing as his gallant executioners gaped and shuffled. "Right HERE!" he pounded.
On his last day alive, Tony had received a letter in jail from his mother. "My dear son," she counseled. "How often I'd warned you not to get involved in these things. But I knew my pleas were vain. You always demanded your freedom, Tony, even as a little boy. So I knew you'd never stand for communism. Well, Castro and Che finally caught you. Son, I love you with all my heart. My life is now shattered and will never be the same, but the only thing left now, Tony . . . is to die like a man."
"FUEGO! “ Che Guevara’s lackey yelled the command and the bullets shattered Tony's crippled body, just as he'd reached the stake, lifted him and stared resolutely at his murderers. But Che's firing squads usually murdered a hero who was standing. The legless Tony presented an awkward target. So some of the volley went wild and missed the youngster. Time for the coup de grâce.
Normally it's one .45 slug that shatters the skull. Eyewitnesses say Tony required . . . POW!-POW! . . . POW! — three. Seems the executioner's hands were shaking pretty badly. But they finally managed. Castro and Che Guevara had another notch in their guns. Another enemy dispatched — bound and gagged as usual.
Compare Tony's death to the arch-swine, arch-weasel and arch-coward Che Guevara's. "Don't shoot!" whimpered the arch-assassin to his captors. "I'm Che! I'm worth more to you alive than dead!"
Then ask yourselves: whose face belongs on T-shirts worn by youth who fancy themselves, rebellious, freedom-loving and brave?
Then fume and gag at the malignant stupidity of popular culture in our demented age.
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.