Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cuba a killing machine?

The Wall Street Journal published a compelling story on Saturday about Armando Valladares, who spent 22 years in Cuban prisons. After his release from prison in 1982, he was forced into exile. Now 71, he lives in Miami.

Valladares is a poet, artist and human rights activist, the Journal said. He has also served as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

I don't know Valladares, but you have to admire anyone who survives 22 years in a Cuban prison. Cuban officials contend that their jails are quite civilized, but some former prisoners I've interviewed dispute that and say the conditions are terrible. (See Dallas Morning News article called "Hell does exist," which I wrote in June 2003).

The Wall Street Journal article is getting some attention in the blogosphere. GREAT FREAKING COLUMN, said a reader who found the story posted on Babalu. Indeed, the story is interesting. But I don't agree with some of the language in the piece. It has such general statements as this one, with no supporting evidence or attribution:
The Castro government has been a killing machine since it took over in 1959.
That looks like bias to me. I'm not condoning human rights violations, but a killing machine for almost 50 years?


Uncommon Sense said...

Whether slowly or quickly, it is fair to say that the Castro dictatorship is a killing machine. There were the firing squads of the early days, followed by the gulag in which so many are serving de facto death sentences brought on by the poor conditions and the lack of adequate health care. Also, many have died trying to flee. All of this has been punctuated by events like the 13th of March tugboat and Caimar River massacres.

Marc Masferrer
Uncommon Sense blog

Tracey Eaton said...

I see your point, but I would have used more even-handed language in the story.
There's a difference between a firing squad death and the death of a rafter or the death of a hospital patient. If we say Cuba is a killing machine because of deaths that occur because of Cuba's flawed society, then why not call the United States a killing machine for the tens of thousands of murders, gang killings, drug overdoses and DUI deaths that occur every year?

leftside said...

Good point Tracy. Our Coast Guard has killed dozens of people in accidents simialar to the 13 de Marzo. We have executed far more people than Cuba has in recent decades and now Cuba has a (nonbinding) moratorium on state killings. If Uncommon Sense wants to talk about gulags, he has to admit that NONE of those with life in prison or on death row are for crimes of a political nature. Meanwhile the US has the highest prison rates in the world. I have been reading about the firing squads lately and can tell you that the proceedings were open to everyone, that they were supported by the VAST majority of Cubans and that these truly were the worse of the worst - murderers all of them (many were in fact former inmates let out of jail to be brutal "rural guard" enforcers, who destroyed settlements, and hung of black Cubans on roadsides as "warnings.") The people demanded justice. Hopefully we have seen the last execution in Cuba - and the US will follow suit one day.