Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Dictator and the Dissident

From The National Review:
Armando Valladares may not have been the first man to challenge the Cuban dictator, but he eventually became the best known. By his own account, the young Valladares was an early supporter of Castro’s revolution, taking a job in the Office of the Ministry of Communications for the Revolutionary Government, where he worked as a postal clerk. But all of that changed when he was asked to put a communist slogan on his desk. It comprised three simple words: “I’m with Fidel.” He refused. A young artist and poet who also happened to be a Christian, Valladares understood the meaning of the request. What he did not know, and could not know, was how far his own government would go to bend him to its will. Soon after his refusal to comply, Valladares was arrested by political police at his parents’ home. Faced with trumped up charges of terrorism — a favorite tactic of the Castro regime for silencing dissent — he was given a 30-year sentence. Valladares would spend time in different prison camps for the next 22 years. The first, La Cabaña, forged some of the very worst memories. “Each night, the firing squad executed scores of men in its trenches,” he told the Becket Fund, which last year honored him with its Canterbury Prize, given annually to a person who embodies an unfailing commitment to religious freedom. “We could hear each phase of the executions, and during this time, these young men — patriots — would die shouting ‘Long live Christ, the King. Down with Communism!’ And then you would hear the gunshots. Every night there were shootings. Every night. Every night. Every night.” (Read more.)
More commentary here, from the King's Debates:
 It is strange that many who invoke the importance of context in discussing Castro don’t mention that Cuba was an impressive country in the 1950s in terms of the very same metrics often used to praise Castro. Cuba’s education and health care levels in the 1950s were above the Latin American average and comparable to some European countries. The literacy rate when Fidel Castro took over was 78%-79%, the 4th highest in Latin America. Life expectancy was third in the hemisphere and it had the 4th lowest infant mortality rate in Latin America. Cuba had higher TV sets per capita than any other Latin American country and higher than that of Italy. It also had Latin America’s highest consumption of meat and fruits. In the 1950s, GDP per capita was between the 2nd and 4th highest in Latin America; now, it is between the 9th and 11th. In pre-Castro Cuba, workers had one-month paid holiday, eight-hour workdays, and women were entitled to six-weeks leave before and after childbirth. The impression that Cuba in the 1950s was a backward country in terms of the metrics often used to praise Castro is thus highly disingenuous. (Read more.)

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