Supporting Repression and Torture in Cuba

There is a book our president should read. He might find the U.S. should “be better than that” when it comes to supporting torture. 

It is the sort of book that once started, it can’t put it down. But the president might find he would want to put it down because the grisly tortures endured by the author for 22 years are almost too much to comprehend.

The book is Armando Valladares’ Against All Hope, the account of his decades’ long imprisonment and torture by the regime of Fidel Castro. It makes for grim reading.  Arrested for not denying Christ and for not supporting Marxism, Valladares was tortured, starved and even thrown into a pit of human excrement.  At one point, rats were about to eat his genitals. A guard intervened at the last moment.

Valladares was and is not alone in his extreme suffering in Cuban prisons. Tens of thousands of political prisoners have suffered similar fates; but unlike Valladares, many have not survived. 

His testimonial to the horrors of the Cuba gulag completely demolished the leftist myth that only a few hard core anti-communists suffered at the hands of Fidel Castro and his ghouls. It put the lie to the idea that Cuba had a basically great government supported by the people.

Lissett Hernandez, the daughter of a Cuban political prisoner who suffered a fate similar to that of Valladares, wrote a review of Against All Hope:

“I can assure the readers that, as unbelievable as this book may sound to you, it is not a work of fiction, but the truth. The daily "life" that is described in this book, the tortures and the endless mind-boggling cruelty will haunt you. But above all, it is the undying hope and faith that shines through all the pages that will capture your heart. It is a beautiful testimony to the strength of the human spirit.”


But evidently our fearless leader has not read the book; nor, apparently, has he listened to the refugees from Castro’s Cuba who now live in Miami and other cities in America. If he had listened, he would find nothing has changed in Cuba since Valladares wrote his book. Cuba is still run by communist trolls. Castro is still in power. 

Even if Obama read the book, it would not matter. That is because Obama has evidenced a preference for authoritarian regimes. His preference is why he did not force concessions from Cuba, concessions that would have fostered democratic reforms and given hope to those languishing in Castro’s Stygian domains. 

He appears to be more interested in sanctioning and weakening Israel, our sole democratic ally in the Middle East, than he is in enforcing the current embargo against Cuba.  He seems to be more interested in sitting down at the bargaining table with Iran than he is in strengthening relations with America’s Western allies. 

The president’s actions have enormous implications.

First, the move to legitimize the repressive regime in Cuba may be merely the first step in legitimizing other terrorist regimes, forming unholy alliances with other countries which are totalitarian/authoritarian. Such alliances would be similar to those formed among the Axis powers and those by Soviet Russia post WWII.  While such alliances would probably be presented as a counterweight to Russian influence, with the alliance with Cuba being presented as a chess match to Putin’s push for increased hegemony in the Ukraine and Crimea, the actuality may be that we will see a push to legitimize U.S. relations with other countries who are presently pariahs because of terrorism.

Second, the world just became much more dangerous for Americans, particularly for those abroad. The message our president sent out is that if anyone is inclined to capture and hold Americans long enough, our leadership will offer you all the concessions you could possibly want. 

In fact, an American does not have to go abroad in order to be in danger, as there are many militants who are on U.S. soil right now; militants who have absolutely no compunction in grabbing human beings and using them as bargaining chips that are completely disposable.

Third, will the new agreement with Cuba auger a new wave of immigration from Cuba, one that replicates the disastrous Cuban diaspora of the 1980s? 

At that time, due to what was termed the “Mariel Boatlift,” Cuban prisoners and inmates of mental institutions arrived here in the U.S. when the very same Fidel Castro, the very one who will now benefit enormously from the new “diplomacy,” opened his the prison cells and the doors of the asylums holding the people the regime had driven mad.  He sent them all to the United States.

In so doing, Castro almost ruined the political career of Bill Clinton, who on Jimmy Carter’s advice, warehoused 20,000 of them, with disastrous results.  According to the UK Independent report of August, 1994:

“Mr Clinton, then governor of Arkansas, was persuaded by President Jimmy Carter to house almost 20,000 at Fort Chaffee, once used to hold German prisoners of war. After serious rioting they smashed down the gates of the base, stoned police and set fire to buildings. Accused of mishandling the incident, Mr. Clinton was voted out of office.

President Castro may be signaling that he is prepared to once again make a wholesale clearance of his prisons in order to force the US to have a dialogue about the US embargo as well as immigration. So far Washington has agreed only to resume a series of low-level talks on migration next week, when the current crisis will be discussed. The White House does not want to be seen to be forced to the negotiating table, unable to cope with exodus.”

Is it deja vu as far as Cuba and the U.S. are concerned?  It certainly feels like it.

Armando Valladares is now 77 years old and still speaking out against the atrocities of Castro’s regime. His story has inspired millions, including those who are still behind bars.  A poet, he wrote his poems on cigarette papers. He managed, like Solzhenitzen before him, to keep his writing from the prying eyes of guards and to smuggle his writing out so it could be published outside Cuba. Intellectuals around the world along with millions who have read his book, have been inspired by his story. 

According to his biography, “France honored him with the Freedom Prize, awarded to writers in prison. In several European countries, Valladares Committees were established to work on achieving his freedom. Amnesty International adopted him as a prisoner of conscience. The worldwide campaign spearheaded by his wife Martha resulted in French president François Mitterrand’s personal petition to Fidel Castro, which resulted in his release after 22 years in prison on October of 1982.”

Will such petitions have any effect on Cuba and other oppressive governments now that our president has offered what amounts to diplomatic amnesty for an evil regime that will only be encouraged to continue its hideous repression? What will now happen to the prisoners in the Cuban gulag?

What can be done?

First, Americans must wake up to the fact our president has a preference for authoritarian regimes and will not work to support democratic movements in Cuba any more than he has anywhere else in the world, including Iran’s Green Revolution.

Second, it is up to the newly-elected Congress to torpedo Obama’s move to legitimize one of the most repressive regimes in the world. The new members of congress must play their best and most effective hand if the president’s reckless support of a repressive regime is to be halted.

Fay Voshell is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and many other online publications.  She holds a M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, which awarded her its prize for excellence in systematic theology. She was selected as one of the Delaware GOP’s “Winning Women,” Class of 2008.  She worked for the 2014 senatorial campaign of Republican Kevin Wade of Delaware. She may be reached at

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