Thursday, April 27, 2006

An ugly past relevant to Cuba's future

Posted on Wed, Apr. 26, 2006

An ugly past relevant to Cuba's future

To reconcile the past, you must know the truth about it. To that end,
Armando M. Lago and María C. Werlau are producing priceless work that
promises to benefit post-tyranny Cuba. The two are the driving forces
behind the Cuba Archive, which seeks to document the victims of the
Cuban Revolution. One day, the accounts of extrajudicial executions,
torture and disappearances will contribute to the search for truth and
justice in a democratic Cuba. The data will help in the struggle to come
to terms with the many human-rights abuses committed under totalitarian

Thousands died

Meanwhile, the Cuba Archive puts a human face on the people who have
suffered at the hands of the revolution. The individual stories show the
lie of Fidel Castro's benevolent society and counter the revolution's
propaganda with facts.

The archive now lists more than 40,000 people who died or disappeared
for political or military reasons. Most victims are documented by name
and at least two sources. Some may quibble with the categories included.
About 3,000 are people killed during the Batista period before Castro
took power in 1959. More than 9,000 are Angolan guerrillas killed by
Cuban forces in Angola.

Nonetheless, the data may be sorted in whatever manner makes best sense
to those interested. In a post-Castro Cuba, new sources should provide
opportunities to add to, correct and confirm what is in the archive.

Documenting horror isn't easy. As The Miami Herald's April 23 article
The revolution's toll notes, Mr. Lago still chokes up talking about
Virgilio Campanería, a law-school classmate who was executed in 1961.
Ms. Werlau's father, Armando Cañizares Gamboa, is also on the list. A
disillusioned rebel who returned to un seat Castro, he is presumed to
have been killed at age 28 at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

Also included are the 45 Cubans who drowned when the Cuban Coast Guard
sank the 13 de marzo tugboat in 1994. Owen Delgado Temprana, 15, was
beaten to death at State Security headquarters in 1981. Political
prisoner Julio Tang Taxier, 28, was stabbed with a bayonet by a prison
guard in 1966 and bled to death.

The material in the Cuba Archive may indeed, as its authors hope, lay a
foundation for an eventual truth, justice and reconciliation process.
Doing so would help prevent such atrocities from being committed again
in Cuba.

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