"I think you should stop making excuses for torture and repression. The blockade does not excuse the puncturing of Huber Matos’s genitals, the imprisonment of homosexuals in labour camps, or Guevara’s mass murders." - Peter Hitchens, Twitter, March 2, 2020
|Camilo Cienfuegos (missing 1959), Fidel Castro, Huber Matos (jailed and tortured 1959)|
Huber Matos was born 102 years ago today on November 26, 2018, and he passed away on February 27, 2014 at the age of 95. He is a controversial figure in some quarters because with him, it is likely that Fidel Castro would have never taken power. Matos had provided the weapons that made Castro's July 26th Movement a viable fighting force and led the final attack taking the second most important city in Cuba, Santiago on January 1, 1959. These achievements have largely been erased in Stalinist fashion from the official history of the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
Less than a year later he would be on trial for his life. What was his crime? Warning Fidel Castro in several private letters, where he tendered his resignation only to have it refused, that communists were infiltrating the revolutionary government. In these letters he plainly stated:"I did not want to become an obstacle to the revolution and I believe that if I am forced to choose between falling into line or withdrawing from the world so as not to do harm, the most honorable and revolutionary action is to leave."
He wrote about the aims of the revolution: the restoration of democracy and the Constitution of 1940 where in jeopardy and appealed to his former comrade in arms: "We fought in the name of Truth, for all the sound principles that bind civilization and mankind together . . . . Please, in the names of our fallen comrades, our mothers, of all the people, Fidel, do not bury the revolution."
Fidel Castro made the letters public generating the crisis and
denouncing the charge that communists were infiltrating the government.
He ordered Camilo Cienfuegos, another popular revolutionary leader, to
go an arrest Matos. The Castro brothers began to prepare a show trial
and the execution by firing squad of Huber Matos for treason.
The revolutionary tribunal was prepared. Fidel Castro spoke to Matos promising that if he confessed to everything that he would not face any prison time and could go home. Matos refused, and as the show trial began and they tried to shut him up - he refused. He went on to speak for more that three hours and concluded his testimony stating: "I consider myself neither a traitor nor a deserter. My conscience is clear. If the court should find me guilty, I shall accept its decision - even though I may be shot. I would consider it one more service for the revolution."
|Huber Matos (on the left) being taken to political show trial in 1959|
officers that had been convened at the trial to chant "to the execution
wall" instead moved by his testimony rose up and applauded Matos.
Instead of the firing squad the revolutionary tribunal sentenced him to
20 years in prison.
Huber Matos would serve every day of those 20 years suffering beatings and other tortures. Camilo Cienfuegos, a figure more popular then Fidel Castro, would go missing a few days later on October 28, 1959.
In 1989 another Cuban military hero Arnaldo Ochoa would be made the same offer by Fidel Castro: confess to everything you are accused of and you can go home. Ochoa accepted Castro's offer facing a long term prison sentence otherwise. After confessing everything Castro then went on television and declared the damage done to the revolution by Ochoa so great that a prison sentence was not enough and announced his execution which was carried out a short time later.
The price of speaking truth to power his high, but sometimes the price of remaining silent or going along with the lie is even higher. This also made Huber Matos, one of the first dissidents of the Cuban Revolution.
However, he was prior to that a democrat who fought against the Batista dictatorship, and when he realized that Fidel Castro was forming a new dictatorship did all that he could to warn of the danger, and to resist it.
Cuba's last democratically elected president, Carlos Prio Socarras backed both armed struggle and dialogue efforts to restore democracy. He too was fooled by Castro's promise to restore democracy, and like Huber Matos carried on the struggle for democratic restoration when it was realized that Fidel Castro had removed an authoritarian tyrant, replacing Batista, with himself as a totalitarian dictator in a communist regime consolidated with the assistance of the Soviet KGB, East German Stasi, and Soviet counterinsurgency forces that put down an uprising in the Escambray.
|Huber Matos interviewed in 2009 by college students|
The democratic resistance to communism in Cuba would continue over the next six decades and to the present day. Huber Matos spent the rest of his life speaking truth to power, and aiding those opposed to the Castro dictatorship. In one of his letters to Castro in 1959 he spoke of a final judgement.
"You should remember that men fade away, while history collects their deeds and makes the final reckoning, the final judgement."
He was warning Castro, but this final judgement would also be visited upon Huber Matos. The men he killed in combat to overthrow the Batista dictatorship, his courage in speaking out against the course of the revolution in 1959, the 20 years in prison subjected to torture, and 35 years in exile leading campaigns against the Castro dictatorship. History has collected his deeds, and will render a final judgement, and I dare say that it will be a far better one than the one that awaits Fidel Castro