Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Rising Body Count in Cuba

In a conversation with a skeptical progressive this past week, the following questions was raised: "I'm curious to know exactly how many of the opposition has the regime killed or imprisoned over the past 50 years? My hunch is that it is far less than you would have one believe." 

Executed in Santiago de Cuba by the Castro regime in 1959
My immediate response was that a full accounting is impossible and upon further research discovered that this position is held by experts who keep track of fatalities incurred by all kinds of regimes in power. Nevertheless, there are a range of estimates of opposition or dissenters killed that are in the thousands and tens of thousands. Between 1960 and 1966 there was an insurgency in the mountains of the Escambray that fought the Castro regime made up mostly of farmers and Revolutionary Directorate rebels that had fought the Batista Regime demanding a democratic restoration. The dictatorship called it the "War against the Bandits." Tom Gjelten in his book Bacardi and the Long Fight for Freedom gives an account of what took place:
The peasants in the Escambray Mountains, an independent group even during the anti-Batista struggle, took up arms again, this time in opposition to the government's heavy hand. Castro had taken a lesson from Batista's hapless efforts at counterinsurgency, however, and he responded to the Escambray guerrillas with more force and ruthlessness than Batista had dared employ. With the guidance of Soviet counterinsurgency experts, Castro sent thousands of army troops into the mountains to pursue the guerrillas. Captured Escambray insurgents were often executed on the spot, and in a move reminiscent of the Spanish army's "reconcentration" strategy during the independence war, Castro ordered the relocation of entire villages where the guerillas enjoyed mass support. The villagers were moved en masse to western Cuba, where they could be closely monitored. 
 The guerrillas were eventually exterminated and the uprising was crushed by 1966. The full number of dead may never be known. In addition, for the Castro regime, merely wanting to flee the country was considered an offense and was often punished with death. Taking all this into account, below is my response.

Raul Castro preparing one of his victims for execution
A conservative estimate gives the range, according to Matthew White in his website Necrometrics, at between 5,000-12,000 Cubans killed by the Castro regime compared with Chileans killed by the Pinochet regime which number 3,197. Rudolph Joseph Rummel, a political science professor at the University of Hawaii and an expert in Democide (murder by government) also takes into account the Cuban boat people who have died fleeing the dictatorship and estimates 73,000 dead Cubans between 1959 and 1987. In The Black Book of Communism in chapter 25 "Communism in Latin America" by Pascal Fontaine states that in Cuba between 1959 through the late 1990s "between 15,000 and 17,000 people were shot." All these are conservative numbers. The Cuban Archives place the number at 100,000.

Extra-judicially executed by the Castro regime on July 13, 1994

Matthew White in the introduction to his 2011 book, The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities explains that:
An exact body count is hard to come by for Castro’s regime in Cuba, but no one has ever suggested that he killed the hundreds of thousands necessary to be considered for a slot on my list. Many infamous brutes such as Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, Vlad the Impaler, Caligula, and Augusto Pinochet easily fall short, as do many well known conflicts such as the Arab-Israeli wars and the Anglo-Boer War.
The logical question a skeptic would ask is why is Fidel Castro placed in the company of the above named historic villains. The answer can be found in well documented archives stretching back to the beginnings of the dictatorship.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in their April 7, 1967 special report on Cuba documented that on May 25, 1963 the Castro regime issued orders to the armed forces that any peasant seen out of their home after 8:00pm and before 5:00am be executed without a trial by an official of the army or the militia. They also provided numerous examples of young Cubans who were detained and summarily executed.

The IACHR also documented the October 24, 1964 armed invasion of the Uruguayan embassy in Cuba by forces of the Cuban government in order to machine gun to death four Cubans that had sought asylum there.

On the dawn of May 27, 1966, around six in the morning until sunset, about six in the afternoon they were, executing, by firing squad and with single shots (coup de grâce) in the fortress of La Cabaña in Havana, political prisoners, civilians and military. The firing squad was composed of three members of the militia and one officer. The severity of these events is even greater, when one adds that the executed were previously subjected to the procedure of blood extraction to replenish the Blood Bank. On the above mentioned May 27, 166 Cuban civilians and military were executed and subjected to the medical procedures for drawing blood at a rate of an average of 7 pints per person. This blood is being sold to Communist Vietnam at a rate of $ 50 per pint. Relatives to see their imprisoned loved ones also had to "donate" blood.

The IACHR also reported that on October 23, 1966 a group of young Cubans tried to flee Cuba swimming from the populated coast of Caimanera to the Guantanamo naval base. The "Frontier Batallion" of the Cuban government pursued them and shot them with automatic weapons killing three of the four of which two were identified:Pedro Baraña age 35 and Francisco Arcano Galano age 21. Their bodies were found floating in Guantánamo Bay. The same type of action was denounced in 1993 with the addition of grenades used against defenseless swimmers.

There are pages and pages of such documented events in IACHR special reports on Cuba from 1962, 1963, 1967, 1970, 1976 , 1979 and 1983.

Furthermore, the killings and unnecessary deaths continue to the present day below is a small sample over the past decade and a half:
Even so, the body count estimates are only taking into account Cubans who have died as a result of the dictatorship ignoring the regime’s international missions and its non-Cuban victims.

Fidel Castro and Mengistu Haile Mariam convicted of genocide
For example, according to Matthew White who cites William Eckhardt’s statistics on World Military and Social Expenditures 1987-88 (12th ed., 1987) between (1972-80): 15,000 civilians + 21,000 military = 36,000 deaths with 17,000 Cuban troops at the height of interventions assisting their close ally Mengistu Haile Mariam. The aftermath before Mengistu's departure rose to more than a million and a half dead. Haile Mariam is today a convicted war criminal hiding out in Zimbabwe with another close ally of the Castros, Robert Mugabe. The Castro brothers had a direct role in an African genocide.

Fidel Castro with Reynaldo Benito Antonio Bignone Ramayón
 "President" Reynaldo Benito Antonio Bignone Ramayón photographed with Fidel Castro. He was the military dictator of Argentina between 1982 and 1983 and had a close working relationship with the Castro regime. On April 20, 2010, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the kidnapping, torture, and murder of 56 people in a concentration camp.

In Argentina during the same period the Castro brothers trained and placed urban guerrillas in the country creating the conditions of political instability that led to the consolidation of a brutal military junta that murdered 30,000 Argentinians in a Dirty War then forged an unusual alliance with the same military junta, to the detriment of the very people it had trained, to block efforts at the United Nations to document all the disappeared people and hold the military dictatorship accountable.

In addition to international missions formally carried out by the Cuban military the Castro brothers have a five decade tradition of training, funding, and organizing urban guerrilla groups and terrorists to advance their revolutionary agenda.

Finally, the Castro brothers also have a track record of supporting brutal regimes around the world such as Communist China, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sri Lanka, and Syria while undermining international human rights standards at the United Nations Human Rights Council in coalitions with many of these countries.

Whether the body count is 12,000 or 73,000 or even 100,000 of one thing everyone can agree it is still rising.

Meanwhile the least one can do is to listen to the testimony of the survivors and of the loved ones of the victims.

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