Alberto Muller was one of three very young men who founded the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (Revolutionary Student Directorate) known as the DRE, in opposition to the Castro government. He spent fifteen years in various prisons in Cuba. It is an honor to have Alberto as a guest on my blog. I admired him while a young student in Cuba and my admiration grew even more after I heard stories of his courage while in prison from my father who spent three years at Isla de Pinos Prison and witnessed Alberto’s spiritual and moral fortitude during a painful time in their personal histories. My father thought Alberto was one of the bravest men he ever met. My father’s praise was not easily won. Alberto, I have no words to thank you for sharing your experiences on my blog.
Alberto is a journalist and author who also teaches Journalism at the University of Miami. He has his own blog titled Para Leér Si Queda Tiempo http://albertomuller.net/
Justice in a Dictatorship Part One
Fidel Castro, like a well- trained and loquacious parrot, continues to repeat that since he took power in 1959 no one has been tortured, when in reality torture has been applied in Castro’s Cuba with an uncommon zeal.
One has to be careful not to become overly passionate when one has been a witness to the exception, having suffered demeaning and unimaginable abuse that violates the most elementary rules of justice and tramples the dignity of the human being; abuses that try to erase from this earth any semblance of universal human rights.
Today I share with you my personal story, having been one of the many who suffered merciless torture at the hands of the Castro government. I ask your forgiveness for the graphic description of what I suffered and what I witnessed.
Justice in Cuba, in any form, was dead on arrival the moment Castro took power. The word justice does not fit his government’s paradigm.
In its purest terms, justice means that every person in a society has the precious right to follow his or her own path and to receive what is rightfully his or hers with dignity.
Injustice happens when someone robs another human being of those rights. It is that simple. And that is precisely what has happened in Cuba. The government has usurped all human rights in the totalitarian system that has existed on the island since 1959. In Cuba, something has gone awry with justice. Two thirds of the Cuban people would abandon the island if they were allowed to leave. More than ten percent of the population has already left the country, and at this moment four hundred thousand young people have requested permission to leave the country through the United States Interest Section in Havana.
What is happening in my country, CUBA, that the majority of its citizens yearn to escape? The reason for this potential stampede lies in the fact that injustice is rampart on the island, injustice that is part of the skin of the Communist government.
Here are some facts:
If we were able to videotape daily life in Isla de Pinos Prison we would witness scenes of inconceivable abuse. I can assure you that after viewing such a tape, the audience would feel morally bankrupt.
If you could see my right leg, you would see two bayonet scars I received during one of the most sordid and criminal events in Isla de Pinos shortly after the beginning of the revolution as a result of the Forced Labor Plan instituted by the government in its zeal to imitate the concept of the Russian Gulag.
At noon on a sunny day, myself and political prisoners Emilio Rivero Caro, and my brother Juan Antonio, were forced into a ditch full of the excrement from the prison and ordered to clean it up.
I asked myself how it was possible that one could clean a ditch where excrement flowed continually?
I felt I was living in a scene from Kafka, a scene that defied my own imagination of what a prison could be. When we refused to clean the damned ditch, the guards attacked us with their bayonets until we were all severely wounded. Believe me when I tell you that this memory of blood, sun and beatings while bathed in excrement is only a snapshot of what occurred to those of us who experienced the inhuman privilege of suffering the intense karma of the regime’s anthology of tortures.
During this period, a young introverted prisoner, Ernesto Díaz Madruga was killed by a bayonet that penetrated through his rectum and destroyed his intestines and his liver.
Other prisoners were violently killed: Julio Tang, Roberto López Chávez, Eddy Alvarez Molina, DannyCrespo and Paco Pico, among others. These abuses alone would earn Fidel Castro and his accomplices a trial by International Tribunal of Justice
I remember the interrogations in the cells of men condemned to death in the Castillito del G-2 of Santiago de Cuba, where I spent 90 consecutive days waiting my turn to stand in front of a firing squad. The cells were dark, a darkness totally devoid of any light. Only the arrival of our meals, a breakfast of hot water and sugar and a tasteless and meager dinner helped us maintain some notion of time.
The interrogations generally occurred at dawn, in a very cold office. We were stripped naked prior to entering the office with the object that the extreme cold would chill us to the bone and make us tremble. It was a sophisticated psychological torture.
The night before I was transferred to this center of terror, in the encampment of Las Mercedes, I was taken out by six guards armed with rifles and forced to walk in front of them down a narrow path near the prison barracks. Behind me I felt the guards readying to fire. My own private firing squad. At that moment I put my life in God’s hands . Images ran vividly through my mind of my parents, my brother, of the men who had fought beside me, of my family…I looked to the heavens where the stars were my only companions and my only witnesses that dark night.
I said a simple prayer that helped me to come to terms with the logical anguish that I felt at the thought of dying so young: “My Lord, everything I have done has been for Your greater glory. I entrust myself to you. Please wrap me in your merciful love. Help me…and forgive them…
My fear of death was real, but I awaited death with gladness and with courage, comforted by the idea that I would be reunited with my martyred friends who had preceded me in this experience.
I stayed in this trance between life and death for about twenty minutes. Twice I was ordered to stop walking and twice the sergeant in charge said I would be executed immediately.
Each time I again thought my last moment had come; the moment of the infinite goodbye. It was a tense wait fraught with emotional intensity. Remaining in a trance awaiting death second by second, is not easy to assimilate nor easy to forget. Life ebbs out of me by simply remembering the experience.
At last I was asked to stop. Three of the guards tied my hands behind my back with a thick rope. I was quickly shoved into a waiting military vehicle and transferred to Castillito prison.
I wonder…could there be a worse torture?
In my memory I carry the indelible memory of the loneliness, the love and the humility of that night when I was forced to rehearse my death by firing squad.
I think that at least I was able to show those men what a man of faith and courage could endure. But wait. There were worse things to come.