“My eyes flew open. The cold muzzle of a machine gun held to my temple had shocked me awake. I was confused and frightened. Three armed men were standing around my bed, and one of them was shoving my head into the pillow with his machine gun.”
So begins Against All Hope: The Prison Memoirs of Armando Valladares. Arrested in the middle of the night and dragged off to prison, the then-23-year-old Cuban would spend the next 22 years of his life in Fidel Castro’s prisons. His crime? He had refused to put a sign on his workplace desk that said he supported Fidel.
Whisked off to prison in La Cabaña, the fortress overlooking the port of Havana that was built by the Spanish two hundred years earlier, Valladares was quick to understand what could happen to a political prisoner. One of his fellow prisoners was a young doctor, Julio Antonio Yebra. Julio Antonio was arrested the same morning as Valladares – because he had dared to speak out against Castro.
Five days after his arrest, Valladares writes, Julio Antonio was tied to a wooden stake a few yards from an outside fortress wall in a moat. Valladres writes of what he heard from the soldiers facing his fellow prisoner as they aimed their rifles:
The discharge was ragged, the platoon fired in disorder, not at all in unison.
“Down with Commun…!” Julio Antonio’s cry was never finished.
Then came the dry crack of the coup de grace behind the ear. I will never forget that single mortal sound
Now. Let’s shift to Senator Bernie Sanders and his appearance on Sixty Minutes this past Sunday. Fox News headlined Bernie’s views:
Bernie Sanders defends Fidel Castro’s socialist Cuba in new interview
The story says:
“Sen. Bernie Sanders, the front-runner for the Democrats’ presidential nomination, doubled down on his support for some of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s policies, saying in an interview that aired Sunday, ‘it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad.’ Sanders told Anderson Cooper that when ‘Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?’”
To which Senator Ted Cruz, himself the son of a Cuban who fled Castro’s regime responded:
“It really makes a difference when those you murder at the firing squad can read [and] write.”
The execution of Julio Antonio Yebra was far from a single incident. The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression says this of Castro’s reign of terror after taking power.
“During the repressions of the 1960s, between 7,000 and 10,000 people were killed and 30,000 people imprisoned for political reasons.”
The Democrats are marching towards a nomination of Bernie Sanders. That would be the self-same Bernie Sanders who spent his honeymoon in Moscow at the height of the Cold War with the Communist Soviet Union. The very same Bernie Sanders who mere days ago said that “it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad” with Cuba.
It would be a mistake not to take Bernie seriously. America is not, as President Trump has said, going to be a socialist country.
So the best response to crazy Bernie? Take him on. Take on socialism. And what better place to begin than telling – accurately – the reality of the chamber of horrors that is Communist Cuban reality.
A reality that Armando Valladares, finally freed after an international campaign to free him, understands vividly.
And oh yes. After settling in the United States, in 1987 President Ronald Reagan appointed Armando Valladares the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
God bless America.