Murder in Cuba

On Feb 23, black human rights activist Orlando Zapata-Tamayo died after an 83-day hunger strike and a series of savage beatings by his Cuban jailers.

Some background is in order. Shortly after Jimmy Carter visited Fidel Castro in 2002, played baseball with him, and returned home proclaiming Castro “a committed egalitarian who despises any system in which one class or group of people lives much better than another,” Zapata-Tamayo was beaten and arrested by Castro’s police for the crime of “disobedience.”

In their twisted way, Castro’s secret police had a point: Tamayo, a humble rural plumber and bricklayer, had studied the (smuggled) works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi and had attempted some “civil disobedience” to protest the Stalinism imposed on Cuba by the Castro brothers, Che Guevara and their Soviet puppeteers. So Cuba’s Stalinist rulerspounced. Samizdats smuggled out of Cuba by eye-witnesses report that while gleefully kicking and bludgeoning Tamayo, his Communist jailers yelled: “Worthless Ni*ger! Worthless peasant.”

Tamayo’s “disobedience” continued in proportion to his beatings and tortures. Tamayo remained, literally, “bloodied but unbowed.”  Even Amnesty International recognized his plight and designated him an official “Prisoner of Conscience.” His exasperating defiance simply prompted the regime to more merciless beatings and to bump-up his sentence to 36 years in Castro’s dungeons.

A little perspective: After conviction for planting bombs in public places (by a judiciary process declared scrupulously fair by the attending international press and human rights organizations) Nelson Mandela got a lighter sentence than did Tamayo for a peaceful protest.  Needless to add, the regime that jailed Mandela was universally embargoed  and condemned– and with particular virulence by the precise parties who hail Castro (who forbids any and all international  human rights groups/observers from so much as setting foot in his fiefdom). That goes for Nelson Mandela himself. In 1991, he gushed, “There’s one place where Fidel Castro stands out head and shoulders above the rest. That is in his love for human rights and liberty!”

One might think that the Congressional Black Caucus would take an interest in the abuse of a black dissident. Not so. The CBC visited with Raul Castro last year and returned hailing him as “one of the most amazing human beings we’ve ever met. Castro is a very engaging, down-to-earth and kind man.”  After Raul Castro received that compliment from the Congressional Black Caucus, Tamayo was beaten comatose by his jailers and left with a life-threatening fractured skull.

Eighty three days ago, already injured perhaps beyond recovery (certainly with Cuba’s medical facilities), and hoping his death might alert a two-faced “international community” to the plight of Castro’s subjects, Zapata-Tamayo declared a hunger strike. In his weakened condition, he finally succumbed to the regime’s tortures last week.

“They finally murdered my son,” wept Reina Luisa Tamayo this Feb. 24 upon news of her son’s death. She continued:

“They finally got what they wanted.  They ended the life of a fighter for human rights.  My son was tortured.  But he didn’t die on his knees. He died bravely. My son’s death gives me much strength, valor, I want the world to demand the release of all the other prisoners of conscience, that this not happen again. And no–I don’t accept Raul Castro’s apology. He’s an assassin.”

Her son’s body was delivered to her by Castro’s secret police, who demanded that he be buried quickly and without fanfare.  Castro’s police have also blanketed Tamayo’s rural home town to further “emphasize” this last directive. All press agencies that have earned a Havana bureau were very slow in reporting Tamayo’s death (though a skinned knee or sprained toe in Guantanamo would have buzzed through all news wires within seconds).

These agencies were very prompt, however, in reporting “President” Raul Castro’s official reaction.  “We are really sorry about his death, a lamentable accident,” said Raul Castro. He further insisted:

“In half a century in Cuba there have been no extrajudicial killings. We haven’t killed a single person. Here, there is no torture. Killings and torture only happen in Guantanamo.”

Amazingly, and despite Tamayo’s death, many in the press believe the regime’s spin. In 2006, one of the Castro-approved “reporters,” Anthony Boadle of Reuters, claimed that “There are no credible reports of disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture in Cuba since the early 1960s, according to human rights groups.”  The late Orlando Zapata-Tamaya would probably disagree.

For those willing to see through the regime’s propaganda, Castro’s murder tally is not difficult to dig up.  Simply open The Black Book of Communism, written by French scholars and published in English by Harvard University Press, neither an outpost of the vast right-wing conspiracy. Here you’ll find a tally of 14,000 Castroite murders by firing- squad. “The facts and figures are irrefutable. No one will any longer be able to claim ignorance or uncertainty about the criminal nature of Communism.” So wrote the New York Times (no less!) about the book.

The Cuba Archive project headed by scholars Maria Werlau and the late Armando Lago estimates the death toll from Castro’s regime, including firing squads,  prison beatings and deaths at sea while attempting escape, at slightly over 100,000.  This project has been lauded by everyone from The Miami Herald to the Boston Globe (no right-wing outposts) to the Wall Street Journal.

Castro’s chief hangman, Che Guevara, had laid down the rules very succinctly: “Judicial evidence is an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution. We execute from revolutionary conviction.”

Fast forward to that period Boadle assures us is untainted by any “extra-judicial killings.” A 17-year-old named Orlando Travieso was armed with only a homemade paddle when he was machine-gunned to death in March 1991. His “crime,” as spelled out perfectly judicially in Cuba’s legal code, was trying to flee Cuba on a tiny raft. Loamis Gonzalez was 15 when he was machine gunned to death for the same “crime.” The “criminal” Owen Delgado was 15 when Castro’s police dragged him out of the Ecuadorian Embassy where he sought asylum and clubbed him to death with rifle butts.

Boadle will be pleased that these boys and thousands upon thousands of others who perished in similar fashion well after the early 1960s were all deemed “criminals” by Castro’s judicial system.

Angel Abreu and Jose Nicol were 3, Gisele Borges and Caridad Leyva were 4 and Cindy and Yolindis Rodriguez were 2 on July 17, 1994, when their mothers held them in a tight embrace on the deck of a tugboat. Castro’s coast guard rammed the tugboat and water-cannoned them from their screaming mothers arms and into a turbulent sea to drown. Boadle will be pleased that Castro’s regime ruled this—quite judicially— an “accident,” exactly as they rule Tamayo’s death.

May Orlando Zapata-Tamayo rest in peace, may his family accept our condolences, and may his murderers eventually face justice.

Humberto Fontova is the author of four books including Fidel: Hollywood‘s Favorite Tyrant and Exposing the Real Che Guevara. Visit

  • John Toronto

    If the murder could be blamed on Mossad, then the world would raise a stink.

  • Steve Chavez

    Where are the Cubans protesting in the streets? We already know of the American traitors who will dismiss any atrocity by the Castros.

    Iranians protest and die. Remember Nada now a martyr? Many others are imprisoned and have been executed.


  • USMCSniper

    Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover think Fidel Castro and Cuba are just great. The Congression Black Caucus also visited current Cuban President Raul Castro, openly praised Cuba's Communist system, and did and said nothing to publicly show any concern for the myriad gross human rights abuses perpetrated by the Cuban government or the tragic fate of thousands murdered over decades and the hundreds of Cuban democracy and human rights activists presentlyin Cuban prisons.

  • walter

    Another week … Another propaganda article by Fontova. Tamayo was a CIA paid traitor.

    • Dukey

      And you're an Klan ass, Wanda.

  • A Bit Profound

    So what — Communism stinks. Anyone who thinks Communism,that stifles incentive & ambition to make something out of one's life, is a more fair & equitable system, is either a looser or has a screw loose. It ALWAYS ends in Tyranny. — 30 million of his own were killed by Stalin, 60 million of his own by Mao, 2 million of his own by Pol Pot, 1 to 2 Million killed by the communist when we pulled out of Viet Nam, hundreds of thousands by Castro in Cuba and God only knows how many of his own killed by Kim Jung il of North Korea..

  • AntiFascist18

    The Congressional Black Caucus are ALL Poster Children for the Return of Jeff Davis and the Confederacy. "Cousin" Harry Belafonte has a bunch of screws loose, and my dad is about to read him the riot act. Talk about "Plantation Slaves" the biggest one is Obama, who openly admits to grovelling before that White Sheeted Fossil Robert C. Ku Klux Klan Byrd.

    And Danny Glover? Anyone ever see someone so funny – and stupid – at the same time? No wonder why his character was "killed off" in "Lonesome Dove".

  • AntiFascist18

    For Walter,

    Are you the same Walter aka Pervert aka Holt who graces the pages of the J'Post with your apparent lack of wit?

  • Theodore

    Castro reached power in Cuba through guerilla coup(with int'nl financing), and since then he owns the entire country for himself. Metaphorically speaking, the nation is the veranda of his lot.

  • Theodore

    Folks think abou it:
    Any effort to hand Cuba back to its citizens is a great deed.
    If Zapata received money from CIA, then this is great. Thank you CIA

  • Mark

    Mr. Tamayo was arrested for one reason. Because he decided to link himself with the US Government's official "regime change" policies, undergoing training at the US Interests Section in Havana and receiving materials from the US government. He also participated with US Government funded propaganda efforts like Radio Marti and CubaNet. That is treason, the same as if an American excepted $ from Iran to overthrow the US govt.

    Tamayo was paid by the CIA, he died a traitors death.

  • Mark

    As a background, in 1996 the US passed the Helms-Burton Act, which authorized direct US funding of regime change in Cuba. It authorized millions of dollars/year for the cultivation of Cuban dissidents and spies in those plans. In response, Cuba passed a law that made it illegal to cooperate with the US (similar to the way it is illegal for US citizens to work with Iranian or Cuban Governments). The law made is clear that cooperation with the US Government or its paid subsidiaries would be prosecuted. In spring 2003, after more warnings, Cuba acted – arresting Tamayo and 74 others. All were tried and had their own defense teams. The evidence against them was overwhelming – and is publicly available. Folks were caught red handed with US dollars and evidence of their contacts.

  • Walt

    Gee, Marco — I guess you must be on the payroll of Castro…

  • Annabelle

    Yes Mark, its such a crime to stand up to tyranny and opression.

  • kierra

    well srry for my anger i luv yu