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naaman fletcher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-20-10 03:17 PM
Original message
Armando Valladares

Armando Valladares (May 30, 1937) was a political prisoner and prisoner of conscience in Cuba. Valladares was jailed in 1960, at age 23, when the new regime under Fidel Castro began to crack down on dissidents. He was sent to prison for refusing to place a placard on his desk at work stating that he supported Communism.

Valladares spent 22 years in prison. The Cuban government has described Valladares as a traitor. After the campaign for Valladares' release began, and after he was adopted by Amnesty International as a Prisoner of Conscience, the Cuban government claimed that Valladares was a former member of the secret police of Fulgencio Batista, who was toppled by the 1959 Cuban revolution. <1> Valladares claims he was a 23-year-old poet at the time of the Cuban Revolution.

Valladares, unlike many of his fellow political prisoners, survived the forced labor camps. He survived years of solitary confinement. When, in 1963, Valladares was given a blue uniform to wear (the uniform that distinguished common criminals from political prisoners), he refused, electing to go naked until 1983. During 22 years of confinement, Armando Valladares received 13 visits.

Valladaress refusal to participate in any political rehabilitation programs elicited a swift response from the government - 46 days without food. His weakened muscles relegated him to a wheelchair for 5 years.

An international campaign for his release, led by his wife Marta, culminated in French President Franois Mitterrand making a personal appeal to Fidel Castro. Armando Valladares was freed after spending 22 years in prison. He then moved to the United States.

Valladares's memoir, Against All Hope - which details his incarceration in the Cuban gulags - became an international best-seller. On the advice of his daughter Maureen, then President Ronald Reagan (who was moved by his writings), appointed Valladares to serve as the US ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. As Head of the US Delegation, he successfully brought Cuba before the Commission for its human rights violations. President Reagan would later confer on him the nations highest civil honor, the Presidential Citizens Medal. The Cuban workers' newspaper, Trabajadores described the appointment as "a disgrace". <2>

Valladares has addressed the United Nations General Assembly and legislative groups in Europe and the Americas. He is currently the President of the Valladares Project, an international non-profit organization which advocates childrens rights. Valladares is Chairman of the International Council of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation.

Valladares was one of the closest friends of Pedro Luis Boitel.
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protocol rv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-21-10 10:42 AM
Response to Original message
1. It's a good book about Cuban jails
People should read it. It's an eye opener.
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naaman fletcher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-21-10 11:09 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. Only for people who are willing to open their eyes. nt
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Billy Burnett Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-21-10 05:00 PM
Response to Reply #1
5. Here's an eye opener for you.

by Prof. Soffiyah Elijah
Clinical Instructor
Criminal Justice Institute
Harvard Law School

Since the island nation of Cuba experienced its successful revolution in 1959 its prison system has been evolving. Despite accusations of harsh human rights abuses from its neighbors to the North, Cuba today maintains a prison system that is in many respects far more humane than Western propaganda would have the uninformed public believe.

My study of the Cuban prison system began in 1987 when I first visited the country to attend a conference co-sponsored by the American Association of Jurists and the Cuban Association of Jurists. I was pleasantly surprised during the trip when the opportunity arose to visit a men's prison. A group of conference attendees traveled by bus to the prison and when we arrived we were not searched and our belongings were not checked. We did not sign in or out. Nobody asked to check our identification. Having visited numerous prisons in the U.S. I have never entered any of them without a thorough search of my person and my belongings. Government issued photo identification is always required.

Although we were given a tour of the prison we were free to wander off and talk with the prisoners unmonitored. We walked all around the facility and were allowed to go into cells, work areas, the cafeteria, hospital, classrooms, recreation area and any other space we chose. This we were allowed to do unaccompanied. The prisoners wore street clothing.

Although one might think that this must have been a minimum or medium security prison, there are no such institutional classifications. Prison institutions are not characterized by security level. Rather prisoners of varying security levels are all housed in the same facility. The four levels of security classification for prisoners are maximum, high, moderate and minimum. The distinction in their security classification is borne out in the frequency with which they are allowed family and conjugal visits, mail, phone privileges and furlough availability. All prisoners, regardless of security level, are afforded at least four family and conjugal visits a year. Prisoners with the lowest security classifications are afforded more frequent family and conjugal visits than higher security classified prisoners.

Needless to say I was a bit taken aback at this very different approach. For the next thirteen years I built on this experience and conducted further research on the Cuban prison system.

In 1988 I returned to Cuba to attend the International Womens Conference hosted by the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC). Another opportunity arose to visit a prison, this time it was a womens facility. My impressions were very similar to those I had when I visited the mens facility. In a nutshell, the Cuban system still impressed me as being more humane than what I had observed in the United States.

Prisoners in Cuba are incarcerated in the province in which they live. A province is the geographic equivalent to a county as we know it in the United States. This is done to facilitate regular contact between prisoners and their families. This contact is seen as an integral part of the prisoners rehabilitation. Families are incorporated through joint counseling into the rehabilitation process. Each prison is staffed with professionals who are trained to assist the family and the prisoner plan for his or her re-entry into the community. The focus is on rehabilitation as opposed to retribution and punishment.

Prisoners or their families may request conditional liberty passes. These are similar to furloughs and are granted to allow the prisoner to tend to his or a family members health. The furlough time is counted as part of the sentence.

Prisoners are not obligated to work. Work is considered a right of the prisoner so that he can earn an income. Prisoners are allowed to work in the same sort of employment as they held prior to their incarceration if it is available at the facility where they are being held. They are compensated for their labor at the same wage that free workers are compensated. They are not charged room and board no matter how much they earn. Similarly, they do not have to pay for their education, medical, dental or hospital care or any other activities they experience. Social security benefits and pensions are available to all prison laborers. In the event of a prisoners death, his family will receive his pension. A portion of the prisoners earnings is sent to his family. Even if a prisoner does not work, his family will be cared for by the State.

Once a prisoner has served at least half of his sentence he can request a conditional release if he is a first offender. A positive conduct record is the primary factor considered in granting the request for relief. The request for conditional release is made to the sentencing tribunal. The district attorney is given an opportunity to be heard with respect to the request. All prisoners are released after serving two thirds of their sentences.

In 1997 the availability of alternatives to incarceration was expanded to cover all defendants sentenced to up to five years incarceration. Previously these alternatives were only available to defendants sentenced to up to three years. The expansion of the availability of alternatives to incarceration to all defendants facing up to five years incarceration covered almost 95% of Cubas prisoners. The recidivism rate for those prisoners released pursuant to the use of alternatives to incarceration is less than 15%. These alternatives include a form of probation, conditional release (similar to parole) and suspended sentences.

The conditional release program is very interesting. The defendant lives for twelve days in a residence located near a farm or industrial center. He works at the farm or industrial center during these twelve days. Then he has three days off where he can leave the residence and go home to his family. On the fourth day, the defendant returns to the work site and the residence. The defendant works side by side with non-incarcerated workers who are not informed of his status. He is paid the same wage as his co-workers and is afforded the same benefits and privileges. He works the same shifts and wears civilian clothing. Work alternatives can be revoked if the defendant fails to adhere to the rules and conditions of the program. The sentencing tribunal is informed if the defendant fails to meet the conditions and it can decide to return the defendant to prison.

The goal of the Cuban prison system is to return people to the community as productive contributors as soon as possible. Therefore the focus is not on punishment, but rather on rehabilitation and re-education. Perhaps this goal would be a useful addition to the prison system that has evolved in the United States.

(Thanks to Dr Mika for the link confirming what I've seen myself in Cuba. :hi: )

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-22-10 09:55 PM
Response to Reply #5
7. It's a good one. Really admire the author, too. If my memory serves correctly, Dr. Mika spoke
with her personally a few years ago.

I knew you have friends in Cuba, have been there a lot, didn't know you knew about these things, as well. Can you imagine what it would be like for US American prisoners if the system allowed them to stay near their own familiar areas, cities?

I recall the US court placed the Cuban 5 as far from each other as possible, and will NOT allow their wives, mothers, siblings, children to visit. Did this AFTER the Cubans brought the material they had gathered to the fBI, thinking, in their naivete that the FBI would immediately use it, and round up the Miami "exile" murderers, and terrorists.

Glad to see this great link again.

As interesting as the the moment I saw it originally. Thank you.
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protocol rv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-10 09:06 AM
Response to Reply #5
8. They should allow Human Rights watch to visit ALL Cuban Jails
That would remove the problem, don't you think? Yet all they seem to allow is these stage managed visits by sympathizers and apologists for the regime. Why not allow visits by international organizations?
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-21-10 03:31 PM
Response to Original message
3. LOL. Yeah, that would be the "Human Rights Foundation"
that gets USAID money to make trouble in Bolivia, e.g., the last assassination attempt on Evo Morales.

That Armando Valladares.

Off to ignore you go, too.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-21-10 03:52 PM
Response to Original message
4. Tribute to Armando Valladares, bless his martryed heart:
Human Rights as Theatre --then and now
by Karen Lee Wald
June 4, 2003

............ Roa supplemented his remarks in the hall with a press conference repeating the charges that Valladares was a member of the pre- revolutionary Batista dictatorship's police force and a post- revolutionary terrorist band convicted for placing bombs in public centers.

He bolstered his arguments with an array of time-yellowed, worn documents and newspapers -- and a copy of a purloined US State Department letter from Secretary of State George Schultz to all US missions abroad, trying to "rehabilitate" the image of Armando Valladares.

This was more a diplomatic coup than anything else. The US was forced to admit that the document in Cuban hands was the real thing --embarrassing mostly because the Cubans had gotten hold of it, and because it showed a number of countries with whom the US maintains diplomatic relations the derogatory way in which the State Department refers to them in private.

Aside from this, the stolen US document probably did far less than the documents the Cuban government itself brought out to demonstrate that the current HRC ambassador had lied when he denied membership in the Batista police force and about his claimed paralysis while in jail. (Videos the Cubans played for the press at their Geneva Mission showed Valladares getting up and walking out of the room after being shown films taken secretly in his cell while he was doing exercises, at a time when he was still supposedly "paralyzed".)



Armando Valladares the only national representative at the hearings who was unable to speak the language of the country he represented had been freed a few years earlier from a Cuban prison, where hed languished after being tried and convicted of participating in a counterrevolutionary gang that carried out terrorist bombings in the early years of the revolution. After a long campaign to free the former Batista-era policeman convinced many people around the world that the man was a poet who had been paralyzed from the waist down as a result of mistreatment in Cuban jails, Cuba acceded to the wishes of then-French President Francois Mitterand, and sent the hale-and-hearty Valladares to France. There he embarrassed his supporters waiting at the airport with a wheelchair by bounding off the airplane on his own two very-able feet.

Needless to say he never wrote another poem after he was freed. But an apparently ghost-written book distributed by the US Information Service, alleging years of torture and abuse in Cuban prisons, circles the globe. So Armando Valladares was a feature attraction when he appeared in Geneva at the Human Rights Commission hearings.

Whatever good impression his written tales of woe had won him dissipated quickly by the ex-policemans lack of diplomatic finesse. His heavy-handedness in ordering other countries even the Western allies of the US to vote as his newly-adopted government wished produced more than a few ruffled feelings. Valladares stated specifically at a meeting of the Western bloc of HRC nations that a vote against the resolution condemning Cuba would be considered a vote against the United States, one that would personally offend President Reagan. And in case anyone missed the point, he reminded them what had happened to India after last years ploy. (The US pulled back on massive purchases and credits to that nation, an economic reprisal India could ill afford.)

When the ex-cops diplomatic skills seemed sadly inadequate (many multilingual diplomats laughed at the fact that Valladares needed a translator to consult with his own delegation, and some Western diplomats were overheard complaining that he was treating them like banana republics by ordering them around rather than cajoling and using polite euphemisms), the US sent in the big guns in the person of Vernon Walters.



Now for something completely different! Here's the same guy, Armando Valladares, in a propaganda piece. It may surprise you seeing the difference in the telling of his story:

The Frontline : Survivors of Tyranny
Friday, October 08, 2004
Armando Valladares

In 1960, a 23-year-old postal bank inspector, Armando Valladares, was thrown into prison for refusing to compromise his Catholicism and political beliefs in favor of the increasingly repressive Castro regime in Cuba. Valladares received his 30-year sentence as a "counter revolutionary" because he would not place the placard "If Fidel is a communist, then put me on the list. He's got the right idea." on his desk. Valladares told Castro's agents, who had demanded that he conform, that he did not support Castro's communism.

For his honesty and courage Valladares was thrown into Cuba's notorious Isla de Pinos prison where he was subjected to the most inhumane conditions. In the 22 years he languished in prison, Valladares watched as his fellow prisoners were destroyed mentally, morally, or executed outright. Valladares counseled the Isla de Pinos inmates to stay true to their faith and not renounce God.

Valladares revealed his intense spiritual strength to resist communist indoctrination by saying, "For me that would've meant spiritual suicide. All the time I was in jail, I never gave up my freedom. My freedom is not the space where you can walk around. There are lots of people in Cuba who have space to walk, and they are not free. For me, it meant 8,000 days of hunger, of systematic beatings, of hard labor, of solitary confinement and solitude, 8,000 days of struggling to prove that I was a human being, 8,000 days of proving that my spirit could triumph over exhaustion and pain, 8,000 days of testing my religious convictions, my faith, of fighting the hate my atheist jailers were trying to instill in me with each bayonet thrust, fighting so that hate would not flourish in my heart, 8,000 days of struggling so that I would not become like them."

Besides prayer, Valladares wrote poetry, which was smuggled out of his prison cell and published in Europe. Thanks to his poems Valladares became Cuba's most famous prisoner of conscious and came to the attention of French President Francois Mitterand, who secured Valladares' release in 1982 after serving 22 years of his sentence. Valladares published his collected poems as Against All Hope and campaigned ceaselessly to expose the plight of Castro's political prisoners.

Appointed in 1987 as a United States Representative to the United Nations' Human Rights Commission under President Ronald Reagan, Ambassador Armando Valladares successfully got the UN to investigate Castro's prison system and exposed its horrific conditions. In memory of another inmate, who had killed himself in despair, Valladares declared, "We must enter the cell of every Fernando Lopez del Toro in the world, embrace him in solidarity, and tell them to their faces, 'Do not take your life. There are men of goodwill who are standing by you. Your dignity as a human being will prevail.'"



Noam Chomsky, in his book, Media Control, (see excerpts) writes about one of the most famous Cuban "dissident" exiles and US media darlings, Armando Valladares and his equally famous prison "memoirs." He was appointed by US president, Ronald Reagan, as US representative to the UN Human Rights Commission and soon distinguished himself as an apologist for human rights violations on a massive scale perpetrated by US-backed regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador.

Chomsky contrasts Valladares' case with a true hero, Salvadoran, Herbert Anaya and his prison memoirs of atrocities. Far from becoming a media darling, it seems he and his memoirs conveniently dropped off the radar screen of US mainstream media--to the very limited extent they were ever allowed to appear. Chomsky writes:
In May 1986, the memoirs of the released Cuban prisoner, Armando Valladares, came out. They quickly became a media sensation. I'll give you a couple of quotes. The media described his revelations as "the definitive account of the vast system of torture and prison by which Castro punishes and obliterates political opposition." It was "an inspiring and unforgettable account" of the "bestial prisons," inhuman torture, record of state violence yet another of this century's mass murderers, who we learn, at last, from this book "has created a new despotism that has institutionalized torture as a mechanism of social control" in "the hell that was the Cuba that lived in. " That's the Washington Post and New York Times in repeated reviews. Castro was described as "a dictatorial goon." His atrocities were revealed in this book so conclusively that "only the most light-headed and cold-blooded Western intellectual will come to the tyrant's defense," said the Washington Post. Remember, this is the account of what happened to one man. Let's say it's all true. Let's raise no questions about what happened to the one man who says he was tortured. At a White House ceremony marking Human Rights Day, he was singled out by Ronald Reagan for his courage in enduring the horrors and sadism of this bloody Cuban tyrant. He was then appointed the U.S. representative at the U.N. Human Rights Commission, where he has been able to perform signal services defending the Salvadoran and Guatemalan governments against charges that they conduct atrocities so massive that they make anything he suffered look pretty minor. That's the way things stand.

That was May 1986. It was interesting, and it tells you something about the manufacture of consent. The same month, the surviving members of the Human Rights Group of El Salvador - the leaders had been killed - were arrested and tortured, including Herbert Anaya, who was the director. They were sent to a prison - La Esperanza (hope) Prison. While they were in prison they continued their human rights work. They were lawyers, they continued taking affidavits. There were 432 prisoners in that prison. They got signed affidavits from 430 of them in which they described, under oath, the torture that they had received: electrical torture and other atrocities, including, in one case, torture by a North American U.S. major in uniform, who is described in some detail. This is an unusually explicit and comprehensive testimony, probably unique in its detail about what's going on in a torture chamber. This 160-page report of the prisoners' sworn testimony was sneaked out of prison, along with a videotape which was taken showing people testifying in prison about their torture. It was distributed by the Marin County Interfaith Task Force. The national press refused to cover it. The TV stations refused to run it. There was an article in the local Marin County newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner, and I think that's all. No one else would touch it. This was a time when there was more than a few "light-headed and cold-blooded Western intellectuals" who were singing the praises of Jose Napoleon Duarte and of Ronald Reagan.

Anaya was not the subject of any tributes. He didn't get on Human Rights Day. He wasn't appointed to anything. He was released in a prisoner exchange and then assassinated, apparently by the U.S.-backed security forces.
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-22-10 09:35 PM
Response to Original message
6. Just remembered an interesting item I read on Valladares, thought I'd share it:
From: Karen Wald
Subject: Human Rights as Theatre --then and now
Date: Wed, 4 Jun 2003 15:14:54 -0700


The center-piece of the US delegation's theatrical performance was Armando Valladares, a former political prisoner, poet and paralytic, -- or policeman, terrorist and imposter (depending on whose version you believe). In any case, an apt protegee of the film-actor president who appointed him.

Although ultimately of no consequence whatsoever to the final decision of the Commission, the question of Valladares --was he or wasn't he? (a policeman, a terrorist, a poet, paralyzed )-- dominated the debate between Cuba and the United States, and captured most of the media attention, for several weeks.

The US attempted to parade Valladares and a number of other rabidly anti-Castro Cuban exiles --many of them former prisoners -- before the Commission last year, too. But, according to the equally anti-Castro Miami press, they were given too little hearing by professional diplomats and international media, despite President Reagan's speeded-up granting of citizenship to Valladares to make him an official member of the delegation.

(Valladares, who left Cuban prison in October 1982 for France, from there to take up residence in Madrid, was granted US citizenship in January, 1987, although lacking the mandatory five year residency requirement. The justification for this flouting of US immigration regulations, according to the Miami Herald, "he is married to a US citizen and spends half his time in the US". Immigration lawyers can try to figure that one out.)

To make sure that the international community did not again snub his best spokesman against the Castro regime, this year Ronald Reagan appointed Valladares ambassador to the Human Rights Commission, thus guaranteeing that everyone would have to listen to him (whether or not they believed him).

This permitted and provoked more than your usual amount of theatre. On the one hand, Valladares could play his role of abused former political prisoner to the hilt. On Agenda Item 10, "Torture", the US representative addressed the Commission with what many smilingly described as his most accurate statement of the session:

"Mr. Chairman," he began "I am not a career diplomat, nor am I an expert on the technical aspects of this Commission." With that preface, he then excused himself from commenting on all of the items listed under that point on the agenda: torture in other parts of the world (that is, in countries other than those listed as separate agenda items because of the gravity of the human rights situation there). Instead, unlike all other delegation chiefs, who attempt to address broad issues, he limited himself to an entirely personal account (some would say fanciful) of his years in Cuban prisons.

Speaking in Spanish, Valladares expounded: "I remember when they had me in a punishment cell, naked, my leg fractured in several places --fractures that were never treated and eventually fused into a mass of deformed bones," the Ambassador claimed. "Through the wire mesh that covered the cell, the guards would pour over me buckets of urine and excrement that they had collected earlier."

The head of the Cuban delegation (which has only observer status in this commission), Deputy Foreign Minister Raul Roa Kouri, responded to US charges with a strong denial on the floor that the Cuban population would ever permit the return of pre-revolutionary repressive measures such as torture. He added that it would be virtually impossible for the government to be carrying out massive repressive measures without the public being aware of it -- and that lack of awareness would, in any case, negate the purpose of the repression. Numerous reporters and observers have confirmed that the bulk of the Cuban population backs the government's statement that torture is never used.

The Cuban delegation was not without its own sense of theatre, however. One Cuban delegate, unable to resist the temptation, ad libbed a low blow at Valladares' residence in Spain and inability to speak English. As she was about to read the Cuban resolution denouncing violation of rights of blacks, women, prisoners, linguistic minorities, the homeless and the poor in the United States, she introduced her remarks: "Mr. Chairman, I AM a career diplomat; I do live in and speak the language of the country I am representing, and I am speaking in the name of my people, so I have no need to make purely personal remarks."

Roa supplemented his remarks in the hall with a press conference repeating the charges that Valladares was a member of the pre- revolutionary Batista dictatorship's police force and a post- revolutionary terrorist band convicted for placing bombs in public centers.

He bolstered his arguments with an array of time-yellowed, worn documents and newspapers -- and a copy of a purloined US State Department letter from Secretary of State George Schultz to all US missions abroad, trying to "rehabilitate" the image of Armando Valladares.

This was more a diplomatic coup than anything else. The US was forced to admit that the document in Cuban hands was the real thing --embarrassing mostly because the Cubans had gotten hold of it, and because it showed a number of countries with whom the US maintains diplomatic relations the derogatory way in which the State Department refers to them in private.

Aside from this, the stolen US document probably did far less than the documents the Cuban government itself brought out to demonstrate that the current HRC ambassador had lied when he denied membership in the Batista police force and about his claimed paralysis while in jail. (Videos the Cubans played for the press at their Geneva Mission showed Valladares getting up and walking out of the room after being shown films taken secretly in his cell while he was doing exercises, at a time when he was still supposedly "paralyzed".)

The only thing perhaps new and noteworthy in the US document was the admission that part of the reason that Valladares book "Against All Hope" became an instant "best-seller" around the world was that it was distributed massively by the US Information Agency. (Presumably it was their advertising and publicity campaign that reached so many gullible reporters who, almost without exception, repeated the publicist's blurb about Valladares being no more than a soft-spoken, religious clerical worker whose only crime was to speak out against communism.)

Valladares was not without his supporters in Geneva. In addition to a militant (not to say aggressive) cheering section of Cuban- American reporters from the Miami area (the Miami Herald's English and Spanish papers had at one point a total of FIVE reporters covering the Geneva antics --an astonishing figure for a local newspaper), several reporters claiming to represent major wire services also acted as a Valladares fan club.

One, who said he was from Reuters, not only harassed Roa with hostile, disbelieving questions throughout the Cuban diplomat's press conference. He also proposed to other American journalists afterwards that they ask Valladares to "show his scars" as proof of his allegations of torture in Cuban prisons, "even if it means he has to strip in front of the assembly."

Days later, when the US delegate held a press conference, the Reuters reporter had a chance to put his plan into action. When other questions had been exhausted, he raised his hand and politely asked Mr. Valladares if he couldn't "show us your scars". Valladares obligingly leaned forward and let the reporter rub his head (you couldn't actually SEE the scars through Valladares shock of black hair, but Reuters let us know that he felt them).

If they had advertised it as a "photo opportunity" it could not have been planned better: every camera in the room clicked on cue to capture the image of the tall, blond American reporter leaning over, smiling ingratiatingly, as he rubbed the hidden "scars" under the shiny black hair of the Cuban-American ambassador.

Having been brought up to be too polite to engage equally in this journalistic rough-and-tumble, I resisted the temptation to ask Mr. Valladares if he could also let us see his limp. (Valladares' obvious robust health and his cocky way of strutting around the hallways and lounges seemed to belie his assertion that his leg had been left "a mass of deformed bones." Some of the NGOs joked: "The Cubans ought to use Valladares as proof of the miracle break- throughs they've made in bone-healing techniques.")

There were other temptations as well. At one point, Valladares told the Session of the "callous disregard for human life" in North Korea, illustrating his point with an allegation about a bomb placed on a civilian airliner allegedly by "two North Korean operatives".

"This shocking act," Valladares declared righteously, "deserves the very strong condemnation of all governments regardless of ideology or foreign policy. Deeds such as this," he went on, "should not be forgotten, and should be mentioned every year."

Fine! I thought to myself. Now I can ask him if this means he will for the first time condemn the actions of his fellow exiles and spiritual allies who placed the bomb in the Cubana airliner in 1976, killing all 73 passengers and crew members aboard. (Orlando Bosch, leader of the Cuban exile terrorist underground and admitted CIA operative, recently received a hero's welcome in Miami when he returned there after Venezuelan courts claimed they could not prove he had masterminded the bombing. Mr. Valladares has nothing but good words for Mr. Bosch.)

But Mr. Valladares statement had gone even further. "If we do not condemn these incidents," he asserted, "we run the risk of becoming accomplices to murder -- we would become worse than animals if we became insensitive in the face of those who kill without remorse or without justification."

Another great opportunity for questions! Mr. Valladares had on his list of "political prisoners unjustly awaiting the death sentence in Castro's prisons" one Arturo Suarez. He is, in fact, the only one of that list whom the Cubans say is condemned to death.

But while the Americans and Cuban-Americans would have Suarez viewed as an innocent victim, Cuban press accounts from the time of his arrest last year told a very different story. Suarez was one of two men who used fragmentation hand grenades in an attempt to hijack a domestic Cuban airliner to Miami. The other hijacker, who was reportedly trying to "free" his mother from the suburban Havana village of Santa Fe for a better life in the USA, was shot and killed after the grenade he exploded critically injured 13 passengers, including a five year old boy.

Suarez' "innocence" apparently rests on the Cuban-Americans' contention that, unlike his partner, "he did not explode a grenade inside the plane." True enough. But all the accounts of the other passengers confirm that he, too, THREW his grenade; it simply didn't go off. Few courts in the world would give him credit for that.

So in light of Valladares' new-found concern over the "accomplices of murder", it seemed reasonable to ask if he would now remove Mr. Suarez from his list of Cuban "prisoners of conscience."


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