Mr. Valladares has some interesting insight into the state of Cuban affairs today. Asked if the new regime under Fidel's brother Raul would produce political and human rights reforms:
His answer is an unequivocal no: "Until Fidel Castro dies, there will be no changes in Cuba. Fidel will not permit it. The terror imposed since 1959 continues today and Raúl will not dare make a single change as long as his older brother is alive."
And what about Fidel's health? "He can still terrorize because he has lucid moments," Mr. Valladares says. "But those moments are unpredictable, which is why he cannot be seen in public or on live television, even for a minute." In the meantime, the repression has increased in recent months, he tells me, as those who have participated in his crimes seek to preserve the status quo.
The Castro government has been a killing machine since it took over in 1959. If a truth and reconciliation commission is ever called on to establish accountability, Fidel, Raúl and many of their henchmen whose "hands are stained with blood," according to Mr. Valladares, would not fare well.
Valladares has harsh words for western governments and organizations like Amnesty International who turned their backs on Cuban human rights abuses even though they knew what was going on in Castro's prisons:
When Mrs. Valladares was allowed to leave Cuba in 1972 with her father -- who had also been a political prisoner -- and began an international effort to bring attention to the Cuban prisoners, the brutality of the regime was already well established. But as she found out, the facts weren't much help. "It was very difficult," she tells me, slowly and deliberately with more than a touch of sadness.
As an example, she describes her encounter with Seán MacBride, who was the former Amnesty International Chairman, at a human-rights conference in Venezuela in 1977. "He was very nice to me at first because he didn't realize who I was. But when I tried to speak about the Cuban prisoners of conscience, he began banging on the microphone and screaming, 'Don't translate that! Don't translate that!' The journalists covering the event asked me, 'Why is this man telling you to shut up?'"
The next day in the Venezuelan press there was a story titled "Human rights violated in a human-rights conference." That same year MacBride was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize given by the Soviet Union.
Mr. Valladares says that as amazing as it sounds, it took Amnesty International until 1978 to "discover" that there were political prisoners in Cuba. "Eighteen years after I was jailed! There were already thousands murdered, tortured, Boitel had already died."
Still AI has been downright progressive compared to some European governments. Mr. Valladares says that in 1988 the Spanish government of Felipe González was especially disingenuous, when its foreign minister told Mr. Valladares that Spain had no evidence of human-rights violations in Cuba. Only weeks later, he says, the Spanish embassy in Havana produced a report documenting the atrocities of the Cuban regime, but opted to bury it so as to give cover to Fidel.
Sadly Mr. Valladares doesn't mention Canada's shameful record with regard to Cuba, especially that of Castro's head cheerleader Pierre Trudeau. Canadian tourists who flock to the resorts in the Socialist Utopia on the Caribbean should read this article while sipping their pina coladas.