We know a tyrant by his enemies

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Castro is dead. Here is one of his enemies, Armando Valladares (h/t: notafan). In the week ahead, a number of liberals and socialists will fall over themselves offering effusive praise in memory of the murderous tyrant Fidel Castro, a number have done so already, but in considering a tyrant, we should pay close attention to the quality of his enemies. Armando Valladares was one of them:

Armando Valladares, an anticommunist Cuban dissident, was initially a supporter of Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution. He even took a job with the Office of the Ministry of Communications for the Revolutionary Government, but he ultimately become disillusioned with how communist principles were being applied in his native Cuba. Valladares was ultimately arrested at 23 for refusing to put a plaque on his desk that read, “I’m with Fidel.”

Oh, the irony. That in the same month that the candidate that ran with the slogan, ‘I’m with Her’, was defeated in a Presidential election, we should see a tyrant that imprisoned, tortured, and murdered, his enemies, because they were not ‘with Castro’, dead, both, figuratively and literally entering, respectively, the dustbin of history.

His sacrifice:

For his brave defiance, Valladares was arrested on the spurious charge of terrorism and that he had supposedly worked for the secret police of Fulgencio Batista, Cuba’s previous dictatorship. Despite his innocence, he spent the next 22 years in Castro’s gulag where he was brutally tortured, starved, beaten, threatened with death, and subjected to solitary confinement. He underwent several hunger strikes which resulted in debilitating polyneuritis, which in turn left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair for many years.

“My poetry is a weapon,” said Valladares during his acceptance speech. “That is why dictators hate all artists but especially poets!”

Elie Wiesel, the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and good friend of Armando Valladares, was in attendance at this year’s Canterbury Medal Gala. He personally presented the Canterbury Award to Mr. Valladares.

Today, Valladares continues to fight for human rights and religious liberty. He speaks through his paintings, lectures, poems and his other writing.

In the 22 years that he spent in internal exile in one of Castro’s prison—two more years than Ulysses had in Homer’s Odyssey, as Armando often points out—the dissident wrote poetry and painted tiny pictures using any materials he had available—including his medicines, burnt nylon and even his own blood.

While in prison Armando was labeled a plantado—a prisoner who refused to wear a common prison uniform. For this, he remained naked in his wheelchair in solitary confinement for eight years. For refusing to sign a document admitting his guilt and the communist Revolution was right, he was brutally tortured.

His witness:

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan made Valladares the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission―a position he held until 1990. In this position, he vigorously advocated for the release of over 15,000 political prisoners in Cuba.

By drawing international attention to Cuba’s human rights violations, a UN investigation was initiated and ultimately led to the release of many political prisoners.

“I was there,” said Valladares. “I was there when my friends and colleagues were executed by firing squad at which all would yell out ‘¡Viva Cristo Rey!’ (‘Long live Christ the King!’) when they were killed.”

This is the same valiant cry used by the Catholic martyrs of Mexico’s bloody Cristero War as they stood before their own firing squads earlier in the century.

The prison executions were personally ordered by Che Guevara who often callously demanded that, “At the smallest of doubt we must execute.”

Castro is dead. Valladares is still with us. ‘¡Viva Cristo Rey!’

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