Armando Valladares

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Armando Valladares Perez
Born May 30, 1937 (1937-05-30) (age 77)
Nationality Cuban
Occupation Poet, diplomat, activist
Known for prisoner of conscience who exposed human-rights abuses by Cuban government
Title United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (1988-1990)
Spouse(s) Marta

Armando Valladares Perez (born May 30, 1937) is a Cuban poet, diplomat, and human rights activist. In 1960, he was arrested by the Cuban government for protesting communism,[1] leading Amnesty International to name him a prisoner of conscience.[2] Following his release in 1982, he wrote a book detailing his imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Cuban government, and was appointed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan to serve as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

Arrest and imprisonment[edit]

Valladares is from Pinar del Rio, Cuba.[3] Initially a supporter of Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution, he later became an employee of the Office of the Ministry of Communications for the Revolutionary Government, working at a post office.[3][4]

In 1960, at the age of 23, he refused to put an "I'm with Fidel" sign on his desk at work.[4] Shortly after, he was arrested by political police at his parents' home.[5] He was subsequently given a thirty-year prison sentence.[3] The Cuban government states that his arrest was on charges of terrorism, and that he had previously worked for the secret police of Fulgencio Batista's dictatorship.[6] The international human rights organizations Oslo Freedom Forum, PEN International, and Amnesty International, in contrast, stated their belief that Valladares had been imprisoned solely for his anti-Castro stance, and the latter organization named him a prisoner of conscience.[2][4][7]

Valladares states that he was offered "political rehabilitation" early in his prison term, but refused. According to Valladares, this led to his being abused and tortured by his guards, including being forced to eat other people's excrement[5] and imprisonment in cramped "drawer cells" in which multiple prisoners were confined in a space too small to lie down, without being allowed toilet access.[1]

Describing his incarceration later, Valladares wrote:

"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."[5]

Describing his thoughts on Che Guevara later, Valladares stated:

""He was a man full of hatred ... Che Guevara executed dozens and dozens of people who never once stood trial and were never declared guilty … In his own words, he said the following: "At the smallest of doubt we must execute." And that's what he did at the Sierra Maestra and the prison of Las Cabanas."[5]

Writing and release[edit]

During his time in prison, Valladares went on multiple hunger strikes. The longest, a 49-day hunger strike in 1974, left him confined to a wheelchair for several years[8] with an attack of polyneuritis.[9] Valladares subsequently appealed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, stating that he was being denied important medical care, including a functioning wheelchair.[9] The IACHR found that Cuba had violated a number of Valladares's rights, including the right to a fair trial, the right to protection against arbitrary arrest and the right to humane treatment during the time the individual is in custody, and the right to due process and protection from cruel, infamous, or unusual punishment.[9]

Believing that "poetry is a weapon," Valladares also began smuggling his poems out of jail, which brought him a measure of international attention.[7] His first published collection, From My Wheelchair, detailed prison abuses and was released in 1974. After the book's publication, PEN France awarded him its Freedom Prize.[8]

In 1981, Valladares's wife Marta – who had met and married him while he was imprisoned – traveled to Europe to meet with government officials regarding her husband's case, and in 1982, 83 U.S. Congressmen joined a call for Valladares's release.[8] Valladares was released that year after 22 years' imprisonment after a direct appeal by French President François Mitterrand.[7]

Against All Hope and ambassadorship[edit]

After his release, Valladares resettled in the U.S. In 1986, Alfred A. Knopf released Valladares's memoir Against All Hope, in which he detailed his prison experiences. One year later, U.S. President Ronald Reagan appointed Valladares to serve as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The move was widely seen as an attempt to dramatize and draw new attention to Cuban human rights abuses.[6] The Cuban government reacted by calling Valladares a "traitor and a fake,"[10] including stating that he had faked his paralysis while imprisoned. The U.S. State Department responded by accusing Cuba of "mounting a massive defamation campaign against Armando Valladares" to deflect attention from its human rights record.[7]

Valladares served as the ambassador from 1988 to 1990.[11][12] He vigorously argued for UN attention to Cuban human rights abuses during his tenure, leading Human Rights Watch to criticize him for appearing to have "little interest in pursuing other violators, particularly of the non-Communist sort," such as US allies Iraq or Guatemala.[13]

Other activities[edit]

Valladares is a member of the international advisory council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.[14]

Books[edit]

  • Desde mi Silla de Ruedas (1976)
  • El Corazon Con Que Vivo (1980) - a book of poetry in Spanish, published by Ediciones Universal (ISBN 0-89729-245-6)
  • Cavernas del Silencio (1983)
  • Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro's Gulag (1985) - an autobiographical work, published by Encounter Books (ISBN 1-893554-19-8)
  • El Alma de un Poeta (1988)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b David Devoss (November 9, 1986). "A Conversation With Armando Valladares". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Armando Valladares". Radio Humanity. October 5, 2011. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "About". www.armandovalladares.com. Armando Valladares Gallery. 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c "Armando Valladares". Oslo Freedom Forum. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d David Horowitz (5 December 2003). "Armando Valladares: Human Rights Hero". Newsmax. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Paul Lewis (February 28, 1988). "U.S. Charges Cuba Smears Delegate". The New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d Ronald Radosh (April 13, 2012). "Surviving Castro's Tortures". The New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c Ana Veciana-Suarez (March 19, 1982). "83 Congressmen ask Castro to free poet Valladares". The Miami News. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c "Resolution No 2/82: Case 2300". Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. March 8, 1982. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Castro Laments `Very Sad Things' in Bloc". The Washington Post. November 9, 1989. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  11. ^ "U.S. Tones Down Strategy to Fight Cuba on Human Rights". Miami Herald. February 28, 1988. p. 1A. 
  12. ^ "Sims Flap Shows Miami at Divisive Worst". Miami Herald. January 8, 1991. p. 1B. 
  13. ^ "Human Rights Watch World Report 1989". Human Rights Watch. 1989. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  14. ^ "International Advisory Council". Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on May 20, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2011. 

External links[edit]