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Torture a Frequent Companion in Cuba Prisons, Ex-Inmates Say

August 24, 1986|ROBERT BARR | Associated Press

Valladares says he was convicted of public destruction and sabotage despite testimony from a police officer that no incriminating evidence had been found.

When international interest in Valladares grew in the 1970s, the Cuban government said he had been a member of former dictator Fulgencio Batista's police force. Valladares includes a photo of his purported police ID card in the book, calling it a forgery that listed his birthday and eye color incorrectly. His height and weight are given in metric measures, but Valladares said Cuba hadn't adopted the metric system in the 1950s.

Wayne Smith, who headed the U.S. Interest Section in Havana from 1977 to 1982, accepts Valladares' account of brutal mistreatment.

'A Courageous Guy'

"I have no reason at all not to think that such conditions exist in Cuban prisons," he said. "I think Valladares is a courageous guy who suffered more than anyone ought to."

In a preface to Valladares' memoir, Americas Watch said the Cuban prison system was distinctive for "the active, personalized and often vindictive involvement of Fidel Castro himself in using the prisons to punish old friends and settle old scores."

Writing recently in the New York Review of Books, Aryeh Neier, vice chairman of Americas Watch, said that Cuba had confined large numbers of political prisoners for longer terms than any other country.

"By every criterion that has been established and accepted internationally during the past four decades, Cuba warrants severe condemnation for its abuses of human rights," Neier wrote. Yet, he said, Cuba has received less attention from human rights groups than have other nations.

He suggested that is partly because abuses in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay were worse when the human rights movement blossomed in the 1970s. Some people were put off by Cuban exile extremists such as the Omega 7 terrorist group, he said, and some activists were gulled by Castro's rhetoric.

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