Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Death of a Patriot

I was looking around for information on Eusebio Penalver, who died today - certainly there would be a wealth of information out there about this brave man who fought for democracy in Cuba.

He was a member of the rebel army that fought against the dictator Fulgencio Batista, and after realizing that Fidel would not follow through on his promise of free elections, democracy, a return to the 1940 constitution, free press and human rights, he joined the peasant army of Escambray Mountains and fought against Fidel.

I didn't find much information, but did find the pertinent facts about this little known political prisoner who was was the longest held black political prisoner in history - that's world history.

People of color are a majority in Cuba, and there's no Afro-Cuban exemption from Fidel Castro's totalitarianism. Blacks can't establish a Cuban NAACP, their own newspapers or Web sites, or criticize the white autocrat who suffocates their identity. If they want to leave Master Castro's plantation, they need a pass.

Black Cuban Eusebio Peñalver was an officer in the rebel army against Fulgencio Batista's dictatorship. He soon opposed Castro's new tyranny, participating in the peasant-based Escambray resistance.

Captured in 1960, Peñalver remained in prison until October 1988. In addition to physical torture, Castro's thugs would tell him, "Nigger, we brought you down from the trees and cut your tail!" Peñalver remarks, "That is, they were saying that Negroes were monkeys, that we were on trees and the revolution brought us down and made us persons and therefore we were their slaves."

In "Twenty Years and Forty Days," former prisoner of conscience Jorge Valls similarly recounts how guards would say to his black peers, "You nigger, how could you revolt against a revolution that is finally making human beings out of you?" Valls adds, "They always got more than their share of the beatings and bayonets."

Peñalver notes Castro's place in the constellation of tyrants: "There is no difference between the Cuban dictator and Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Mussolini, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, or any of the dictators who have terrorized the peoples of the world."

Jackson and Sharpton protested Nelson Mandela's imprisonment, but I don't recall their solidarity for Eusebio Peñalver then or now.
Rest in Piece Eusebio, you fought an honorable fight. We will prevail.

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