Oral testimony by Maria Werlau, Cuba Archive´s Executive Director
for the Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House
of Representatives, Washington, D.C., July 13, 2016
Today I will focus on the Cuban government’s continuing violations to the right to
life. To illustrate the extreme contempt for human life the Castro regime has
displayed from its inception, we need just recall three of its flagrant atrocities
that occurred on the month of July of different years.
In 1994, on a day like today, July 13th, a group of sixty-eight, including many
children, boarded a tugboat to escape to the U.S. Three boats were waiting for them
— alerted by infiltrators. With high-pressure water jets, they began ripping
children from their parents’ arms and sweeping terrified passengers off to sea.
Finally, they rammed and sunk the fleeing tugboat, drowning all those who had taken
refuge in the cargo hold. With survivors clinging to pieces of wreckage, the
pursuing boats circled around them, seeking to drown them with wave turbulence.
Thirty-seven perished, including eleven children.
Fourteen years earlier, on July 6th 1980, Cuban Navy boats and an Air Force plane
had attacked an excursion boat that toured the Canímar River of Matanzas loaded with
passengers and tried fleeing to the U.S. The exact number of victims is unknown, but
numbers in the dozens and included children.
Among hundreds of July victims of the Castros, two stand out. On July 22nd 2012,
Oswaldo Payá, arguably Cuba’s leading opposition figure, and Harold Cepero, a young
activist from his organization, were killed in a car accident believed to have been
caused by state agents.
These are just samples of the large-scale and growing tragedy the Cuba Archive
project, which I head, is documenting and for which the Cuban regime has not been
held accountable. To date, we’ve recorded over 6,100 deaths and disappearances
caused by the Castro regime not from combat situation. Each has a detailed record.
The victims include infants, pregnant women, the elderly, human rights’ defenders,
protestant pastors, Jehovah’s Witnesses, political prisoners, young men objecting to
military service, and anyone who gets in the way of the Castros. Also on the list
are 21 U.S. citizens executed, assassinated, or disappeared and 6 killed in
terrorist attacks sponsored or supported by Cuba. We know, sadly, that this count is
woefully lacking; what’s more, for it to be comprehensive, it would have to include
many more Cubans who’ve perished and extended to many countries where Cuba has
created, supported, and promoted war, subversion, and terrorism, as today in nearby
and Colombia. The human toll of the Castro dynasty is easily, in my view, several
hundred thousand and counting.
Things are not much better since Raúl Castro, until ten years ago the No. 2 man,
assumed supreme command in Cuba, replacing his brother Fidel. Since then and until
last December 31st, Cuba Archive has documented 264 cases of death and
disappearance, a count we know is very incomplete.
A particularly troubling aspect of the ongoing crimes of the Cuban regime relates to
the grave abuses committed by Cuban authorities against persons attempting to escape
the country. The attacks appear to have declined, in part because Cuba has perfected
a highly lucrative business from exporting people that welcomes most departures.
Yet, killings, beatings, torture, and other abuses perpetrated on those fleeing have
not stopped. To take just one example, on December 16th 2014, the day before
President Obama made his surprise announcement of normalized relations with Cuba, 32
year-old Liosbel Díaz disappeared after Cuban Boarder Guards sunk, reportedly in
international waters, the boat in which he was escaping with 31 other passengers,
including women and children.
What’s perhaps more egregious is the aberration of a tropical “Berlin Wall” at
Guantánamo, altogether overlooked by the free world. 26 years after the fall of the
infamous Berlin Wall, a deadlier replica now lasting twice longer stands in
Communist Cuba: barbed wire, minefields, watchtowers, ferocious dogs, sharpshooters…
all to prevent escapes to the U.S. base in Guantánamo. It has a sordid extension —
a sea wall in the bay added in the mid-1990s to prevent swimmers from reaching the