Castrist Dictatorship: From Armando Valladares to Leopoldo Lopez


Carlos Sánchez Berzain*


They are two people from different generations, countries and intellectual background. Similar stories in defense of freedom and of fundamental rights. Same historical testimony: Slaughtered by the same executioner, the same system of fallacious accusations, of lynching trials, and of false evidence, arbitrary arrests and abject sentences; the premeditated and systematic violation of their human rights. Armando Valladares and Leopoldo Lopez, with 54 years of distance between their processes, are examples of the Castro dictatorship’s victims that repeats and persists in its crimes, abusing and condemning innocent people as part of its methodology and political strengths.


Armando Valladares was born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba in May 1937. Artist, writer and poet, he studied painting at the School of Visual Arts. Cited Fidel Castro as communist, and at 23 years of age was imprisoned in December of 1960 on charges of "threatening the state’s security, and of terrorism"; such sentence disguised Valladares’ rejection of the regime, having repudiated the propaganda "If Fidel is a communist put me on the list." Processed by the "judges of the revolution", was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The regime labeled him as a "traitor". In prison he was subjected to beatings, psychological, biological and isolation experiments, forced labor and years of solitary confinement in a cell without natural or artificial light. The Pen Club of France gave him the "Liberty" award for imprisoned writers; he was adopted by Amnesty International as a "Political prisoner of conscience". His wife Martha led a worldwide campaign for his innocence, and thanks to a-personal request from the French President Francoise Mitterrand to Fidel Castro, he was released after 22 years in prison. Ronald Reagan appointed him Ambassador of the United States in the Human Rights Commission of the UN, and awarded him with the Presidential Citizens Medal. Today he leads several organizations defending human rights, freedom and democracy.


Leopoldo Lopez was born in Caracas, Venezuela in April 1971. He is an economist and politician, Master in Public Policy from Harvard University, professor at the University Andres Bello, and Mayor of Chacao for two consecutive periods. Founder of First Justice, he is National Coordinator of the Popular Will Party and the People's Network. In November 2005, charged with embezzlement, he was suspended by the government of Venezuela from any future political activity, situation described by the State Department of the United States as "part of the Chavez government strategy to eliminate political opposition." In 2008 he was banned by Chavez to run for Mayor of Caracas when he was the favorite to win the elections. He took the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which on September 1, 2011 declared Venezuela "responsible for the violation of the right to be elected". For his leadership in the 2014 protests, on February 12 of that year he was charged with "incitement to commit crimes, public intimidation, ....... and terrorism”. On February 18th he surrendered as a symbol of non-violence under the statue of José Martí. After processed, he was jailed in Ramo Verde a military center where he is a victim of insolation, inhuman and degrading treatment. His wife Lilian leads an international campaign for his innocence.

He is a presidential candidate who certainly will defeat any ruling candidate in fair elections. The dictatorship has just sentenced him to 13 years, 9 months, 7 days and 12 hours in jail. He is a political prisoner. 


The reason for the vicissitudes of Valladares and of Lopez is the same: the defense of freedom. The executioner is the same: the Cuban Castro’s dictatorship, with the badge of "XXI century’s socialism" today extended and in control of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and of Nicaragua. The procedures are the same, simulated accusations, gangsters with the title of judges who comply with political orders, false evidence, arrests; violation of the presumption of innocence, of due process, of equality, of the impartiality of a natural judge; the judicial system as a tool of repression of the dictatorship. The goal is the same, to silence opponents, to cover up corruption, to remain in power indefinitely and have to negotiate internationally prisoners in exchange for political and / or economic concessions.


The trial and sentence against Leopoldo Lopez are vile instruments, as the ones against Armando Valladares and thousands of Cubans for over 56 years; as are the trials of students, businessmen, military and Venezuelan politicians by Chavez and Maduro, against indigenous people, politicians, businessmen, journalists and police by Correa in Ecuador; against members of the military commanders during democracy, former presidents, ministers, civil servants, civic and indigenous leaders, by  Evo Morales in Bolivia. All are victims, political prisoners or exiles. It is the Castro strategy of "present opponents as criminals" and "chase them until their reputation is destroyed." 

Convert them in nobodies, or better yet, in nothing.

The dictatorship is positioning itself to confront the crisis and upcoming elections, seeks to divide the opposition, break Leopoldo Lopez, and negotiate with the international community, offering freedom without exile or exercising of political rights.


So far the system still works; it removes leaders, legitimizes repression, inoculates people with fear, negotiates victims, and remains in power with corruption and impunity. Moreover, in Venezuela they act simulating democracy.


Is to be seen how many more, and who, are accomplices of the Castro regime -by act or omission- in this repeated crime against humanity.