The curtain finally fell on one of Earth’s most vicious tormentors of gay people. The seemingly immortal Cuban dictator Fidel Castro died November 25 at age 90.
Castro operated a giant Alcatraz from 1959 to 2008 before dynastically handing the jailhouse keys to his dauphin and brother, Raúl.
Often forgiving, sometimes glowing, encomia to Castro by such leftists as President Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada skate past Fidel’s epic homophobia. This is a massive oversight by liberals who call themselves the natural-born allies of gay people worldwide.
“We would never come to believe that a homosexual could embody the conditions and requirements of conduct that would enable us to consider him a true revolutionary, a true Communist militant,” Castro declared in 1965. “A deviation of that nature clashes with the concept we have of what a militant Communist should be,” Castro added, as James Kirchick recalled in Sunday’s Daily Beast.
Castro started corralling gays that year, often through cruel lies.
“Many received false telegrams telling them they had been called for military service and should appear at a chosen location — where they would then be rounded into trains, trucks, and buses and sent to the camps with little food or water,” Benjamin Butterworth wrote this week at Great Britain’s PinkNews.com.
These Military Units to Aid Production or UMAPs, by their Spanish acronym, used forced labor to re-educate gays, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others deemed deficient in socialist fervor. Signs at these facilities announced: “Work will make you men.”
UMAP inmates, according to Butterworth, reported being “threatened with execution, stuffed with dirt in their mouths, buried in the ground up to their necks, and tied up naked outside in barbed wire without food or water until fainting.”
“It was a sweltering place without a bathroom,” Reinaldo Arenas, a gay Cuban author, wrote in his autobiography, Before Night Falls. “Gays were not treated like human beings, they were treated like beasts. They were the last ones to come out for meals, so we saw them walk by, and the most insignificant incident was an excuse to beat them mercilessly.”
Castro erected his own Gulag Archipelago of some 200 such UMAP camps before ending this program in 1968. But his state-sponsored homophobia raged on.
Former UMAP inmates were identified as such in their official records. This blocked them from workplaces and classrooms.
The first National Congress on Education and Culture in 1971 decried “all manifestations of homosexual deviation.” Openly gay Cubans, particularly teachers, were barred from the Communist Party and booted from their jobs.
While Castro’s regime decriminalized consensual gay sex in 1979, it struck a major blow for inhumanity when it corralled HIV patients and forcibly quarantined them in sanitaria between the mid 1980s and 1993. The late Jonathan Mann, M.D. — founder of the World Health Organization’s Program for AIDS — condemned these as “pretty prisons.”
Castro’s abuses continued in 1997 when Human Rights Watch found that the Marxist dictator “heightened harassment of homosexuals, raiding several nightclubs known to have gay clientele and allegedly beating and detaining dozens of patrons.”
Castro incarcerated dissident poet Armando Valladares from 1960 to 1982 for not placing on his office desk a sign that read “I’m with Fidel.” Valladares said, “There have been few examples of repression of homosexuals in history as virulent as in Cuba.”
Since Fidel stepped aside in 2008, gays in Cuba have been given more breathing room. Mariela Castro has emerged as a gay-rights advocate. As Raúl’s heterosexual daughter and Fidel’s niece, she enjoys a very long leash.
“Yes, there were moments of great injustice — great injustice,” Fidel finally conceded to the Mexican newspaper La Jornada in 2010, at age 84. He added that “if anyone has to take responsibility, I take mine. I will not hold anyone else responsible.”
On Sunday, an urn bearing Fidel Castro’s ashes will be interred in Santiago, Cuba. How fitting for a tyrant who burns in Hell.