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November 19 will mark the 34th anniversary of the beginning of one of the multiple repressive measures of the Castro-Communist Regime, the Military Units to Help Production (acronym UMAP in Spanish), in which more than 25,000 young people from around the country were forced to purge themselves of the crime of saying “YES” to God and Democracy and “NO” to the tyrant Castro.
Yanked from their homes, from the streets of their neighborhoods, they were transported by train, buses and trucks, at the point of semi-automatic weapons wielded by members of the MININT (Interior Ministry), who took them to the province of Camagüey.
Concentrated in several stadiums of that province, they were received by walls of soldiers and machine guns. Presiding over the arrival were high-ranking military representatives, who among them were Commanders Casillas, Jose Ramon Silva, Rogelio Acevedo, Victor Dreke, Rene de los Santos Ponce; Captains Valdivia, Bazooka, Ramon Pardo Guerra, Israel Pardo Guerra, Quintin Pino Machado, Zapata, Reinaldo Mora Perez, Carlos Cabale Araujo, Felipe S. Guerra Matos and First Captain Sandino.
These and many other names are sadly remembered as the main leaders of the mourning that has clouded the happiness of our Land. These were the executors directed by the Tyrant, of that apparent military simulation that was a PLAN conceived as a means of prevention, since it was not convenient to recruit all those disaffected youth into its System in the Military Service. This was the case because of the danger that it could lead to a future uprising of those same youths after they had training and knowledge of arms and nor could it run the risk of leaving them free to organize themselves and constitute new fronts like those of the 60’s decade that rocked the Island in open rebellion against the Communist Regime.
The option chosen was the most arbitrary one, but one very appropriate for a tyranny prepared to prevail. The young people were divided into groups of about 120 and transferred to different sugar mills, to buildings constructed with security devices which were surrounded by a rectangular wire fence with one entry and exit gate. There was also one sentry post with a permanent guard carrying long arms with constant rounds. They were prisoners and were called “recruits”.
They had to fall in, march and sing the International under the threat of fixed bayonets. Inside those cages surrounded by 14 strands of barbed wire turned inward they were subjected to forced labor, insults, humiliation, beatings, and inhuman punishments with food on the order of the mush fed to pigs. The food was brought to them on tanks, practically at dawn, before going out to those required exhausting days of labor in any agricultural area. This was the same food that awaited them again when they came back at the end of the day as their only means of mitigating the hunger that devoured their stomachs.
In summary, this was the price paid by those young people for being children of political prisoners, for having families abroad and being in communication with them, for being children of members of the military of the former government. It was also the price paid by businessmen with small or large businesses where the red clique intervened and took over their properties, artists who did not sympathize with the Hammer and Sickle Doctrine, those who refused to join the Rebel Youth, those who professed a love for Christ, the children of Cuban democracy lovers who projected open rejection for the imposition of the despot, the orphan children raised in the Charity House who continued their Catholic belief after that institution closed.
Those also paying a price were Jehovah’s Witnesses, mentally retarded and deviate young people with anti-social and homosexual tendencies, all were enrolled in that cruelty; all pointed to with the accusing index finger of that medium that was hostile to any demonstration foreign to its dictatorial absolutism. This was the case because it was not only a question of annulling ideals, beliefs and principles and of exploiting free labor, there was also an objective of curtailing university or technical careers to prevent possible potential enemies from graduating in the professional and intellectual field, frustrating their personal initiative together with their development aspirations.
The torture lasted more than two-and-a-half years and many of those victims of Castro’s isolation ended up in prison fulfilling sentences for lawsuits brought at the caprice of the laws of the times.
After July 1968, names were created to give a different appearance to the same purpose, because although the camps did not have the same characteristics as the previous ones, their repressive purpose had not changed. That was how the “Battalions of Decisive Effort” came about, as did the “Young People’s Column of the Centennial” and the “Young People’s Work Army”— names covering up the same slavery and outrage.
It is said that there is nothing left of the files that could have provided proof of that barbaric episode. Those who have been able to escape to Exile struggle to help those that are still on the Island achieve the same and so that that hateful reality does not remain anonymous, without the world being aware of an experience that, illegal and antihuman, has only received silence and indifference from Democracy and Human Rights.
Lost in the years, in those camps in the mountainous agricultural region, remained the tortures, suicides, lack of medical care, deaths, intentional mutilations where a hand or a foot was sacrificed or other parts of the body were cut, seeking a means of escape from that hell.
Testimony of incredible savageness has circulated within the country and they try to impose their credibility on the willful ignorance of those who have always refused to recognize the magnitude of the Cuban tragedy of those years in the sixties when the blood of their children combined with the pain and impotence of a generation that preferred confrontation, jail, removal and death before handing the Homeland over to a Traitor.
Blood continues to run in Cuba, mankind continues ignorant of our misfortune and since 1995, in Exile, a group of men who defend the right to their truth created the ‘Association of Ex-Prisoners of the UMAP”. From its ranks they highlight those deeds as a touch of the shame of those who have lost it or those who, out of treason, cowardice or accommodation trample on it every day. They experienced it in their own flesh and confirm that while there “THERE WAS NEVER A GESTURE THAT WAS HUMAN”.