‘Some Premeditated Atrocities by the Cuban Dictatorship Are Almost Incomprehensible’

María Werlau has been recognized by the U.S. State Department for her “valiant efforts” 

María Werlau, together with the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on Monday, collecting the award as a “hero” against human trafficking / U.S. Department of State/ Capture

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, June 26, 2024 — María Werlau (b. Havana 1959) says she felt “surprised and moved” to learn that the United States named her one of the ten “heroes” in the fight against human trafficking, in the 2024 report presented by the State Department on Monday. She herself collected the award, granted, according to U.S. official Cindy Dyer, “in recognition of her constant and courageous efforts to amplify the voices and stories of survivors of forced labor and exploitation in Cuba’s program of export of services, including its medical brigades.”

“I do this work out of love and moral commitment. Without boasting, I am not concerned with payments, thanks or recognitions, much less by thinking about prizes, so knowing that the work is taken into account comforts and stimulates me,” the activist replied to this newspaper’s questions.

Founder and director of the Cuba Archive Project, she has been dedicated for more than a quarter of a century to safeguarding the memory of the atrocities committed by the Cuban regime. Thus, not only has she insisted on collecting all the information regarding Cuban international missions – characterized for years by different organizations as forced labor – but also, for example, the names of those who have died from the direct fault of the State.

The most frustrating thing about her work in these years, she says, has been the “lack of resources and time to do more for the victims and survivors.” Of all the victims she has documented, she does not mention any in particular: “They all shock me and each one is the most important when you work with her or think about the consequences.” Of course, she points out, “some premeditated atrocities with treachery are almost incomprehensible.”

“The dictatorship has had more than six decades with all the resources of the totalitarian state at its disposal for propaganda, diplomacy and international influence

As a collector of data and facts that should be incontrovertible, why does she believe that, despite this information, the Cuban Revolution still has such a good press? “I work a lot researching that topic,” she replies. “The dictatorship has had more than six decades with all the resources of the totalitarian state at its disposal for propaganda, diplomacy and international influence, and its priority has been to use them to stay in power at all costs.”

Despite her efforts and work for so many years, nothing has changed substantially, and this is something that frustrates and hurts her, but that also encourages her to continue: “There is too much human suffering in the middle. Human beings deserve their freedoms. We can never accept the violence and repression with which the Cuban dictatorship abuses people.”

She says this with knowledge of facts that are personal. Her father, Armando Cañizares Gamboa, who had fought in the Sierra Maestra on the side of the rebel army and worked at the Sugar Institute, immediately realized the twisted course that the Revolution was taking and, after going into exile, was part of the 2506 Brigade that assaulted Playa Girón [the Bay of Pigs] in 1961. He died there from gunshots, but his wife, did not find out until much later, according to María Werlau, when she saw a magazine in a doctor’s office: “There was a photo of a dead brigadier. And he was my father.”

The double struggle of her father is, in a sense, that of the Cuba Archive, which not only documents the deaths of Castroism but also those of Fulgencio Batista. Almost 12,000 victims, for different reasons, are collected in its database from March 1952 to date.

Oblivious to the name of Werlau, President Miguel Díaz-Canel hurried to criticize the report prepared by the United States, which targets Cuba’s international brigades, calling it “manipulative.”

In its report, Washington places Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua as among the countries with the highest existence of human trafficking, since they do not meet the minimum standards or make significant efforts for its elimination.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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