http://www.canadafreepress.com/2005/edesk111505.htm

Cuba, Fidel Castro:

The miracle of Armando Valladares

By Judi McLeod, Canada Free Press, Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - E-mail: letters @ canadafreepress.com

It has to be one of the most curious coincidences ever. A letter, subject "The Shepherd ĎBlessesí The Wolf, found itís way to my email on Monday.

In that letter, author and Cuban anti-communist crusader Armando Valladares laments the recent visit of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Archbishop of Genoa to the "island prison" called Cuba.

A former Cuban political prisoner of some 22 years, Valladares was American ambassador before the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations in Geneva under the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior.

Anybody who reads the canadafreepress.com website knows I am no fan of the corrupt and scandal-plagued Kofi Annan-led UN. In short I do not believe that the UN is anywhere close to the warm and fuzzy blanket image it ascribes to itself in myriad media releases, but a political agenda in the making.

As an author, Valladares won rave reviews for his book-testimonial Contra toda esperanza (Against All Hope), in which he relates his life in Fidel Castroís soul-killing prisons.

Thatís where coincidence steps in. The book I happened to be reading when the Shepherd Blesses the Wolf letter arrived was Against All Hope.

I donít know how itís even possible but thatís how it happened.

Published circa 1985, Itís not as though Contra toda esperanza is a new book. I picked it up in a second hand bookshop in September and didnít get around reading it until now. Once I started the book, I was held spellbound. Itís a compelling story and the unvarnished truth,

In the middle of the night, Valladares was dragged from his home in front of his mother and sister. It was to take some 22 years before an international campaign of protest saw him set free.

As I was reading the book, I felt myself wishing that I could somehow someday meet its courageous author. Then came the letter.

In the important praise for Against All Hope are the words of someone else who holds my admiration, Claudia Rosett, the journalist who put the UN Oil-For-Food scandal on the journalism map.

"If the book has a fault, it is that the author chronicles more variations on cruelty than anyone should ever know. That fault belongs not to the writer, but to a regime so invasive that it would do anything to blot out the private dissent of a 24-year-old Postal Savings Bank bureaucrat, which is what Mr. Valladares was at the time of his arrest," said Rosett.

Castro and Company may have taken 22 years of Valladareís life, but they couldnít take the fighting spirit of a hero, who to this very day remembers and will always remember his companions who were tortured and murdered in Fidel Castroís jails or the thousands of prisoners still suffering in them.

No one should be surprised to find Valladares calling on Cardinal Bertone for the details he revealed at a press conference, where he claimed that "the Church in Cuba is viewed with respect by the government" and that "Castro himself manifested great appreciation for the Church".

Imagine the heartache for the relatives of thousands of Cuban prisoners having to hear from the Cardinalís lips that in the island prison of Cuba "already the opening is total".

Propaganda is hard to take no matter what its source, but propaganda from an official representative of the Vatican comes with vinegar.

It would take what the Spanish-speaking people call a "Milagros" for Fidel Castro to manifest "great appreciation for the Church".

There is about as much hope for an epiphany for Castro, as there would be for his Russian master Vladimir Putin.

The only milagros on the landscape is Armando Valladares.

Canada Free Press founding editor Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in the media. A former Toronto Sun and Kingston Whig Standard columnist, she has also appeared on Newsmax.com, the Drudge Report, Foxnews.com, and World Net Daily. Judi can be reached at: letters @canadafreepress.com