Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Reminder

Che and Castro - before they were on t-shirts:

On January 3rd 1959, Fidel Castro appointed Ché Guevara Commandant of the imposing La Cabaña Fortress in Havana, built in the 18th century when Cuba was a Spanish colony. The fort served as a prison as well and Ché was also appointed Chief Judge of the Revolutionary Tribunals that were to get started there. Until then, there was no death penalty in Cuba, as Article 25 of the Constitution (of 1940) prohibited the death penalty except in cases of military treason. It had only been applied once to a German spy during the Second World War. But, on January 10th 1959the new Revolutionary Council of Ministers modified the Constitution, ignoring constitutional amendment provisions, and on February 10th 1959 promulgated a new Fundamental Law. These maneuvers gave the death penalty a vise of legality and allowed for its retroactive application. …

Ché was head of the Appellate Court. He had the final word on capital punishment and did preside over the appeal hearings sometimes just a few minutes, and there are no known reports that he overturned a single death sentence. The hearings often ended with his orders for the swift execution of the defendant. La Cabaña soon became an execution mill for the new revolutionary government. The prisoners awaited their fate while hearing the hammering of caskets being assembled prior to their trials. Rarely were they able to say goodbye to their families, who were then deprived of the body for a proper funeral. The trials, appeal hearings, and executions were typically held late into the night, often at dawn, as Ché believed people were more subdued at night. Around the country, publicity was lavished on the trials and executions. In Havana and other cities, some trials were held at theaters and stadiums and bloodthirsty mobs were encouraged to attend. Some executions were televised and even moviegoers had to watch them as previews. The revolutionary leader’s intention was to spread fear and submission, sheer terror, among the population.

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