Human Rights in Cuba

Time To Change

Waiting for help
Waiting for help

Is Never Free

Friday, 01 Jun 2012 05:17 PM

By Jackie Gingrich Cushman

An 8-year-old boy loses his father to an execution squad. Imagine the

shock, questions, and hurt at losing his father at such a young age. Why

did his father have to die? Could his death been avoided? Why did he

have to lose his father?

wrested the reins of power over Cuba from military

Fulgencio Batista on Jan. 1, 1959. Luis Haza was eight. At the time, his

father, Col. Bonifacio Haza, commanded the National in Santiago.

Batista had ruled with military might, leading a reign of terror that

saw people taken from their homes, never to return.

For years, numerous factions had been working to overthrow Batista. In

December of 1956, Castro and his allies — who had been organizing in

Mexico — landed on the eastern shore of Cuba in an attempt to overthrow

Batista's government. In the fighting that followed, most of Castro's

troops were killed, and those who survived lost much of their munitions

and supplies.

Undeterred, Castro continued his efforts. By the time he rode

victoriously into Santiago a little more than two years later, the

prevailing belief (including among the island's business leaders) was

that Castro's overthrow of Batista would lead to democracy and free

elections. Col. Haza believed democracy was Cuba's destiny and stood

with Castro on a stage soon after Castro first entered Santiago in victory.

But it soon became apparent that Castro neither believed in nor would

support democracy; Col. Haza withdrew his support.

Later that month, Col. Haza was forced into a dark cow pasture, where he

and 70 other prisoners were executed under the direction of ,

Fidel's younger brother and now the country's president.

"My father thought the revolution was for democracy," Luis Haza said.

"Castro betrayed my father and the entire revolution."

By 1963, Luis Haza had become an accomplished violinist and was

appointed an associate concertmaster of a professional orchestra in

Cuba. According to Haza, "the power structure wanted to see if I could

be 'integrated' into the system. If they integrate the son of an

executed man, it would be a model for all the young people."

But Luis Haza had a different dream: "To come to the United States for

freedom. We knew that in Cuba, eventually we would die, just like we had

seen neighbors die, and so-and-so disappeared. It was a daily thing, a

daily subject: American freedom, to go to the United States."

After Haza refused to play for the elder Castro, a military squad

charged into a rehearsal, pointing machine guns at the pianist. "Boy!

Play something!" they shouted.

He did. "I played the American national anthem, 'The Star Spangled

Banner.'" The entire thing! You could hear a pin drop. I finished

playing, and nobody knew what to do."

Soon after, Haza fled with his family to , where they waited to

immigrate to the United States. They arrived in the United States on

Election Day — November 3, 1964.

Haza was recounting his story on Memorial Day this week, and mentioned

having recently attended a ceremony in which a family friend was

inducted into the U.S. . As he watched the young man swear to

protect and defend the United States, Haza understood why his father had

given his life for Cuba.

"Now, I understand," Haza said, "why my father died." In his death, Col.

Bonifacio Haza served his country, and in serving his country he served

his family, including his 8-year-old son, who now lives in freedom in

the United States.

While many Americans take their freedoms for granted, Luis Haza, whose

father defied Castro and was killed for doing so, understands that the

freedoms we have are extraordinary and that freedoms are never free.

Col. Haza did his duty for his country and gave his life.

A father, full of love, for freedom and his family.

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