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Castro Opponents Seek Proof Of Cuban Executions
(AP) CHATHAM, N.J. A pair of Cuban-American opponents to Fidel Castro's rule hope a database they are compiling will provide an accurate record of how many have been killed by the regime.
Maria Werlau, 46, a former banker living in Chatham, and Armando Lago, 66, a half-paralyzed economist in Coral Gables, Fla., say their eight-year-old Cuba Archive project has already compiled 9,000 reports of people killed during Castro's 47 years running Cuba.
The reports, many of which they say have been confirmed, involve more than 5,000 killed by firing squad, mostly in the immediate years following Castro's 1959 rise to power. Werlau and Lago say roughly 2,000 others died in prison, some executed, some perishing in accidents never explained.
On top of that, there's an estimated 77,000 people who have died trying to flee Cuba, according to Castro critics.
Werlau and Lago also hope to include the roughly 3,000 people who died in the violence before the 1959 revolution, including those killed by the forces of dictator Fulgencio Batista.
"There's no political message in this," Lago, who has done much of the Cuba Archive research while recovering from a pair of strokes, told The Sunday Star-Ledger of Newark.
"I'm simply counting the dead," he said.
A Cuban government official told The Associated Press on Sunday that he had not seen The Star-Ledger's report on the archive project, but defended "the ethics" of the revolution ever since Castro came to power.
The official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to discuss the report, also pointed out he believes it's the United States that has the largest number of people condemned to death sentences, and questioned whether there would be an article on that as well.
Both Werlau and Lago describe injuries they suffered themselves from Castro's regime.
Under File No. 1267 in the Cuba Archive is Werlau's father, Armando Canizares, killed during the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. Werlau's mother, and many of her mother's friends in the Miami neighborhood where she grew up, were widows of the failed U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow Castro.
"I guess I inhaled this through every cell in my body, this whole drama," Werlau said.
Lago fled Cuba in 1960 when he was 20 years old. He says Cuban police had arrested and questioned him because he argued in a college class that the government's deficit spending would cause inflation.
Werlau says she came up with the idea for the archive project while studying in Chile in the early 1990s. She noticed that there was an investigation into the political executions during the political dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, and wondered why the same wasn't being done for Cuba.
While searching for details into her father's death, she ran into Lago, who was already researching old U.S. State Department records and news clippings to assemble a tally of the dead.
On its Web site, the Cuba Archive posts a quotation cited to Castro in which he says there has never been a single political assassination or single victim of torture, a statement Werlau describes as "lies."
"I think he said that because of our work, because he knows we are doing this," Werlau said.