FACT CHECK: Image Claims To Show Cuban Farmer Before Being Executed For Refusing To Work For The Castro Regime

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows a Cuban farmer moments before he got executed for refusing to work for the Castro regime.

Verdict: False

The pictured man was a soldier from former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista’s army, not a farmer. He was executed in 1959 after being convicted by a military tribunal in the deaths of two brothers.

Fact Check:

The image depicts a kneeling man seemingly receiving his last rites from a priest, while what appears to be a firing squad stands in the background. The man, purportedly a farmer, was sentenced to death for refusing to work for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s regime, the caption claims.

“This picture won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960,” reads the image’s caption. “It shows a priest giving the last rites to a Cuban farmer, owner of his land. He refused to work for the Castro regime. He died by a firing squad after a trial by Che Guevara that lasted 4 minutes. You will never see this picture on a T-shirt.”

While it is true that the image was part of a series that won the 1960 Pulitzer Prize in Photography, the text accompanying the image is incorrect.

United Press International photographer Andrew Lopez took the photo on Jan. 17, 1959, during the Cuban Revolution. The pictured man, Cpl. Jose Cipriano Rodriguez of Batista’s army, was executed after being found guilty of murder, not because he refused to work under Castro’s regime, per the photo’s description on the United Press International website.

“Father Domingo Lorenzo performs last rites for Cuban Army Cpl. Jose Cipriano Rodriguez on Jan. 17, 1959,” reads the description. “Rodriguez, who had served in Fulgencio Batista’s army, was executed by firing squad after being found guilty for the deaths of two brothers. His tribunal lasted just one minute. UPI photographer Andrew Lopez won the 1960 Pulitzer Prize for a series of four photos from the scene, including this one.”

While the tribunal only deliberated for one minute before finding Rodriguez guilty of murder, his actual trial lasted two hours, according to a 1960 interview with Lopez.

“I started to make pictures,” Lopez said in an interview. “When Pepe Caliente fell to his knees as a priest held up a cross for him to kiss, the scene was one that will be hard to forget. I honestly felt like crying.” (RELATED: Does This Image Show Jill Biden Posing With Fidel Castro?)

The claim started circulating widely over the weekend. Multiple users on Facebook and Twitter shared the photo with the inaccurate caption, including Republican Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett. He tweeted the image on Sept. 7, along with the comment, “You’ll never see this on a hipsters Che Guevara t-shirt.”

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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