News and Facts about Cuba

Mother of late Cuban dissident talks to lawmakers

Posted on Tuesday, 07.12.11

Mother of late Cuban talks to lawmakers

met with members of Congress who heard her tell the
story of her son — a Cuban dissident who died earlier this year
following a long hunger strike against the communist regime.
By James Rosen
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — The mother of Cuban dissident Orlando Tamayo, who
died after an 85-day hunger strike, gave emotional accounts Tuesday of
her son's death in captivity to dismayed lawmakers.

A sober-faced Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, led Reina
Luisa Tamayo to meetings with senators and House members who listened in
rapt attention as she described Zapata's ordeal at the notorious Kilo 7
in Camaguey province.

"I would go to every corner of the world to ask for justice for the
cause of my son who was assassinated," Tamayo told reporters in Rubio's
Capitol Hill office. "The Castro brothers (Fidel and Raul) are murderers
and every door should be closed to them. We have to fight for liberty
and justice for all Cubans. Our people are suffering."

Her hands shaking, Tamayo held up a blood-stained white T-shirt she said
her son gave her shortly before his death at age 42 in February 2010.

Tamayo, 62, said the blood came from vicious beatings Zapata endured
while refusing to eat during his 15-month imprisonment. She said his
captors denied him water for 18 days toward the end of his life.

"They murdered Orlando Zapata in premeditated fashion," Tamayo said, her
voice rising. "This mother would be incapable of making such a strong
allegation against the government unless I held proof in my own hands."

Tamayo read from writings her son had inscribed on the shirt.

"My blood is in service to liberty for all 11 million Cubans who don't
express themselves because they fear joining the many who are already in
prison," Tamayo read. "Long live the shirt of the !"

Rubio, elected to his first Senate term last November, held up what he
said was incriminating evidence of a different sort.

Displaying a recent newspaper article about increased U.S.
opportunities in Cuba, Rubio criticized Barack Obama for
loosening the decades-old ban.

The Obama administration earlier this year started allowing students and
church groups to travel to Cuba, and it expanded the number of airports
that can offer charter service there beyond those in Miami, New York and
Los Angeles.

Rubio, a West Miami Republican, was joined at a news conference with
Tamayo by Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson of Tallahassee and Bob Menendez
of New Jersey. Menendez' parents also emigrated from Cuba.

"We're honored to be in the presence of a hero who has witnessed
firsthand the brutality of the Castro regime and the reality of Cuba
today," Rubio said. "It is the brutal reality of a brutal dictatorship
that oppresses its people and violates on a consistent basis."

Nelson noted that he and Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican,
sponsored a resolution honoring the life of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, which
the Senate passed unanimously in March 2010 shortly after his death.

The measure called on the United States "to continue policies that focus
on respect for the fundamental tenets of freedom, democracy and human
rights in Cuba and encourage peaceful democratic change consistent with
the aspirations of the people of Cuba." Before meeting with senators,
Tamayo appeared at a House briefing hosted by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,
a Miami Republican who was born in Havana.

"Cuba is a tropical gulag where the Castro brothers serve as prison
wardens and executioners," Ros-Lehtinen said. "Anyone who has any doubt
about that truth should listen to the sad story of Reina Luisa Tamayo."

Tamayo gained political asylum in the United States and arrived in Miami
last month carrying her son's ashes in a shoe-size box. The remains were
buried June 25 in a Bay of Pigs mausoleum at Dade South Memorial Park
cemetery, marking the first time someone who wasn't a veteran of the Bay
of Pigs invasion was interred with participants in the 1961 failed
military action against .

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