News and Facts about Cuba

25 Cuban Dissidents Launch a Hunger Strike

Yoani Sanchez – Award-winning Cuban

25 Cuban Dissidents Launch a Hunger Strike

Posted: 09/12/2012 10:58 pm

This Monday several Cuban dissidents started a hunger strike which has

already been joined by 25 people throughout the country. At a press

conference, Martha Cabello explained that that the

strikers are demanding the immediate release of Jorge Vázquez Chaviano,

age 42. In 2011 this activist was sentenced for the supposed crime of

"illicit economic activity," although many believe this charge masks

retaliation for his activities. This legal maneuver is common

in Cuba and is intended to make it difficult for the international

organizations to count the "political prisoners" and "prisoners of

conscience" on the Island.

Vázquez Chaviano is currently being held in the Alambrada maximum

security in the central province of Villa Clara. His sentence

ended this past Sunday, September 9, but the prison authorities, instead

of releasing him, moved him to a punishment cell. The spokesperson for

the Cuban Commission for and National Reconciliation

(CCDHRN), Elizardo Sanchez, also called for "an urgent response" from

the government, for "the violation is such that it would justify a writ

of habeas corpus."

Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello was the only woman imprisoned during the

so-called Black Spring of 2003. At the press conference held Monday she

also denounced the repression that State Security carried out against

the internal opposition, independent journalists and human rights

activists. As examples, the well known economist listed the police

cordons established around people's homes, the surveillance, the

retention of identity documents — which Cubans are required to carry at

all times — the arbitrary arrests, and the forced entry into their

homes to arrest them and confiscate their property.

Several activists consulted by this writer said they were worried about

the outcome of this situation. Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in

White, declared, "We are women who love our families and our lives, we

are not in favor of hunger strikes, but we morally and spiritually

support those who undertake them."

For his part, José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba

(UNPACU) said, "Some feel they are forced to this as a last resort,

mainly because the indifference of most Cubans has allowed this

aggravation of the problems."

Former political and opposition leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez

() is another who has joined the strike. As of Wednesday

afternoon a total of 21 men and four women were among those refusing to

ingest . Nine of them are in prison. At Roque Cabello's house there

are at least six members of the "Network of Community Communicators,"

which she heads, all refusing to eat until their demands are met.

Roque Cabello's is deteriorating rapidly, in part because of her

refusal to administer the medications necessary to control her diabetes.

According to what I was able to verify, by the end of the second day of

fasting she suffered from dry lips, trembling and numbness in her hands.

At the end of the afternoon she had suffered a fainting spell.

The hunger strike has become a recurring method to put pressure on the

Cuban government. One of the more publicized in recent years was carried

out in 2010 by the and psychologist Guillermo Fariñas, winner

of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize. After several days without

food or water, Fariñas physically collapsed and was admitted to

intensive care where he was fed intravenously. His persistence was the

determining factor in the subsequent process of releases of the

remaining prisoners of the Black Spring still in prison.

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