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The Cuban Regime’s Destructive Acts Against the Dissidence Have Come to Seem Normal to the World

The Cuban Regime's Destructive Acts Against the Dissidence Have Come to

Seem Normal to the World / Ivan Garcia

Ivan Garcia, Translator: Russell Conner

Monday, September 17th marked the first week of a hunger strike carried

out by the well-known economist and opposition figure Martha Beatriz

Roque Cabello, 67 years old, "to demand the of political

Jorge Vázquez Chaviano and an attempt to force the government

of Raúl Castro to comply with mediocre current legislation", she tells me.

The veteran was in a delicate state of . "She has

suffered various blood sugar problems and on Friday the 13th she

suffered a respiratory blockage", said Idania Yanes Contreras,

of the Central Opposition Coalition and spokeswoman of the group of 6

dissidents on hunger strike in Martha Beatriz's small apartment.

It has been a chain reaction. There were 30 opposition figures found

going without food in various provinces of the nation. For decades,

hunger strikes have formed part of the dissent's battle strategy against

the olive green regimen. It has had its cost in human lives.

Since 1966, when the Roberto López Chávez died in the

Modelo on Isla de Pinos, various opposition figures have died as

a consequence of hunger strikes. Among the most talked-about is that of

student leader Pedro Luis Boitel, who died the 25th of May of 1972 in

the Havana prison Castillo del Príncipe, after 53 days without eating

food. Orlando Tamayo, one of the accused of the Black Spring,

lost his life due to a hunger strike. His death, the 24th of February of

2010, was what triggered the government to negotiate the release and

exile of almost a hundred political prisoners with the Catholic church

and the Spanish government.

On repeated occasions, the government has declared that it will not

yield to the petitions of the dissidents. Many opposition figures, like

Martha Beatriz, feel impotent. "It is one of the few paths that we have

to show our indignation. The world already sees as somewhat normal the

destructive acts of the Cuban regime against dissent. It has all become

routine", she emphasizes, and makes a brief recount of the events. "In

these two years, the arbitrary detentions, the acts of repudiation, the

harassment and physical aggressions have gone up considerably. We demand

respect", she says in a very low voice.

She is laid out on a single bed illuminated by various candles.

"Electric light bothers me. I get nausea and very cold feet. I drink

water every now and then and chew little slivers of ice. That gives me

relief", she clarifies. I want to take a picture of her. She says no:

"Iván, I wouldn't let anyone else but you, but I don't want pictures

taken of me in this state." Martha is very vain and has always liked to

get herself ready.

At her bedside rests a worn leather Bible. The hardened dissident has

been jailed on two occasions. In 1997 she served three years along with

Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, Félix Bonne Carcassé and René Gómez Manzano for

issuing the document The Fatherland Belongs to Everyone. Six years

later, in March of 2003, she was the only woman who served jail time

among the group of 75 opposition figures . She was freed in 2005

on conditional parole due to her deteriorated health. In this hunger

strike, Martha is accompanied by five members of the Cuban Community

Communicators' Network.

They are Yadira Rodríguez, Yasmany Nicles, Rosa María Naranjo, Fermín

Zamora and Ibis Rodríguez. Yadira and Yasmany, a married couple, began

the strike seeking a response on the authorities' part about their house

fire on the 21st of April of 2012 in the Vista Hermosa neighborhood of

San Miguel del Padrón. According to Yasmany, the Interior Ministry's

experts arrived at the conclusion that the fire had been set. The couple

accuses the Special Services of the act.

In Roque Cabello's small apartment, in the Santos Suárez district, there

is a constant bustle. Some neighbors ask about the strikers' state of

health. Two opposition members sleep on a sheet laid out on the floor. A

young striker stays stretched out on the sofa. Idania Yanez takes the

continuous telephone calls.

Nobody in the room seems to pay attention to the television, which plays

a Discovery Channel documentary. One week after beginning the hunger

strike, the dissidents are not there to watch television. Their bodies

already begin to weaken. Fitful sleep or the reading of a book turn out

to be the best pastimes. In the hallway of the building, right before

the front door of Martha Beatriz's apartment, a large painting of Fidel

Castro appears to observe it all.

"It is one of the ironies of State Security. They hung the portrait

years ago, saying that the hallway is a common area of the property",

states Idania. The dissidents maintain that in the adjoining apartment

an intelligence command post is running. "At all hours they try to

bother us. Music too loud. Castro speeches, in short, anything at all to

irritate us", Yasmany says.

This collective hunger strike, undertaken by 30 peaceful opposition

members, does not guarantee that the regime will hear their claims. And

the worst is that it could have fatal consequences for their lives. They

know it. And they face up to it.

Text and photo: Iván García

Note: A few hours after this work was written, State Security freed the

political prisoner Jorge Vázquez Chaviano and the opposition members

agreed to put an end to their hunger strike. Meanwhile, at Zoé Valdés's

and other websites, the open letter that Tania Quintero directed

from exile in Switzerland to her friend, the renowned dissident Martha

Cabello, was making its rounds.

Translated by: russell conner

September 26 2012

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