14ymedio, Havana, 1 December 2016 – The Democratic Action Unity Roundtable (MUAD) has made a call to open a national dialog a few days after the death of former Cuban president Fidel Castro. The opposition alliance believes that the country is entering a new stage in its history, according to a declaration signed by its spokesperson, Boris Gonzalez Arenas.
MUAD said that for many Cubans the memory of the political leader is marked by “injustices and inhumane detentions” and the “unjustifiable loss of human lives.” The statement also references the “uprooting suffered” by thousands of islanders “on seeing themselves forced to abandon (…) the land in which they were born.” For these people, Fidel Castro will remain “a totalitarian dictator” the document emphasized.
However, for other Cubans he will always be considered as the ruler “who opened the doors and gave them opportunities for themselves and their families that they did not have before the revolutionary process initiated in 1959.” In the memories of this part of the population Castro will remain “the hero, the father, the ‘at your orders’ Commander in Chief,” the statement says.
The declaration focuses on “a new generation of Cubans” who have “their own interpretation of our history and our reality.” They are individuals with “desires for a respect for diversity of thinking and for freedom,” and who dream of “a truly plural Cuba with respect for human rights and oriented to the benefit of all.”
The challenge for the current government is to put into practice “a set of measures that really impact the economic and social environment” and that allow “wide participation of all Cubans, wherever they are,” MUAD emphasizes.
The renewal of the national legislative political order also is called out as an urgent matter, in the document made public by the opposition coalition.
“The only path we have to achieve all the economic, social and political transformations that we want for Cuba is an inclusive dialog,” says the final paragraph of the statement.
MUAD brings together more than thirty independent civil society organizations. In the middle of this year the alliance suffered a serious reversal with the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), the largest opposition organization in the country, left its ranks. The same thing occurred with the United Anti-Totalitarian Front (FANTU), led by Guillermo Fariñas.
14ymedio, Havana, 13 September 2016 – The so-called “Fariñas Amendment,” which led the Cuban regime opponent Guillermo Fariñas to abandon his hunger and thirst strike after 54 days never existed. The initiation, which was supposedly presented this Monday to the European Parliament, sought to prioritize human rights in any agreement established between the European Union (EU) bloc and the Cuban government However, the amendment proved to be fake, according to sources at the EU spoke with this newspaper.
In one of the most notorious examples of “fake news” in Cuba, this Monday several websites reported the news that the European Parliament had approved “by a narrow margin, the so-called G. Fariñas Amendment, presented by Euro-Deputy Alexander Graf Lambsdorf” in support of the opponent’s demands. Information that was disproved to this newspaper by Alain Bothorel, a European Union diplomat at that organization’s headquarters in Havana. continue reading
The alleged Fariñas Amendment “is false” said Bothorel to 14ymedio, adding that “the only thing that happened is that the president of the European Parliament sent a letter to Fariñas asking him to end his hunger strike, but that was not conditioned on any other thing.
Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel, a member of the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum and spokesman for Fariñas during his strike, told 14ymedio that on Tuesday Fariñas had spoken by phone with representatives of the European parliament and learned that “the Amendment with his name was now apprived.” However, the dissident did not resume fasting and has continued the recuperation process.
Artiles Montiel speculates that “it was the Cuban government that hacked the web site of the European Parliament” in order to spread the apocryphal information. This newspaper was able to confirm that the source of the news was a blog created on the WordPress platform that any internet user has access to. This Tuesday the blog, which had been posing as coming from the Information Office of the European Parliament, was deleted.
FANTU initially announced the Fariñas had been appointed as adviser to the European Parliament for issues of civil society in Cuba, information that also turned out to be falst.
14ymedio, Havana, 12 September 2016 — The activist Guillermo Fariñas, president of the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU) and winner of the European Parliament’s 2010 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, abandoned his hunger strike on Monday after 54 days. The decision came after this morning’s approval by the European Parliament, by a narrow margin, of the so-called Fariñas Amendment, that conditions discussions of economic issues between Havana and Brussels on the issue of human rights.
Speaking to 14ymedio, Fariñas affirmed that FANTU’s national council “considers what has happened to be a victory,” particularly the creation of “two committees in the European Parliament to discuss violence against [regime] opponents and the self-employed in Cuba.” continue reading
The activist considers his new role as a consultant on human rights in Cuba to the European Parliament as “a great achievement for the internal opposition” and said that with his action “the issue of violence against citizens has been put in the arena of public media.”
“With these achievements and considering that they are waiting for me in the European Parliament in the coming months, I think it’s time to put aside the strike,” he said.
Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel, spokesman for the activist, said, “We want to thank all those who have been concerned about Fariñas’ health during his hunger strike. Half an hour after receiving notice of his being named [as advisor to the European Parliament], we woke him up and talked with him for several hours trying to convince him. We told him they gave him more than he was asking for, and we hope that the United States will also approve the Fariñas Amendment in Congress.
“We have spent 54 days in an odyssey,” he continued, “we fear for the death of Farinas, although he is being cared for. He will now start taking liquid and then little by little broth until he reestablishes himself,” the spokesman said. “We thank God, we thank all those who phoned every day, all people of good will who supported us in and out of Cuba, also all human rights organizations on the island and the opponents who spoke up for us.”
In relation to the continuous cutting off of phone service suffered in recent weeks and the distorted reports circulated by email about his strike, Fariñas believes that they stood firm. “This victory is not only for Guillermo Fariñas but for a work team, first of all the FANTU National Council, members of this and other opposition organizations, of the exile, which in times of increased isolation managed to let people know what was happening, and it is also a victory for the Cuban people,” Fariñas told this newspaper.
The Fariñas Amendment was presented by European Parliament Member (MEP) Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, a member of the Committee on International Trade, who was inspired by the demands of the Cuban activist.
Opponents of the amendment in the European Parliament highlighted an alleged lack of a legal basis for the project, given that it was based on a position of unilateral force (Fariñas’ hunger strike).
MEPs welcomed the adoption of the regulations which, they say, contributes to legitimizing Cuban civil society.
EFE (via 14ymedio), 8 September 2016 – From Puerto Rico, the daughter of Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas called today on the international community to join together tomorrow at noon in a campaign on social networks to support her father, who on Thursday completed 50 days on a hunger strike.
“At any moment, he could die at home,” said Alicia Farinas, 21, in an interview with EFE from San Juan. continue reading
The young woman, who is attending university in Puerto Rico, related her concerns for the health of her father and urged users throughout the world to join the “humanitarian call” with the hashtags #SOSMundialXFariñas, #TodosSomosFarinas, #juntoacoco, #YoApoyoTusDemandas and #RaulRespondeYa.
The Cuban dissident, who began his 25th hunger strike on July 20, is in “deteriorated” health, according to his daughter, who said that the Government of Cuba has begun “to cut off access to communications” with him.
“They have blocked all the phones in the last fifteen days to such an extent that they can neither call out or receive messages and this is part of a plan for him not to receive the international support he deserves,” denounced Alice Fariñas.
The young woman will lead an act of solidarity at noon tomorrow in San Juan and said that at the same time similar supporting actions will be held for Fariñas in other places like Miami and Washington.
The campaign seeks to learn more about the situation of the opposition and the violations of human rights in Cuba.
“We want all people to join this campaign as a gesture of humanity,” she said.
She added that the aim of the social campaign is also let people know “why people like Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament 2010 Sakharov Price for Freedom of Thought, have to resort to ways as drastic as a hunger strike as a form of protest to the lack of respect for human rights within the island.”
Fariñas, who lives in Santa Clara, has been on a hunger and thirst strike for 50 days to demand the government of Raul Castro stop the repression and open a dialogue with the opposition.
EFE (via 14ymedio) – The Cuban National Congress (ENC), which consists of 65 opposition organizations inside and outside the island, said today of the dissident Guillermo Fariñas, 54, who is on a hunger strike, that if the Cuban government “lets him die” it will have committed “premeditated murder.”
In a press conference in Miami to present the results of the ENC’s second meeting held in Puerto Rico last month, several members of the organization’s recently created Coordinating Board stressed that all their attention is focused on Fariñas, leader of the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU), and they asked the international community to exert pressure to save his life. continue reading
Fariñas, a resident of Santa Clara in central Cuba, has been on a hunger and thirst strike for 49 days to demand that Raul Castro’s government end its repression of peaceful dissent and open a dialog with the opposition, according to reports from other opposition members.
“We need him alive for the future of Cuba,” Guillermo Toledo, ENC’s general coordinator for liaison representing Cuban exiles, said today.
Toledo, who lives in Puerto Rico, as well as Ramon Saul Sanchez and Julio Shiling, also members of the ENC Coordinating Board, stressed that Fariñas’ state is “serious” and could become “critical” at any time.
The Cuban government periodically gives Fariñas emergency rehydration treatment and returns him to his home a few hours later, opponents said.
“Fariñas needs intensive care in a hospital,” Toleda said, adding that the fact of having to move him every time he loses consciousness amounts to “premeditated murder.”
Given the situation, Alice Fariñas, daughter of the dissident, intends to launch an international “SOS” for her father on Friday.
14ymedio, Havana, 6 September 2016 — Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, after 47 days on a hunger and thirst strike, was transferred on Monday afternoon to Arnaldo Milian Castro Provincial Hospital. The dissident was discharged hours later because doctors felt that he did not meet the “entry criteria for intensive care,” he told 14ymedio activist Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel.
Sources close to Fariñas detailed that the intake occurred at 2:45 pm after he lost consciousness at his home in the neighborhood of La Chirusa. Hours earlier, the daily report on his health issued by members of the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU), reported severe pain in the “joints, knees, ankles and shoulders.” continue reading
The note also explains that Fariñas was experiencing “dizziness, weakness and fatigue” and said his weight was 151 pounds, according to Dr. Yorkis Rodriguez Cardenas.
The winner of the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is demanding that Raul Castro “publicly state that he will put an end to the beatings of nonviolent opponents,” and that he will schedule a meeting with a member of the Council of Ministers and “representatives of the Cuban opposition,” to explain what the government’s strategy will be “to end the beatings.”
A dozen Cuban dissidents have released a letter in which they call themselves Fariñas’ “brothers in the struggle” and say they share his demands. However, they also state that they need him alive to continue with them “on this path” until they “achieve freedom.”
“We respect you and we are aware of your sacrifice, but we would ask you to put an immediate end to your strike,” says a letter from dissidents Félix Bonne, Eduardo Díaz Fleitas, José Daniel Ferrer, Iván Hernández Carrillo, Ángel Moya, Félix Navarro, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, Vladimiro Roca, Martha Beatriz Roque and Berta Soler.
Since the beginning, Fariñas has reiterated that, in the event that “Raul Castro will not yield to the demands” he will continue the hunger and thirst strike “until the end.”
14ymedio, Havana, 28 August 2016 — Regime opponent Guillermo Fariñas received medical clearance on Saturday, after staying for several hours at the Arnaldo Milian Castro Hospital where he was taken because of his delicate state of health after 39 days on a hunger and thirst strike. The 2010 winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought fainted at his home in the Chirusa neighborhood in the city of Santa Clara, as was confirmed to this newspaper by his mother, Alicia Hernandez.
On a phone call from 14ymedio’s newsroom to the observation room in the hospital, an employee confirmed that Fariñas “arrived unconscious at about three in the afternoon,” but an hour and a half later was “better as he opened his eyes.”
Alicia Hernandez said her son “recovered consciousness” and the decision about whether he should remain in the hospital or be discharged would depend on “how he reacts to treatment,” a reference to the rehydration sera administered during his stay in the observation room.
The dissident suffers severe dehydration and severe joint pain. This is the fourth time he was transferred to the hospital after fainting.
Along with his mother, several activists from the Anti-totalitarian Forum (FANTU) were also with Fariñas in the hospital.
14ymedio, Havana, 21 August 2016 — A group of activists from the Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU) have sent an open letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to “save the life of Guillermo Fariñas Hernández” who, as of Sunday, has been on a hunger strike for 32 days. The missive is addressed to the leader as “president of the country which is a beacon of human rights in the world.”
Seven members of the opposition organization which is led by Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, are asking Obama to “use his political wisdom to take any action” that would avoid the death of the dissident. However, they clarify that the letter is not asking the US president to do “something tied to politics.” continue reading
The opponents explain that “Fariñas Hernández’s strike is against violence, he has not called for the overthrow of the government.” Instead of them, with his prolonged fasting the activist from Santa Clara is demanding “the end to the oppression by some against others because of the way they think or how they choose to honestly obtain their income.”
Which, according to the signers, “is not to risk a life on a hunger strike, because it is the very essence of the democratic governments of all countries in the world.”
Guillermo Fariñas has been very critical of the process of normalization of relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States that began during the administration of Barack Obama.
Since December 17, 2014, when the diplomatic thaw was publicly announced, Fariñas has labeled the actions of the US president as a betrayal of Cuban dissidents.
14ymedio, Havana, 17 August 2016 — In a letter to Pope Francis, eight activists from the Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU) have asked “his Holiness to take an interest” in the condition of regime opponent Guillermo Fariñas after 27 days on hunger strike.
The signatories are appealing to the Bishop of Rome to “keep Fariñas in your prayers” and said that the 2010 recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is risking his life to demand “compliance with Cuba’s existing laws to stop the violence of some Cubans against others.” continue reading
Guillermo Fariñas is in “critical condition” according to several reports issued on Monday afternoon by Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel, known as “Bebo,” a spokesperson for the well-known dissident during his hunger strike.
Artiles Montiel told 14ymedio via telephone that Fariñas had slept “from the time the doctor left in the morning” until the afternoon visit of independent unionist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, with whom he spoke for a few minutes.
The spokesperson for the FANTU leader said the opponent is now in a very delicate state in which “he sleeps for long hours, passes little urine and reports a lot of pain in his lower back and joints.”
In the early days of this month, Farinas was visited by a representative of the Holy See in Havana, José Manuel Alcaide, and the bishop of the diocese of Santa Clara-Sancti Spiritus, Monsignor Arturo Gonzalez Amador, who came to his house to show their concern for the health of the dissident.
During Fariñas’ hunger strike he has also been visited by Dana Brown, head of the Economic Policy Section of the United States Embassy in Havana and Raquel Gómez, minister counselor in the Spanish embassy.
Fariñas is demanding through his hunger strike that Raul Castro publicly commit to not repressing the Cuban opposition and to ending state abuses that affect the self-employed. He is also demanding a dialogue between the authorities and the Cuban opposition.
Since Farinas began his protest on July 20, he has been taken to the hospital twice, both times after becoming unconscious. In both cases he received intravenous hydration in the Arnaldo Milian Castro Hospital in the city of Santa Clara, and then returned to his home, where he is being looked after by his mother, who is a nurse.
Guillermo Fariñas has said previously he is willing to continue his strike “until the final consequences” if all of his demands are not met.
Guillermo Fariñas, UNPACU Activist: “With this [hunger strike] I am giving the Castro regime leaders to decide if they want to assassinate me publicly.”
Eliécer Ávila, President of Somos+ (We Are More): “I don’t see how the death of leaders who should motivate people and push changes can be helpful.”
14ymedio, 10 August 2016 – This Tuesday, activist Carlos Amel Oliva has ended four weeks on hunger strike after spending the last five days in hospital due to the deteriorating state of his health. Eight members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) had seconded his protest and decided not to eat in solidarity with the opponent’s demands, including State Security returning his personal belongings, the confiscation of which he considered a violation of his rights.
On 20 July, regime opponent Guillermo Fariñas also began a hunger and thirst strike, for which he has received hospital care on several occasions in recent days. Winner of the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, he is demanding that the Cuban government cease its repression against dissidents and that the authorities agree to a dialog with the opposition. continue reading
In the last twenty years Fariñas has undertaken a total of 25 hunger strikes, the last of these six years ago when he demanded the release of a group of opponents from the 2003 Black Spring. On that occasion the opponent went 135 days without eating, the great part of the time hospitalized and receiving parenteral nutrition and hydration.
Fariñas began that strike on February 24, 2010, one day after the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after staging a hunger strike for 86 days while incarcerated.
Amnesty International considered Zapata Tamayo a prisoner of conscience and many analysts agree that his death was decisive in the negotiations subsequently held between the Cuban government, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the Spanish government that ended with the release of many political prisoners.
Previously, a hunger strike had been maintained to its final consequences by Pedro Puis Boitel, who died in prison in May 1972 after 53 days without food or medical care. The young man was buried in an unmarked grave in Colon Cemetery in Havana.
Since January 1959 it has been common for activists and opponents to use hunger strikes as a form of protest against the government and to demand improvements in prison conditions or political reforms. Currently some opponents believe that this strategy of peaceful struggle is not effective.
However, other dissidents cite the importance of the hunger strike as a way to attract the attention of international organizations to pressure the government and bring about political change.
On Tuesday, the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights called on all opponents to abandon their fasts, considering that it is not an effective method of struggle and activists are people who are needed “with all their energy, strength, intelligence and courage in the demand for freedom, democracy and better living conditions for Cubans.”
Guillermo Fariñas, who currently is continuing his hunger strike, has recently stated in an interview that he has a responsibility given that he is a person known internationally for the use of this method of protest. “With this I’m giving time for Castro’s rulers, extending my possible death, so that they can assess, among and political and ideological international allies and opponents, which really has to do with my demand, if they are going to publicly murder me,” he said.
Eliecer Avila, who on Tuesday wrote a letter asking Carlos Amel Oliva to abandon his strike, emphasized the importance of activists who are still alive today being, one day, public representatives of the citizens if they wish. The leader of Somos+ (We Are More) ended his letter with the words: ” Do not give away your life to these bastards, compadre!”
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 11 August 2016 – Cuba’s immigration authorities prevented activists Ivan Hernandez and Felix Navarro from traveling outside Cuba this Thursday. The former prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring were invited to participate in the 2ndCuban National Conference that be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from 12 to 14 August, but were unable to board their flight at Havana’s José Martí International Airport, where they ran into Reinaldo Escobar, 14ymedio’s editor
The answer that each of the dissidents received on presenting their documents to the Immigration and Nationality official was: “You cannot leave a second time.” continue reading
Both Hernandez and Navarro had received, in March of this year, special permission to go abroad “one-time” after being placed on parole, a condition the authorities continue to maintain since release from prison in 2011. All those released from the Black Spring “Group of 75” who continue to reside in Cuba benefited from a similar authorization.
The opponent Librado Linares, also a former prisoner of the Black Spring and general secretary of the Cuban Reflection Movement (MCR), did manage to board his flight on Thursday to participate in the meeting of Puerto Rico, since it was the first time he made use permit leave the Island.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) recently sent a letter to Raul Castro expressing “deep concern” about the “violent treatment” received by the trade unionist Ivan Hernandez on his return to Cuba after his first trip abroad. He traveled on the same flight as the opponent Vladimir Roca and attorney Wilfredo Vallin, of the Law Association of Cuba.
Hernandez was arrested on July 31 and reported that he received a “savage beating” when he refused to be subjected to a search at the time of arrival. During his trip abroad he met with organizations and activists from Europe and the United States.
Both Hernandez and Navarro cataloged the “injustices” and said they will continue trying to assert their right to travel freely.
The Cuban National Conference is a continuation of one held last year, which involved 23 organizations in Cuba and 32 from exile. It has been convened by the Coordinating Liaison Committee composed of Ana Carbonell, Rosa María Payá, Sylvia Iriondo, Guillermo Farinas, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leyva, Rene Gomez Manzano, Mario Félix Lleonart and Saylí Navarro
Among the participants in the conference traveling from Cuba are also Eliecer Avila, leader of Somos+ (We Are More) and Boris Gonzalez, a member of the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD). The great absence the meeting will be Guillermo Fariñas, who remains on hunger strike in Santa Clara.
In the early hours of Thursday, Lady in White Leticia Ramos Herrería was arrested while traveling from Matanzas to Havana to take the flight that would also have taken her to the conference in Puerto Rico, according to the leader of the Ladies in White movement, Berta Soler, speaking to this newspaper. The activist was returned to her home where she is under police surveillance.
Event organizers want to use this 2nd Conference to create a “structure of unity of action in diversity,” whose purpose is to “operate inside and outside Cuba, coordinating the efforts of both shores.” In addition, they discussed “the general principles of the new Cuba” desired, an issue that was left pending at the previous meeting.
14ymedio, Havana, 9 August 2016 – A note published on the digital site of the Anti-totalitarian Forum (FANTU) reports that Dana Brown, Political and Economic Section Chief of the United States Embassy in Havana visited Guillermo Fariñas at his home in Santa Clara on Monday. The official showed her “concern” for the health of the opposition leader, who has been on a hunger and thirst strike for more than 20 days.
Fariñas said that the American diplomat arrived at this house around noon, interested in his “state of health” and “the demands” that the dissident made to Raul Castro’s government. She asked the winner of the European Parliament’s 2010 Sakharov Price for Human Rights how the United States government could help him. The conversation between them lasted “almost an hour” and was a “very fruitful and respectful dialog” according to Fariñas.
With the visit of Brown, two diplomatic representatives have now visited Fariñas since the beginning of his hunger strike. On 31 July the first secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Cuba, the priest Jose Manuel Alcaide Borreguero visited his home in the Santa Clara neighborhood of La Chirusa.
Fariñas, 54, has undertaken more than 20 hunger strikes since 1995, the most recent of them in 2010 lasting 135 days, in which he demanded the release of a group of opponents of the 2003 Black Spring.
Lilianne Ruiz, 29 July 2016 — Guillermo ‘Coco’ Fariñas lost consciousness on Thursday, 28 July at noon, the eighth day of his hunger and thirst strike. He had to be taken to the main hospital of Santa Clara by the group of activists who are with him in the strike. He had spent the morning with much discomfort and his temperature had risen because of dehydration.
He arrived at the hospital unconscious and with the corners of his mouth and tongue parched, and covered of bloody scabs. He is suffering from “dizziness and all the hassles of severe dehydration,” according to Dr. Rodriguez Rangel, a FANTU (Anti-Totalitarian Front) activist and follower of Coco’s. It was the activists who took him, unconscious, to receive intravenous hydration. Coco had indicated, as he told me by phone, that the strike is “not about committing suicide,” but about resisting hunger and thirst until his demands are met. This is his 25th hunger strike. continue reading
Reflecting on the deteriorating health of Coco makes very sad reading. Jorge Luis “Bebo” Artiles Montiel has been designated by FANTU as spokesperson for the strike and sends out information via text messages. Most impressive to me is updated information on blood pressure, heart rate, the quantity of the urine in the day, being taken by his mother, Alicia, a licensed nurse.
I think about her, in the immense love and respect that she must feel for her son’s decision, dealing with the pain of seeing his physical deterioration.
The image of Christ and the Virgin at the foot of the cross comes to mind. Suffering for a cause that transcends his own person and doing it practically alone, flooded by a faith that has been lost in others from the bitter experience of knowing what in its time was named “the world” and that, thinking clearly, was nothing other, before or now, than “politics.”
And I say “alone” because although they have the support of many people inside and outside of Cuba, we mustn’t forget that they are in Santa Clara and that if they were in Havana they would have already received more visits from representatives from the diplomatic corps who, at the end of the day, are the only ones who can help us right now with their solidarity. And there would also be more of a presence of the foreign media to shape public opinion about the strike; and a little more access to the internet so that the activists can keep the issue visible on the social networks.
Being in the provinces, Coco’s strike now needs all our strength, of memory, of our good actions, a visit, a call, effective management by those who can apply political pressure, a campaign on the social networks, an escalation of visibility which demonstrates the commitment to the defense of freedom and democracy in Cuba, which is above all a moral imperative.
Not only has Coco been hurt by a beating at the hands of State Security agents while handcuffed, but also by that which was aptly defined by Pope John Paul II, as the experience of “humiliation at the hands of evil.” So the hunger strike is Coco’s moral response, committed to nonviolence.
Coco told me by phone that he appreciated his brothers from FANTU and other organizations for having helped him when he lost consciousness. And the doctors and nurses of the hospital of Santa Clara because they did not let themselves be coerced.
The members of the repressive forces were also guarding the hospital, as the activists with whom I spoke on the phone reported to me. The presence of of the political police in our lives as Cubans is one of the things we want to erase and part of that chapter of violence which Coco’s hunger strike is protesting against.
To give just one example, in Havana for the last 62 Sundays the Ladies in White have confronted a brutal repression. They are beaten, thrown to the pavement, and arrested to prevent them from marching for the freedom of the political prisoners.
To conceal the fact of the violence of its institutions the government uses violence.
It reminds me of the little I’ve read of John Stuart Mill, because it seems so desirable to build coexistence. Limiting the powers of government is what they understood, and understand, as freedom. First “obtaining recognition of certain immunities, called political liberties or rights.” Because it is essential to the rule of law to prevent all sorts of wrongdoers from coming to power.
A hunger and thirst strike creates an unspeakable discomfort in the body. Although his body has been hydrated intravenously, it continues to suffer and deteriorate through the effects of starvation and the oral withdrawal of water. It is enough to feel thirsty or hungry during a few hours in the day to imagine the severity of a strike like this.
Coco still suffers the physical effects of previous strikes, the longest lasting 18 months. He suffers from a polyneuropathy in peripheral limbs, muscular hypotonia, and gastric disorders. Because of his sacrifice, 52 of the 75 prisoners of the Black Spring were released, but the circumstances surrounding that sacrifice was one of large-scale international solidarity. Now we need that solidarity again.
We all want Coco to be well, with the same force with which we wish to the violent repression inherent in the political and economic system of Cuba to cease, along with the punishment for dissent, for seeking justice, for freedom from a government hatefully ensconced in every corner of this island where the light is trapped, and contributing to the destruction: civic, political, economic, social and cultural.
14ymedio, Havana, 23 July 2016 — In a letter published Saturday by the former president of Costa Rica and 1987 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Oscar Arias Sanchez asks his “friend” Guillermo Fariñas to “lift his hunger and thirst strike.”
Arias Sanchez explains that the hunger strike will not succeed as a recourse to persuade the government of the island “that you cannot pursue noble ends with ignoble means.” He also says that Cuba “is not a different democracy” but rather is “a dictatorship.” The former Costa Rican president (1986-1990 and 2006-2010) recalled the case of regime opponent Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after an 86-day hunger strike. He did not manage “to convince the Cuban regime that it was necessary to preserve the life of this person, regardless of any ideological differences” and nor did he move “the compassion of the Cuban dictatorship.” continue reading
The missive, published on Arias Sanchez’s Facebook account, says that “nothing we could do could save Orlando Zapata.” He emphasized that his voice will not be silent as long as “they continue to violate human rights in Cuba” and that he has lived long enough “to know that there is nothing worse than being afraid to tell the ‘truth’.”
Guillermo Fariñas, 2010 recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, declared himself on a hunger and thirst strike in the early hours of Wednesday, July 20 to demand that the beatings of non-violent opposition members in Cuba be stopped and that a dialogue be opened with government.
Friday, Fariñas added a third demand which requires the regime to “cease the arbitrary confiscations from the self-employed, small businesses and entrepreneurs and all Cubans who are being violently attacked” by the “military.”
Fariñas expressed solidarity with Carlos Amel Oliva, youth leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), who began a hunger strike on July 13 “to protest the arbitrary confiscations” and said he would continue the strike until the belongings that were confiscated from him are returned. On Friday, one of the 75 dissidents imprisoned during the Black Spring of 2003, Eduardo Diaz Fleitas, joined the hunger strike.
14ymedio, Havana, 20 July 2016 — Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010, has declared a hunger and thirst strike and as of dawn Wednesday to demand an end to the beatings of non-violent opponents in Cuba and that a dialogue be opened with government.
“It would be cynical of the Cuban government, which was a mediator in the dialog between the Colombian [FARC] guerillas and the authorities of that country, to be unable to sit down and dialog with a non-violent opposition to avoid these beatings and other outrages,” he said in a conversation with 14ymedio. continue reading
The opposition figure is asking Cuban president Raul Castro to “publically commit before national and international public opinion to cease these beatings, torture, death threats, the creation of false criminal charges against opponents, searching dissidents’ homes and confiscating the personal belongings of opponents,” and that the government “designate a vice president to meet with 12 prominent leaders of the internal opposition,” responsible for ensuring the end of the violence.
The announcement comes after Fariñas denounced, on Tuesday, a beating by police officers in Santa Clara, and would direct the Fifth Police Station to communicate with the Pinar del Rio Unit where a member of the Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU) – the group Fariñas coordinates – who was arrested last Thursday.
“I offered no resistance, but they still beat me, they threw me into a patrol car, they forcefully handcuffed me, and used a strangulation technique to drag me to the patio behind the Central Fire Station in Villa Clara,” he says. The opponent said that after being transferred to the Provincial Criminal Investigation Unit in Villa Clara, they left him “handcuffed and exposed to the sun” and officials from the Special Brigade continued to beat him. “They told that this was the rigor that they would apply if I went out into the street again, better I dedicate myself to writing, because they would kill me,” he says.
Fariñas also wrote a letter to Raul Castro, in which he says he was “tortured while handcuffed by members of the Special Brigade of the Ministry of the Interior in the province of Santa Clara.” In the missive, he emphasizes that his phenomenon forms a part of the “wave of abuses, terror and violence,” that he has unleashed against “the non-violent opposition, which civilly faces totalitarianism.”
Fariñas has undertaken many hunger strikes. In 2010 he received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought after 135 day strike in protest against the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and in a demand for better condition for 26 of the 75 prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring, who were suffering serious health problems. Finally, this strike and its media impact were decisive in the beginning of the process of negotiations that ended with the release of the 75 detained since March of 2013.