On Sunday morning the health of several of the hunger strikers showed serious symptoms of deterioration. The number of activists now refusing food has risen to 27 people throughout Cuba, according to the group’s spokesperson Idania Yáñez. The principal demand of the strike is the immediate release of Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, a dissident condemned for the alleged crime of “illegal economic activity.” In the legal file of this opponent – which this writer gained access to – the date his sentence was set to expire was September 9, 2012. Instead of being released that day, the activist remained in prison in solitary confinement.
At a press conference on Monday, September 10, the dissident Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello announced the start of the hunger strike. At first there were 11 people, but day-by-day the number has grown. Amnesty International has demanded an immediate explanation for why Vázquez Chaviano has not been released on schedule. Yesterday morning, Saturday, he was transferred to Guamajal prison, also located in the central province of Villa Clara. His family has not been able to see him, but several sources confirm that also is refusing food.
Although several official government blogs have published information saying that Roque Cabello had received medical attention, she has refused any contact with the physicians. I visited Martha at her home in the capital neighborhood of Santo Suarez and witnessed first hand her physical deterioration. Dry lips, sallow skin, and trembling limbs were some of the symptoms of the famous economist. Meanwhile, in the living room of her home a group of five activists also maintain their decision not to take food, only liquids.
Two priests from the Parish of San Juan Bosco visited the well-known opponent of the regime, in what she described as strictly religious meetings, not political. Many activists from other opposition groups have also passed through to provide support or to ask the dissident to abandon her fast. Judicial authorities have informed the family of Vázquez Chaviano that he will not be released from prison until April 2013. However, the strikers claim that this is a flagrant violation of the laws in the country. Thus, they have decided to continue without food.
So far no government representative has made contact with the hunger strikers to begin a negotiation. Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello’s home is visibly monitored by cars belonging to State Security, as I myself confirmed.
Translator’s note: Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello suffers from diabetes, which quickly exacerbates the effects of her fast.
16 September 2012