There are some deaths that could avoided. Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s death, for instance, was one of these. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the Cuban government. The fact that in the 21st century a man has died as a result of an extensive hunger strike whose sole purpose was to demand a handful of rights, will always be a slap in the face of the most elemental principles of humanity.
It is not a problem of pride or of clearly establishing who is right. The implacable power of a state should not, and could not, squash, without consideration, the life of a human being. Especially when that person was purging an unjust sanction of 36 years behind bars.
The strength of those who have power lies in knowing how to make good use of the same. The government of the Castro brothers is not going to accomplish any merits with situations like those of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. All the contrary. In many ways, they should have, and could have, stopped his death.
Now, this cadaver has a symbolism attached to it that is far too great. There are deaths that end up being very expensive. It is not possible to talk to politicians of other latitudes and look them in the eye when you very well know that you have over 200 prisoners of conscience behind bars.
You can’t chat about ethics and humanity when in a prison cell in the depths of Cuba, a 42-year-old black and humble man like Orlando Zapata Tamayo, has died. The point is not to discuss ideologies or to talk nonsense about groups and individuals who think differently.
What the government of my country should make a note of, with un-erasable ink, is that stupidity and caprice are not appropriate weapons for governing the destiny of a nation.
Zapata Tamayo is no longer with us. He stopped existing on the 23rd of February at 3:15 pm in the Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital, where he was taken by the penal authorities when his decease was already imminent.
His death is a message of coming and going, of should not be done in the politics of a state. Before, they had an opponent without any weapon who demanded things that could have been negotiated, but now they have a martyr.
It is not the first time that a peaceful opponent dies, product of a hunger strike, in a Cuban cell. On the May 24, 1972, the student leader, Pedro Luis Boitel, ex-comrade of Fidel Castro, died of the same causes.
While I type this note on the morning of February 24, others who are dead come to mind. The 4 pilots of the Brothers to the Rescue planes, shot down over international waters by the Revolutionary Combat Air Force in 1996. From Havana, and with that action, Fidel Castro gave the pen to then president Bill Clinton so he could sign the unjust Helms-Burton Law.
I feel indignation. I didn’t even know Orlando Zapata Tamayo. From chatting with some of his companions from the Alternative Republican Movement, I sense that I am far from sharing his ideology. But at this point in the Revolution, the machinery of hate and violence should be dropped.
It resolves nothing. It only increases the scale of resentments and polarizes political rationalizations. The government of Raúl Castro, whose second anniversary of being named president happens to coincide with this death, lacks sense, dialogue, and the desire to fix the shameful economic and political situation in Cuba, that system for which both he and his brother are primarily responsible.
I think it was the icon of civil rights struggles, Mahatma Gandhi, that said that hunger strikes are an effective weapon when they manage to soften the hearts of your enemies. It seems, though, that the hunger strike carried out by Orlando Zapata Tamayo could not soften the hearts of the Castros.
Translated by Raul G.