EFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, July 8, 2023 — The Cuban artist and dissident Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has started a hunger and thirst strike demanding his release from the Guanajay prison, where he is serving a five-year sentence, according to the activist Claudia Genlui speaking on Friday.
This is the sixth strike by the leader of the San Isidro Movement, who has been imprisoned in Cuba since July 11, 2021 (11J), when he tried to join the anti-government protests that broke out that day in the country, the largest in decades.
According to Genlui, an exile in the United States, Otero Alcántara “refuses to accept jail as his fate, refuses to accept the endless bars, the stone beds, the white light that never goes out, the 20 minutes of telephone calls a week, the hyper-monitored monthly family visit.” The 35-year-old opponent is serving a five-year sentence for the crimes of insulting national symbols, public disorder and contempt.
It is not the first time that the artist has adopted this measure; in April 2021 he was on a hunger and thirst strike for more than five days, for which he was admitted to a hospital in Havana.
Time magazine included him among the hundred most influential people in the world in 2021, while Amnesty International considers him a “prisoner of conscience.”
His decision comes a few days before the second anniversary of the 11 July 2021 protests and almost two weeks after the Cuban opposition figure Guillermo Fariñas also began a hunger and thirst strike that was joined by several members of his organization, the United Antitotalitarian Forum (Fantu).
Fariñas, a winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2010, on Friday resumed the thirst strike that he had suspended four days ago, while maintaining the hunger strike that began on June 25.
As reported on social networks by Fantu, the dissident took this step because there has been no progress in the conditions he put in place at the start of this strike.
Specifically, Fariñas suspended the thirst strike for four days on Monday while waiting for the European Parliament to approve a motion to request the breaking of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (ADPC) that the European Union (EU) has maintained with Cuba since 2017, one of their four demands at the start of the protest.
The motion, however, will be put to a vote next Tuesday. The Spanish Member of the European Parliament Javier Nart assured Fariñas by telephone this Thursday that the initiative will go ahead because “conservatives, liberals and popular party members have a majority in the plenary session of the Eurochamber,” said Fantu.
According to the latest health report, Fariñas, 61, is suffering “a lot of sleepiness, fatigue, weakness and joint pain” and has “sporadic states of alertness, when he talks.” In addition to demanding the EU end of the ADPC, Fariñas included in his conditions to end the hunger strike the “unconditional” release in Cuba of “all political prisoners.”
Likewise, Fariñas urged the Organization of American States (OAS) to impose a “naval and air siege” on Cuba in application of its Inter-American Democratic Charter, although the island is not part of that body. So far there has been no response to this demand.
Finally, the dissident assured that he would maintain his protest “until all the military personnel and their espionage teams currently based in Cuba, belonging to the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation, are withdrawn.”
Fariñas, one of the best-known Cuban opponents internationally, told EFE at the beginning of the strike that he was arrested last week at the Santa Clara airport, after an incident due to the loss of his suitcases upon his return from a stay several months in Miami (USA).
This is the 28th hunger strike carried out by Fariñas. The longest, 14 months, was in 2003 and the last one dates from 2016, when he fasted for a hundred days, most of them hospitalized, to ask the Cuban government to release a group of sick imprisoned opponents.
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