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.”
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.