Guillermo Fariñas: I believe the European Union should maintain its Common Position on Cuba / Iván García

Psychologist and independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas, who was on hunger strike for four months while he demanded freedom for 26 political prisoners, is of the opinion that a step has been taken in favor of the political pulse that sustains the Cuban opposition in the face of the Castro government.

But Farinas is not completely satisfied. “The common position which the EU holds should be kept. It is an instrument of pressure that has produced results, the 27 nations of the European bloc should not give in. They should push further. The EU cannot be satisfied with the release of 52 prisoners of conscience,” points out Farinas, as he is seated in a wheelchair in his small office located inside his home.

The champion of hunger strikes in Cuba is already home. Guillermo Fariñas resides in a poor neighborhood, mostly made up of blacks, known as La Chirusa, in the city of Santa Clara, 270 kilometers from Havana.

His last hunger strike was his 23rd. And in one way or another, it has been the only one that has proved successful. “I was the first one to be surprised, when high ranking officials from the Catholic Church in the island called the intensive care room of the hospital I was in. They informed me about the decision of the government to free 52 prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003. They doubled the number I was demanding,” notes Guillermo.

According to Fariñas, the release of the political prisoners is a gesture of good-will by General Raul Castro. But “Coco” (as he is known in Cuba) still wants more.

“I think that the dissidence and the incipient social Cuban civil society should come together in regards to concrete objectives and ideas to demand of the government. For me, it is a fundamental point from which we now must advance and abolish all the laws in effect that in one way or another allow the regime to jail people only for publicly sharing their opinions and thinking differently,” believes the free psychologist and journalist.

At the moment, the life of Fariñas is returning to normal. Under a very strict diet, he is already eating meats, viands, and fruits- all in puree form. He currently weighs 74 kilos, but a blood clot situated very close to his heart’s arteries continues to worry the doctors.

“The attention given to me by the doctors during my stay in the hospital was more than professional. Despite the political and ideological differences, a familiarity was created that went beyond patient-doctor care. They actually respected me. In fact, when they released me from the hospital, they actually had a little good-bye party — without alcohol, of course,” jokes Farinas.

The recuperation process may take up to four months. Fariñas feels anxious. The doctors suggested that he should not go on lengthy trips. He is thinking of writing a few books. And also wishes to continue working for his press agency, Cubanacan Press.

One of his desires is to eat fried chicken drowned in potatoes. “I still can’t eat anything that is fried,” and he adds that he “appreciates the support of people from anywhere in the world that have joined him in solidarity. I also understand those who do not support hunger strikes as methods of pressure,” points out “Coco”.

Fariñas is not wholly complacent with the gesture of the Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos. “I think that a more informed and more detailed judicial assessment should have been given to the families of the prisoners sent to Spain. Everything was rushed, and important and necessary details were classified as less crucial. Some of my brothers in the cause who are now in Spain are disappointed with their treatment. In the long run, things will return to normal. Let us be confident,” says Fariñas.

Alicia, his 74-year-old mother, along with a relative, help him get up from his wheelchair so that he can go eat. Before I leave I ask him: Guillermo, would it be safe to say that this has been your last hunger strike?

“No. If individual rights are still being violated, then the possibility of another hunger strike will be present. That is my weapon. And I shoot with that weapon.”

Ivan Garcia

Photo: EPA

Translated by Raul G.

August 8, 2010