14ymedio, Havana, February 20, 2019 — The leader of the opposition group Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), José Daniel Ferrer, reported this Wednesday that 111 members of that organization are now on hunger strike. The action, begun on February 11, is aimed at “calling attention” to the repression of the government against activists promoting the No vote to the new constitution that will be submitted to referendum on February 24.
We are now 111 activists on hunger strike. #HungerStrikeVsRepression
– José Daniel Ferrer (@jdanielferrer) February 20, 2019
Since that same February 11, Unpacu’s headquarters in Santiago de Cuba has been surrounded by police, who control the passing of residents and visitors. As the Unpacu activist Jorge Cervantes explained to 14ymedio, those participating are “covert forces from State Security dressed as civilians, motorized police and patrol cars, and paddy wagons from the special forces.” He also said that the neighbors “are really upset” because the officials are blocking access to 9th Street in the Altamira neighborhood “to anyone who they suspect of being an Unpacu activist.”
The first to begin the hunger strike was Ferrer himself, a few hours after the exhaustive search of two of Unpacu’s headquarters and eight homes of that organization’s activists. The police action was condemned by the United States embassy in Havana and the Organization of American States (OAS).
The strikers are concentrated in three spots in Santiago de Cuba. Some are in the Antonio Maceo suburb, others in Vista Hermosa, and the rest in the principal headquarters of Altamira.
The number of strikers grows daily and their names and photos with a No painted on their shirts are updated via social media with the hashtag #HuelgaHambreVsRepresion (Hunger Strike Vs. Repression).
On Monday Ferrer broadcast live via Facebook from Céspedes park in the capital of Santiago province, but he was immediately violently arrested by several police officers. “Of course my voice fails me, I’ve had seven days without eating, only water,” said the opposition figure during the broadcast. Additionally, he explained on his Twitter account that he had escaped from the police blockade that they have at the headquarters “to continue with the #YoVotoNo [I’m voting no] campaign.”
According to the young leader of Unpacu, Carlos Amel Oliva, the hunger strike will conclude at midnight on February 24, hours after the closing of polling places. “So we will not be able to go vote, but we are calling on Cubans to vote No and many of our activists will go to vote No that day, and will also be there as observers.”
Translated by: Sheilagh Carey
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