Remembering the Cuban Dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Who Died on a Hunger Strike in Prison

Orlando Zapata Tamayo was the first opposition member to die in a Cuban prison due to a hunger strike since 1972, when Pedro Luis Boitel died. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Miami, 23 February 2023 — The mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo — a Cuban prisoner of conscience who died in 2010 while on a hunger strike to demand more human conditions of imprisonment — demanded ’justice’ for her son this Thursday, 13 years after his death.

“Thirteen years later, we are fighting here and always asking for justice, always justice, that justice sometimes takes time, but it has to come for those murderers,” said Reina Luisa Tamayo from Kentucky (USA), where she now lives, in a statement to Radio Marti.

The death of Zapata, a 45-year-old bricklayer active in the dissidence, had great international repercussions, since he was officially the first opposition member to die in a Cuban jail due to a hunger strike since 1972, when Pedro Luis Boitel died.

Zapata was detained during the Black Spring of 2003, but was not included in the summary trials of the Group of 75, accused of conspiring with the United States to “undermine the independence and sovereignty” of Cuba. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience at the time.

On December 3, 2009, he stopped eating food to protest against the abuses and he died on February 23, 2010, after 86 days of fasting.

For his mother, one of the Ladies in White, the organization that demonstrates every Sunday in Cuba to demand the release of political prisoners, the death of her son was a “murder.”

They murdered him because they could not break him, just as they could not break other brothers like Oswaldo Payá, Harold Cepero, the Lady in White Laura Pollán. Since they could not break him, they murdered him. This suffering has not been easy,” she stressed.

Tamayo told Radio Martí that hhers son was initially charged with contempt, public disorder, and disobedience and was sentenced to three years in prison, after which new charges were imposed. When he died he was facing 36 years in prison, his mother said.

“Thanks to all those who commemorate and always remember my son, Orlando Zapata will always live,” she said.


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