Cuban hunger strike frees political prisoners – 2010

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Timing
Time Period:  
24-FEB
2010
to
8-JUL
2010
Location and Goals
Country: 
Cuba
Location City/State/Province: 
Santa Clara, Cuba
Goals: 
Release of 25 political prisoners
 

Cuba had an ongoing political opposition since the establishment of a
communist government led by Fidel Castro on 1 January, 1959. The
Communist Party kept firm control over the political institutions and
suppressed open organizing and dissent by the opposition. Internal
activists and external groups of both exiles and anti-communist agents
of foreign governments, including the US, opposed the socialist
organization of society and limitations on political speech and debate.
Penalties for anti-government activities resulted in arrests of
opposition activists by the police.

This campaign was one of the public relations struggles between the
Cuban government and the political opposition that wanted to overthrow
the communist government and replace it with a more ‘democratic’ form of
government. The dissidents fought for freedom of speech, freedom of the
press, freedom to organize political parties, open access to the
internet, and, generally, western democratic political freedoms and
mobility. These struggles often led to the government arresting
dissidents. This campaign aimed at improving the treatment of opposition
political prisoners after authorities arrested and charged them with
various crimes against the state.

Guillermo Farinas began the campaign at the death of a dissident,
Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who conducted a hunger strike complaining about
living conditions at the prison and denial of his desire to wear white
dissident colored clothes instead of the usual prisoner uniform. He died
on 23 Feb, 2010, from lack of food, water, and the resulting kidney
failure.

Guillermo Farinas began his hunger strike to protest the death of Zapata
and to demand the release of 26 other seriously ill prisoners. He
argued that the prisoners did not have adequate medical care in prison.
As his health deteriorated from the fasting, anti-communist groups like
the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, organized support from
groups around the world, including protests at Cuban embassies. Some of
these occurred in Eastern Europe, for example, in Belarus, where the
Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’ sent a letter of support for Mr. Farinas’s
efforts and demanded the release of the sick political prisoners and
provision of adequate medical care. Supporters organized public meetings
in Romania at Timisoara, Bucharest, and Cluj. Some other dissidents,
Nelson Moline Espino, Diosdado Gonzalez Marrero, Eduardo Diaz Fleita and
Lemay Diaz Pantaleon joined the hunger strike in support.

The Cuban government denied the complaints and refused to be pressured
into responding, arguing that the opposition was made up of paid U.S.
mercenaries trying to discredit the Cuban political system.

“Cuba will not accept pressure or blackmail, important Western media
groups are again calling attention to a prefabricated lie. It is not
medicine that should resolve a problem that was created intentionally to
discredit our political system – but rather the patient himself,
unpatriotic people, foreign diplomats and the media that manipulates
him. The consequences will be their responsibility and theirs alone.” –
Granma, March 8, 2010

Starting in March, counter-protestors began to interfere with the weekly
marches of the “Ladies in White,” who had been protesting for seven
years against the imprisonment of their husbands and relatives, arrested
in the 2003 crackdown on the opposition.

4 April, Raul Castro said he wouldn’t give in to what he called the
blackmail of the hunger strike by Mr. Farinas. However, as of 2 May,
2010, the government allowed the “Ladies in White” to resume their
weekly Sunday marches calling for release of political prisoners.

The Cuban government changed their position in late May, in negotiation
with the Roman Catholic Church and agreed to transfer political
prisoners to facilities closer to their families and to give better
access to medical care for inmates who need it. 1 June prisoners began
being moved. The Havana Cardinal, Jaime Ortega, was a key actor in the
negotiations to improve relations between dissidents and the government.

Elizardo Sanchez, an activist and spokesperson for the Cuban Commission
of Human Rights and National Reconciliation, charged the government with
making arrests and ‘acts of repression’ in Santiago de Cuba against the
Eastern Democratic Alliance, and detaining members of the Central
Opposition Coalition in Camaguey and Villa Clara.

In the first week of June, 2010, the government arrested 37 people over
two days and detained them temporarily. Two major Cuban dissident groups
-- Agenda para la Transición (Transition Agenda) and Unidad Liberal de
la República de Cuba (Liberal Unity of the Republic of Cuba) -- were
targeted in raids in Havana, group leaders said.

On 7 July, 2010, the negotiations between the Catholic Church and the
government finally resulted in an agreement to release 52 prisoners,
including the ailing ones Mr. Farinas was trying to get released.
Consequently, he ended his hunger strike on 8 July.

This result was a victory for the Cuban dissidents, and was the
culmination of activities by a variety of players, particularly
negotiation by the Roman Catholic Church.

Research Notes
Influences: 

Guillermo Farinas was influenced by Orlando Zapata Tamayo(1) and may have influenced Nelson Moline Espino, Diosdado Gonzalez Marrero, Eduardo Diaz Fleita and Lemay Diaz Pantaleon who began hunger strikes after he did (2).

Sources: 
2010. "Cuba moving 7 political prisoners nearer homes," Associated Press News Service, The, June 1. Retrieved May 12, 2015 Available: http://infoweb.newsbank.com.proxy.swarthmore.edu/resources/doc/nb/news/130630D131DD4240?p=AWNB

2010. "Cuban Activist Ends Hunger Strike After Accord". July 8. Retrieved February 22, 2015 Available: http://web.archive.org/web/20150220052100/http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/09/world/americas/09cuba.html?_r=1&

2010. "Cuba dissident Guillermo Farinas ends hunger strike". July 9. Retrieved February 22,

2015 Available: http://web.archive.org/web/20150220052253/http://www.bbc.com/news/10563041

2010. "Guillermo Farinas ends 140-day hunger strike". July 8. Retrieved February 22, 2015 Available: http://web.archive.org/web/20150220051759/http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/guillermo-farinas-ends-140-day-hunger-strike/

2010. "Hundreds of thousands march to mark Cuba's May Day," Associated Press News Service, The, May 2. Retrieved May 12, 2015 Available: http://infoweb.newsbank.com.proxy.swarthmore.edu/resources/doc/nb/news/12FC4EFC2E526600?p=AWNB

2010. "May 12 - Cuba Day on Capitol Hill to Celebrate 'Ladies in White,' Cuban Human Rights Activists," Government Press Releases (USA), April 30. Retrieved May 12, 2015 Available:

http://infoweb.newsbank.com.proxy.swarthmore.edu/resources/doc/nb/news/12F6EF04B81233C8?p=AWNB

2010. "Viasna concerned over harsh detention conditions in Cuba". March 17. Retrieved February 22, 2015 Available: http://web.archive.org/web/20150221195716/http://spring96.org/en/news/32332

"Guillermo Fariñas". Retrieved February 22, 2015 Available: http://web.archive.org/web/20150220054301/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guillermo_Fari%C3%B1as

"Orlando Zapata". Retrieved February 22, 2015 Available: http://web.archive.org/web/20150221213738/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orlando_Zapata

Acosta, N. 2010. "Factbox: Dissident Guillermo Farinas ends hunger strike". July 8. Retrieved February 22, 2015 Available: http://web.archive.org/web/20150220041207/http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/07/08/us-cuba-dissident-factbox-idUSTRE66758M20100708

Carroll, Rory 2010. "A hunger striker exposes Cuba's hidden side". April 3. Retrieved February 22, 2015 Available: http://web.archive.org/web/20150220041317/http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/apr/04/cuba-guillermo-farinas-raul-castro

Chavez, Juan Carlos. 2010. "37 arrests reported in dissident crackdown," Miami Herald, The (FL), June 5, pp. 1A. Retrieved May 12, 2015 Available: http://infoweb.newsbank.com.proxy.swarthmore.edu/resources/doc/nb/news/13069DC1D532C200?p=AWNB

Farinas, G. 2010. , "Hunger Strike". July 5. Retrieved February 22, 2015 Available: http://web.archive.org/web/20150220054750/https://cocohungerstrike.wordpress.com/

Robles, Frances. 2010. "CUBA: More Cuban political prisoners put their lives on the line - At least five Cuban political prisoners are refusing food in a spontaneous trend triggered by the February death of a dissident.," Miami Herald, The (FL), June 16, pp. A1. Retrieved May 12, 2015

Available: http://infoweb.newsbank.com.proxy.swarthmore.edu/resources/doc/nb/news/130613D9AFC20F18?p=AWNB

Tamayo, Juan O. 2010. "CUBA: Church leaders ask Raúl Castro to free dissidents - Catholic church leaders in Havana said they are negotiating for the release of dissidents.," Miami Herald, The (FL), May 21, pp. A6. Retrieved May 12, 2015 Available: http://infoweb.newsbank.com.proxy.swarthmore.edu/resources/doc/nb/news/12FD871F523D8A58?p=AWNB

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Jamie Irwin, 12/02/2015