Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cuba: Guillermo Farinas postpones hunger strike (Updated)

Earlier today Cuba’s best-known dissident reportedly put a halt to a hunger strike that left him at the brink of death.

A spokeswoman for Guillermo Farinas said that he ended his five-month-long fast on Thursday by drinking a glass of water. She added that his health is “grave”; thus supporting recent remarks made by Farinas who said that he was “conscious of my nearing death.”

The 48-year-old psychiatrist’s actions came after the Cuban government announced that it would free 52 political prisoners and allow them to leave the country. The release appeared to have resulted from close dialogue in recent weeks between President Raul Castro and leading members of the Cuban Catholic Church. According to Church officials five prisoners will be freed in the upcoming days after having spent at least seven years in jail.

The U.S. government as well as the Spanish Foreign Minister who was visiting Havana has welcomed the planned release of the Cuban prisoners. The president of the Cuban American National Foundation told the Christian Science Monitor that the actions represent “a very positive signal” from the Castro regime. Some analysts are skeptical, however:
"It's a good thing, but we've seen this before," said Daniel Wilkinson, deputy director at Human Rights Watch, citing the hundreds of prisoner releases that followed a papal visit to the island nation in 1998. "Despite these new developments, the law which allows for arbitrary arrests remains the same."
Farinas began his 130-day hunger strike in February shortly after jailed activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo died while fasting.

Update: In remarks to CNN en Espanol, Farinas said that he will postpone his hunger strike until November and warned that he would restart it if the Castro regime does not carry out the freeing of the 52 political prisoners. Meanwhile, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said that his country would accept the freed prisoners from Cuba.

Image- France24 (“Cuban opposition activist Guillermo Farinas (R) stands up helped by doctor Ismel Iglesias at his home in Santa Clara, Cuba, in March 2010. Farinas ended Thursday his 135-day hunger strike after the communist government announced it would free 52 political prisoners, an opposition leader told AFP.”)
Online Sources- BBC news, Reuters, AFP, Christian Science Monitor, CNN, Al Jazeera English, AP

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