Cuban official urges political hunger striker to stop

Cuban official urges political hunger striker to stop
AFP March 22, 2010, 9:26 am

HAVANA (AFP) – A top Cuban state security official for the first time visited hunger striker Guillermo Farinas in hospital and urged him to stop his nearly month-long protest, a spokesman for the dissident said.

The head of Cuba’s department of counterrevolutionary activities Hector de la Fe Freire “asked Guillermo Farinas to end his strike, telling him his health was so poor that he risks dying,” Licet Zamora told AFP by telephone.

The spokeswoman said it was the first time a government official had visited Farinas since he began his hunger strike seeking the release of political prisoners on February 24.

“Guillermo told him he first wants 26 political prisoners who are sick to go free,” she said, adding that the official made no comment on that request or others Farinas made.

A journalist and psychologist, Farinas, 48, launched his fast the day after political prisoner Orlando Zapata died on the 85th day of his own hunger strike.

Farinas has been protesting the treatment of 26 political prisoners needing medical attention in Cuba, the only one-party communist regime in the Americas.

Farinas was taken to a local hospital from his home in Santa Clara, 280 kilometers (168 miles) east of Havana, after he passed out on March 11, and is being fed intravenously.

The Cuban government deems Farinas “an agent of the United States” and his protest “blackmail,” and has said he would be “entirely responsible” for his own fate should he die.

Farinas’ hunger strike and Zapata’s death have ignited international outcry. Spain even offered Farinas political asylum, which he turned down.

Meanwhile, wives and mothers of numerous political prisoners completed an unprecedented week of protest marches in Havana in defiance of the authorities to press for the release of the dissidents, some of whom have been held for seven years.
Havana insists it keeps no political prisoners, branding the dissidents in jail as “mercenaries” in the pay of the United States.

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