Guillermo Fariñas lies in a bed in Santa Clara, Cuba, ready to die. Six weeks ago, Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo died while on hunger strike in protest of the torture he had endured for seven years and in protest of the Cuban government’s treatment of all of its prisoners.Since his death, Fariñas has refused food in solidarity with Zapata.
Like Zapata, Fariñas is prepared to die so that the suffering of people inside Cuba exacts a heavy price on the Castro regime’s international reputation.
These photographs, published here for the first time, were taken by an independent journalist in Cuba four days ago.
Guillermo Fariñas is a journalist and a doctor of psychology. Like his father, Fariñas was a soldier of the Cuban revolution. He fought in Angola and received military education in Moscow. Later, he was elected General Secretary of Healthcare Union Workers. Fariñas was jailed in 1995 for speaking out about the corruption of Cuban healthcare. As they do with all such dissidents, the Cuban government labeled him a “mercenary” and a “CIA agent.”
Although he is now a free man, Fariñas cannot ignore those political prisoners who are sick and in need of attention. He refuses to remain silent and began his own strike for the release of the sick prisoners of conscience held in Cuba’s vast network of prisons. Unless he ceases his strike, Fariñas has only several days left before his organs fail.
The withdrawal of dictator Fidel Castro from the center stage of Cuban government was supposed to harbor an opening, a softening, a possibility of a transition. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. There was no new beginning for Cuba with the advent of Raul Castro as supreme leader. The government has continued to brutally censor and repress criticism.
Just in late March, Las Damas de Blanco (the “Ladies in White”) were attacked and physically assaulted by a government-led mob in Havana for peacefully marching in the city streets. They are a group of women, wives of Cuban political prisoners arrested in 2003 during Black Spring–the worst crackdown on freedom of speech in recent history–they hold flowers in memory of their loved ones and they march quietly through Havana dressed head to toe in white. They have won numerous international prizes (they they cannot collect because they are not allowed to travel) including the Andrei Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament. They visited Fariñas to show both their compassion and gratitude for his sacrifice. Pictured here are the leaders of the Ladies in White.
The death of Zapata by hunger strike was a scathing blow to the credibility of Cuba’s government. If Fariñas were to die, the Castro government’s barbarity will be impossible to ignore. How sad that it should come at so dear a price.