“My father has been on hunger strike for 49 days. At this point, any hospital would taken him in urgently, but not in Cuba,” wrote the daughter of Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas on Wednesday, who has continued to refused to eat unless the communist dictatorship agrees to stop using violence against dissenters.
At press time, Guillermo Fariñas is on his 51st day of this hunger strike, his 23rd hunger strike. Alicia Fariñas Hernández told the Mexican newspaper La Razón that she believes dictator Raúl Castro has ordered Cuban hospitals not to treat him anymore, hoping to speed up his death and not prolong coverage of his hunger strike.
Fariñas, who won the European Union’s 2010 Andrei Sakharov Prize for Human Rights Activism, already suffered a number of chronic illnesses before taking up this latest hunger strike on July 20, most caused by his previous hunger strikes. Since beginning this one, he has been hospitalized five times, his daughter says, all during occasions in which he lost consciousness. The hospital supplied him with a vitamin IV until he regained consciousness, then checked himself out.
Fariñas is also refusing to drink water, which may expedite his demise.
The activist has himself made a similar accusation as his daughter’s, accusing the government of “deciding to let me die” rather than cede to his demands. Cuban exile activists in Florida have accused the Castro regime of planning the “murder” of Fariñas by ignoring him until he dies.
In a letter and video posted the first day of his hunger strike, Fariñas said he would only eat again if Raúl Castro agreed to stop the use of state violence against dissidents, including beatings, arbitrary arrests, and torture, and if he were to agree to give a voice to political dissidents in the government. Fariñas has been explicit in noting that he seeks only an end to the violence, not for Castro to step down yet.
The Cuban government has not made any statements regarding Fariñas’s hunger strike. The day before the hunger strike began, Fariñas says he was severely beaten and had his tongue pulled out of his mouth “until it turned black” after he dared enter a police station and ask about the status of another dissident who had been beaten and arrested.
“This is a moral challenge I am taking on along with other opposition members who are being beaten,” Fariñas told Miami’s El Nuevo Herald this week. “We will continue until the ultimate consequences occur, including death.”
Fariñas has found little support in the international community, with many more voices demanding he end his hunger strike than for Castro to cede to his few demands. Loudest among these has been the head of the European Union, Martin Schulz, who sent a letter to Fariñas and dissident leader Berta Soler requesting Fariñas not do anything to endanger his health, but lending moral support as a recipient of the Sakharov Prize (Soler is also a recipient of the prize). The EU will debate a “Fariñas Amendment” expressing support for his cause on September 12, the 54th day of his strike.
The White House has intervened little in this matter. A U.S. envoy visited Fariñas last week. According to the dissident, the U.S. government’s message to him was to pressure him to give up the hunger strike. Fariñas told Univisión’s Yusnaby Pérez that the U.S. envoy told him that President Barack Obama is talking about his condition with Raúl Castro, but there is no evidence those talks are producing any results.
Shortly after President Obama’s announcement that he would normalize relations with Cuba, Cuban communist officials asserted they would not “move one millimeter” regarding the violation of human rights of dissidents. At the time, Fariñas said he felt “betrayed” by the U.S. government.