World-renowned human rights activist Guillermo Fariñas is in “critical” condition on the 25th day of his 24th hunger strike, which he began after being beaten and tortured by Raúl Castro’s political police.
Fariñas, a winner of the European Union’s prestigious Andrei Sakharov Prize for human rights activism, began his 26th day of abstaining from food or water on Monday. A day before, fellow activists confirmed that Fariñas’ condition was “critical,” as his body is significantly weakened from the previous hunger strikes that he has undertaken to protest the Castro regime.
“He is in a critical state,” Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel, a fellow Cuban activist, told the Spain-based Diario de Cuba. “He is very sleepy, very tired, has headache and joint pain. He now also is experiencing pain in his kidneys.”
Fariñas spends most of his days sleeping, but remains conscious and in control of when he sleeps, Artiles Montiel added. Nonetheless, his friends and family “expect that suddenly he will lose consciousness.”
Fariñas has already been hospitalized twice since he began his hunger and thirst strike on July 20. On both occasions he was unconscious and could not refuse the hydration IVs doctors provided him, which allowed him to return to consciousness. He has checked himself out of the hospital on both occasions and refused further care.
Fariñas spoke to Miami news outlet Martí Noticias on August 12, reiterating his commitment to continuing his hunger strike until either the government of Raúl Castro establishes an official policy against the arrest, torture, and persecution of political dissidents, or Fariñas dies. He noted that both his family doctor and the doctors at the Santa Clara hospital that has treated him “are being pressured” by the government to make him cease the hunger strike. “We are causing the doctors more problems,” he said, referring to himself and the 20 other Cuban dissidents conducting hunger strikes throughout the island. He noted that he has lost around 22 pounds and is concerned that “the government has its strategies against hunger strikes.”
Fariñas appeared gaunt and exhausted in the interview, speaking in a very low voice.
The “strategies” he may be referring to regarding hunger strikers could involve force-feeding, a human rights violation. In January, the Cuban government forcibly ended the hunger strike of Vladimir Morera Bacallao, a dissident who had spent 85 days on a hunger strike. Government doctors took advantage of him losing consciousness to force feed him and end the strike. The United Nations deems force-feeding of hunger strikes a major violation of their personal integrity and political rights, as hunger strikes are a form of non-violent expression.
Fariñas began his latest hunger strike following an attempt to inquire about the status of Carlos Amel Oliva, a 28-year-old Cuban dissident who had been recently arrested and began his own hunger strike. Upon arriving at the police station, Fariñas was beaten and tortured, with police pulling out his tongue until, he says, it “turned black.” Amel Oliva was forced to end his own hunger strike recently, after he also abstained from drinking water as a sign of respect to Fariñas following the beginning of his own strike.
Fariñas has been an outspoken critic of President Obama’s attempts to “normalize” diplomatic relations with Cuba. “We live in daily fear that we will be killed by the fascist government. And now, the US – our ally – turns its back on us and prefers to sit with our killers,” he said in 2004, describing himself as “betrayed” by the American government.
The U.S. State Department has “raised concerns” with Cuban authorities regarding Fariñas’ case; the Cuban government has not made any public statements regarding the matter. An envoy representing Washington’s Havana embassy has also visited Fariñas in his home.