Cuba: Dissidents Ask Obama to Intervene, End Guillermo Fariñas Hunger Strike

President Barack Obama meets with Cuban dissidents at the U.S. Embassy, Tuesday, March 22,
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

A Cuban dissident organization has sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to intervene to save the life of Guillermo Fariñas, whose hunger strike turned one month old on Saturday.

Fariñas is an internationally recognized dissident who has executed 23 hunger strikes before this current one and is the recipient of the 2010 Andrei Sakharov Prize for human rights activism from the European Union. He began his hunger strike after Raúl Castro’s police beat and tortured him for inquiring about the health of another political dissident who had begun a hunger strike while imprisoned.

“We ask through this letter that you use your political wisdom to execute any action that can save Guillermo Fariñas Hernández’s life,” the members of the Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU), Fariñas’s organization, write to President Obama. “We turn to you as president of the nation that is the world’s beacon of human rights, not to ask for anything political, but to plead for your intervention to save a life.”

“Fariñas Hernández’s hunger strike is against violence, he has not demanded the overthrow of the government, merely the end of the oppression of some by others due to their way of thinking or they way they seek to honorably make a living.”

The letter concludes by citing scripture: “In the Gospels we read… ‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good unto those who hate you, and pray for those who deceive you.'” “We see the path Fariñas is taking as that of the Gospel. May God wish that this call reach your ears and that you make take that action of salvation we so desire to see.”

FANTU had previously reached out to Pope Francis to intervene in the matter and get Raúl Castro to agree to renounce state violence against political dissidents, as the Vatican played a pivotal role in convincing President Obama to push for American businesses to invest in Cuba, greatly benefitting the Castro regime. The Vatican has yet to respond to the plea for Fariñas, however.

In addition to promoting business activity in Cuba, Pope Francis has actively denied knowledge of the beating and torture of political prisoners on the island, most notably in the incident occurring in September during his visit to the island, when video cameras recorded police beating and arresting dissident Zaqueo Báez directly in front of Pope Francis.

Fariñas began his hunger strike on July 20 after being beaten and tortured — police “pulled my tongue until it turned black,” he said in a video posted online — for entering a police station. He was not carrying dissident material and made no protest actions. He has said he will end his hunger strike when “Raúl Castro says publicly to everyone that there will be no more torture, no more beatings, no more death threats, no more false charges against opposition and arbitrary confiscation.” He has stated repeatedly he will not stop this hunger strike until he dies if the Castro regime does not respond to him.

Fariñas has been hospitalized three times, as he is also not drinking water. On all three occasions, he lost consciousness, was taken to the hospital by family, and checked himself out as soon as he regained consciousness. He suffered from severe chronic conditions that require 11 medications daily, the vestiges of the damage the other 23 hunger strikes have done to his body.

The previous hunger strikes make Fariñas significantly less capable of enduring a hunger strike than a person who has never done one before. As a result, international human rights organizations are demanding action to stop this hunger strike immediately. “Cuba needs Guillermo Fariñas alive,” Martin Lessentin, a spokesman for the International Human Rights Society, said this week. “Fariñas represents the good Cuba, the positive Cuba, the Cuba we want for the future.”

The U.S. Department of State has expressed “concern” for Fariñas on Twitter.


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