Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cuban dissident to end hunger strike if others freed

Cuban dissident to end hunger strike if others freed
AFP/File Adalberto Roque

A Cuban opposition journalist said Saturday he was ready to end his
nearly three-month hunger strike if the Cuban regime releases 10
political prisoners and agrees to a timeline to free others.

"When the number of those released reaches 10 and the Church tells me
there is a timeline for others to be freed, I will end my strike,"
Guillermo Farinas told AFP via telephone from Santa Clara hospital in
central Cuba, where he has been treated with an IV drip since March 11.

He said he had spoken to Catholic Church officials who agreed that "the
government must take the first step, which must be the release of

In his first ever meeting with Cuba's top two Church officials --
Cardinal Jaime Ortega and Episcopal Conference leader Archbishop
Dionisio Garcia -- President Raul Castro said he was ready to consider
resolving the thorny issue.

But Garcia said any talk about releasing them was off the table for now.

Farinas, a 48-year-old Internet journalist who began his hunger strike
87 days ago, is calling for the release of 26 political prisoners who
are sick.

He began his 23rd hunger strike since 1995 -- denying both food and
water -- the day after leading Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata died on
February 23 following an 85-day hunger strike.

The journalist's state of health is declining. He said he was likely
suffering from kidney stones and a cyst in the left kidney.

Dissident groups say there are more than 200 political prisoners held in
Cuban jails. Amnesty International considers 65 of them as prisoners of

Cuba denies it holds any political prisoners and calls dissidents
"mercenaries" funded by the United States and a conservative
Cuban-American "mafia.""

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