Do Hunger Strikes Work as a Strategy to Pressure the Cuban Government?
Do Hunger Strikes Work as a Strategy to Pressure the Cuban Government? /
Guillermo Fariñas, UNPACU Activist: “With this [hunger strike] I am
giving the Castro regime leaders to decide if they want to assassinate
Eliécer Ávila, President of Somos+ (We Are More): “I don’t see how the
death of leaders who should motivate people and push changes can be
14ymedio, 10 August 2016 – This Tuesday, activist Carlos Amel Oliva has
ended four weeks on hunger strike after spending the last five days in
hospital due to the deteriorating state of his health. Eight members of
the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) had seconded his protest and
decided not to eat in solidarity with the opponent’s demands, including
State Security returning his personal belongings, the confiscation of
which he considered a violation of his rights.
On 20 July, regime opponent Guillermo Fariñas also began a hunger and
thirst strike, for which he has received hospital care on several
occasions in recent days. Winner of the European Parliament’s Andrei
Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, he is demanding that the Cuban
government cease its repression against dissidents and that the
authorities agree to a dialog with the opposition.
In the last twenty years Fariñas has undertaken a total of 25 hunger
strikes, the last of these six years ago when he demanded the release of
a group of opponents from the 2003 Black Spring. On that occasion the
opponent went 135 days without eating, the great part of the time
hospitalized and receiving parenteral nutrition and hydration.
Fariñas began that strike on February 24, 2010, one day after the death
of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after staging a hunger strike for 86
days while incarcerated.
Amnesty International considered Zapata Tamayo a prisoner of conscience
and many analysts agree that his death was decisive in the negotiations
subsequently held between the Cuban government, the hierarchy of the
Catholic Church and the Spanish government that ended with the release
of many political prisoners.
Previously, a hunger strike had been maintained to its final
consequences by Pedro Puis Boitel, who died in prison in May 1972 after
53 days without food or medical care. The young man was buried in an
unmarked grave in Colon Cemetery in Havana.
Since January 1959 it has been common for activists and opponents to use
hunger strikes as a form of protest against the government and to demand
improvements in prison conditions or political reforms. Currently some
opponents believe that this strategy of peaceful struggle is not effective.
However, other dissidents cite the importance of the hunger strike as a
way to attract the attention of international organizations to pressure
the government and bring about political change.
On Tuesday, the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights called on all
opponents to abandon their fasts, considering that it is not an
effective method of struggle and activists are people who are needed
“with all their energy, strength, intelligence and courage in the demand
for freedom, democracy and better living conditions for Cubans.”
Guillermo Fariñas, who currently is continuing his hunger strike, has
recently stated in an interview that he has a responsibility given that
he is a person known internationally for the use of this method of
protest. “With this I’m giving time for Castro’s rulers, extending my
possible death, so that they can assess, among and political and
ideological international allies and opponents, which really has to do
with my demand, if they are going to publicly murder me,” he said.
Eliecer Avila, who on Tuesday wrote a letter asking Carlos Amel Oliva to
abandon his strike, emphasized the importance of activists who are still
alive today being, one day, public representatives of the citizens if
they wish. The leader of Somos+ (We Are More) ended his letter with the
words: ” Do not give away your life to these bastards, compadre!”
Source: Do Hunger Strikes Work as a Strategy to Pressure the Cuban
Government? / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba –