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Posted February 24, 2010 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo died Tuesday after an 80-day hunger strike to demand better jail conditions, according to dissidents.

“He got much worse last Tuesday and was brought to Havana,” said Laura Pollan, one of the leaders of the Ladies of White, a group of wives and relatives of political prisoners.

“But sadly he died at around 4 p.m.”

According to Pollan, Zapata, 42, went on strike to demand a separate cell from common criminals and permission for his family to bring him food. She said he also refused to wear the prison uniform.

He was transferred from his prison in central Holguin province to a prison in Havana when his health deteriorated, and eventually to a hospital in the capital, she said.

“For us, this is a terrible situation,” Pollan said in a telephone interview. “We didn’t think this government would let a political prisoner die at this point in time, but we were wrong.”

Zapata was arrested in 2003 during a crackdown on dissidents, Pollan said.

According to an Amnesty International report, he was jailed for disorderly conduct among other crimes.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on February 24, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Washington’s response to the death of Orlando.

    Maybe the recent migration talks were getting too friendly in Havana and Fidel needed something to put the old chill back in the relations.

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  2. Follow up post #2 added on February 24, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    According to the BBC report...

    Raul Castro “laments” the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a “detained activist”.

    So, let’s hear all the Fidel lovers blame the Embargo on this one.

    Hello! Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after a hunger strike of more than 80 days and the Cuban government simply let him die.

    They now deserve all the international heat coming their way.

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  3. Follow up post #3 added on February 24, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    When I expected the Fidel lovers to blame the Embargo, I meant the Fidel lovers here at the Havana Journal, not Raul Castro himself.

    “Castro, in the midst of hosting a visit from Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was asked by Brazilian reporters about Zapata’s death.

    “We regret it very much. That’s the result of relations with the United States,” he was quoted as saying while standing beside Lula at the port of Mariel, west of Havana”.


    WHAT AN ASSHOLE!!! That’s right. I just called Raul Castro an asshole. One of his citizens dies in a Cuban prison after an 80+ day hunger strike and he has the balls to blame the US??? What an asshole!!!

    Full article here.

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  4. Follow up post #4 added on February 24, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Really sad to see something like that happening and that some people still does not want to see further.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on February 24, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Raul might be sorry but judging from the photos of Fidel Castro here, I’m not sure he knows his own name, let alone know that Orlando died.

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  6. Follow up post #6 added on February 26, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Follow up article on his death

    “Sanchez said at least 100 activists, many from nearby, eastern locales, were detained and held just long enough to prevent them from attending the funeral.”

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  7. Follow up post #7 added on February 26, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    A little more fallout, this time in Spain.

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  8. Follow up post #8 added on February 26, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    A snowball in Cuba?

    HAVANA (AP)—Four Cuban prisoners and an opposition activist have vowed to stop eating to protest the death of a jailed dissident following his own lengthy hunger strike.

    Diosdado Gonzalez Marrero, Eduardo Diaz Freitas, Fidel Suarez Cruz and Nelson Molinet are prisoners at the high-security Kilo Cinco y Medio prison in Pinar del Rio province.

    Elizardo Sanchez, head of an independent human rights commission, said Friday they will refuse solid food.

    Activist-journalist Guillermo Farinas also plans to stop eating.

    Farinas has held a number of past hunger strikes. This time he says he won’t eat or drink water.

    Prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo died Tuesday after a weekslong hunger strike, sparking international outrage.

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  9. Follow up post #9 added on February 26, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    It is now time for full international economic sanctions against Cuba including revoking the ability of Cuban corporations to process credit cards. Start an international boycott of Cuban vacation packages, put pressure on the charter vacation companies doing business with Castro Inc. Stop financing the insanity.

  10. Follow up post #10 added on February 26, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    All quiet from Canada.

    I doubt this, like any other big events, will have legs and the Castros know that EVERYTHING blows over.

    Again, the US Cuba relations were warming up too much so they needed something to keep the Embargo and anti-Empire rhetoric alive.

    The Castros need the isolation in order to keep the Cuban people poor and in line.

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  11. Follow up post #11 added on February 26, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    Not all quiet from Canada, at least from me.

    Maybe Pipefitter doesn’t have a statistic for inhumane deaths in CastroLand!

    A partial, poorly conceived, inconsistent embargo such as the one by the U.S. has been used by Castro Inc to further justify their absolute control. In the past, there have been too many ways around the embargo for it to have a full impact.

    Shut down the international routes of finance, especially credit cards. This would have an immediate impact and would have immediate ramifications on the tourism industry. Finances in Cuba are on the verge of disaster, now is the time to strike with an economic fastball.

  12. Follow up post #12 added on February 27, 2010 by robolucion with 33 total posts

    What kind of isolation are you talking about?

    They have tourists from all over all the time.

    They purchase the most from us.

    They tax remittances.

    They have their Chinese and Venezuelan buddies give them goods.

    They have global trading partners.

    The culprit is that garbage system that won’t “CHANGE” with our credit access. If US tourism and commerce were the keys to change in Cuba, Castro and his military monarchy would not advocate for it all the time.

    I’m glad that Obama is not extending a lifeline to those snakes. Castro needs to do the world a favor and die already.

  13. Follow up post #13 added on February 27, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    I am saying that countries such as Canada, Britain, Spain and France should halt the ability of its citizens and corporations from doing package holidays (charters). When the Cuban people notice a huge difference in the volume of tourists they will take notice. They will start asking questions and will start demanding change. It is these vacations that are the cash cow for Castro inc.

    Credit card transactions in Cuba are primarily by tourists and is like instant money into various bank accounts for Castro Inc. around the world. Countries such as China and Venezuela will continue funding but it will be like throwing money into a bottomless pot.

    I am not saying all trade with Cuba should stop, only where it would be the most effective. Canadians especially should take this approach as we account for an overwhelming majority of package vacations. Most of these Canadian visitors have consistently returned year after year bringing supplies and presents for Cubans. These same Canadians do care and do have some understanding of how difficult living in Cuba is.

    Many of us have found it strange over the years that the American government has cracked down on any bank doing commerce with Cuba that has interests in the U.S. So why is it that companies such as MasterCard and VISA have found a way around this?

    Shut down the electronic money pipeline.

  14. Follow up post #14 added on February 27, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Amaizingly no coments from pipefitter, Miguel or the pro-Castro bunch.

  15. Follow up post #15 added on February 28, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Right. Tough to be pro-Castro on this one even though Raul blamed the US. I guess even they were surprised that Raul would stoop to such a low level.

    Maybe Raul was drinking or just can’t handle the pressure anymore and is starting to crack.

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  16. Follow up post #16 added on February 28, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Since Granma is run by the Cuban Government and since Raul runs the Cuban Government (at least officially), then I blame Raul for this disgusting article in Reuters claiming Orlando to be a common criminal.

    So, I guess it’s okay that Raul lets him die? (and don’t tell me Raul didn’t know about this. OF COURSE Raul knew about Orlando’s hunger strike and OF COURSE Raul (or Fidel) gave the order to let him die)

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  17. Follow up post #17 added on February 28, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Andres Oppenheimer writes the op/ed piece: Dissident’s death will put Cuba on the spot and lists a few scenarios on how this death will play out.

    Keep in mind that Raul and Fidel don’t want to release any political prisoners because that might lead to better US Cuba relations and more talk of lifting the Embargo. The death of the Embargo is what really scares Raul and Fidel.

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  18. Follow up post #18 added on February 28, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts


    By Nik Steinberg
    Saturday, February 27, 2010
    Click. And then silence.

    It was the sound I dreaded in my calls to Cuba. As I gathered testimony from relatives of political prisoners, I never knew what an abrupt end to the call meant.

    Had the Cuban intelligence services cut the line, or was it just the shoddy phone system? I would call back immediately, often getting a busy signal or a recorded message that the number was not in service. If I found out what had happened, it was usually days or weeks later.

    “A neighbor dropped by to check on me, someone sospechoso.”

    “I don’t know, my phone just stopped working.”

    For months I made—and lost—these calls. Because Cuba does not allow visits from human rights groups, we are forced to gather information from phone interviews, reports from local groups and the rare copies of prison sentences smuggled out by visiting relatives.

    For nearly five decades, Fidel Castro silenced virtually all forms of dissent in Cuba, locking up anyone who dared to criticize his government. After ailing health forced him to hand control to his younger brother in 2006, many hoped that repression would ease. But Raúl Castro has allowed scores of political prisoners arrested under Fidel to languish. One of those, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died last week after an 85-day hunger strike, which he had undertaken to protest the conditions in which he was held.

    Raúl Castro has also incarcerated scores more political prisoners, such as Ramón Velásquez, who completed a three-year sentence in January, but was reportedly detained again following Zapata Tamayo’s death. I first spoke to Ramón’s wife, Bárbara, on the phone last March. She told me how on Dec. 10, 2006, they had set out with their 18-year-old daughter, Rufina, on a “march of dignity” across Cuba to call for respect for human rights and freedom for political prisoners.

    They marched silently, from east to west, sleeping on roadsides or in the homes of people who took them in. Along their way, police detained them, they were attacked and cars even ran them off the road. They kept marching. In January 2007, more than 185 miles from where they started, Ramón was arrested. He was accused of “dangerousness,” tried in a closed hearing and sentenced to three years in prison.

    Under Cuba’s “dangerousness” law, authorities can imprison people who have not committed a crime on the suspicion that they might commit one in the future. “Dangerous” activities include handing out copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, writing articles critical of the government and trying to start an independent union.

    Bárbara and I spoke several times over the following months about her trips to visit Ramón in prison; about her son René, who took care of her; and about how Rufina had fled to the United States after her father’s arrest.

    My organization repeatedly sought permission to visit Cuba but never received a response. Eventually, we decided to go anyway. To minimize risks, we told no one we were coming. Last summer a colleague and I rented a car in Havana and drove east, conducting interviews along the way. We stayed nowhere for longer than a day.

    When we arrived at the Velásquez home on the outskirts of Las Tunas, only René was there. Bárbara was on her way back from visiting Ramón in prison, he said.

    We sat in a small kitchen with a dirt floor. Inside were two small chairs, a worn wooden table and a single-burner gas stove. A door opened on a room just big enough to fit a mattress and a dresser.

    René told us he had not been on the march and did not consider himself political. But shortly after his father’s arrest, he came home to find “Death to the worms of house 58,” his family’s address, spray-painted on the nearby bus stop. A week later, he was fired from his longtime hospital job. Members of the local “revolutionary defense committee”—the neighborhood association connected with the Communist Party—insulted him in the street and tried to pick fights. A man was assigned to watch him and his mother; he stood on their corner and followed them as they came and went.

    René‘s girlfriend stopped talking to him on her parents’ orders. So did most of his friends, who were warned by police that they would find themselves in trouble if they kept hanging around a “counterrevolutionary.”

    “It’s like having someone plant a boot right in the middle of my chest and applying so much pressure I can hardly breathe,” René told us. “Some days I wake up and I think: I have nothing. I am nobody. I have no dreams left for my future.” We encountered this profound sense of isolation time and again in visits with the families of political prisoners.

    Soon Bárbara arrived from her five-hour journey. Exhausted, she talked for a few minutes and then went to lie down.

    “For weeks after they arrested my father, she didn’t leave that bed,” René whispered. The upside, he said, laughing, was that he’d been forced to teach himself to cook.

    When we left, René insisted on walking us to our car. We headed down the dirt road outside their home, past neighbors who stopped their conversations and stared, and past the man on the corner, who trailed a few yards behind us. When we reached the car, René hugged us and asked us to pass a message to his sister, to whom he hadn’t spoken in months: “Tell her we’re fine—not to worry.”

    As we drove away, I looked in the rearview mirror. René turned around and walked home, past the watchful gaze of his neighbors.

  19. Follow up post #19 added on March 01, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    The fact is if you stop eating and drinking you will die.

  20. Follow up post #20 added on March 01, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    Charming! A man so desperate, calling out for help to change the system, so passionate for the freedoms of his fellow Cubanos he was willing to pay the ultimate price. Pipefitter, you have displayed how heartless you really are with such a cold and indifferent statement. Look in the mirror and ask yourself. Do I want a better place for my friends and relatives in Cuba? Don’t fear change, embrace it. This world needs a better, kinder, gentler philosophy and I can’t think of a more ideal place to start than CUBA.

  21. Follow up post #21 added on March 01, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    I guess killing himself somehow improves the lives for Cubans as you suggest? That is not the way you improve life for Cubans.

  22. Follow up post #22 added on March 01, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Pipefitter, your last two comments show who you really are. Obviously he was not family.

  23. Follow up post #23 added on March 01, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    pipefitter paid his tributes and probably “laments” the death just like Raul.

    He blames someone other than the prison system, just like Raul.

    Pipefitter is just being a good Communist holding the party line.

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  24. Follow up post #24 added on March 01, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    I think criminals convicted of attacking someones head with a machete as well as other violent acts, should be put away in prison in any country. Obviously I feel sorry for his family that he would choose to take his own life.

  25. Follow up post #25 added on March 01, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    Cross reference all accounts of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s death including Amnesty International and his family’s statements he was not a common criminal as stated by Pipefitter and his keepers at Castro Inc.

    In fact Tamayo was a common man that wanted to speak up for his rights. Castro Inc had a round-up of dissidents in 2004 and made up ludicrous charges including charges for Tamayo. He was to spend three years in jail, after three years in jail further ludicrous charges were laid. While in jail, Tamayo was tortured, stripped of his clothes and placed in front of an air conditioner until he developed pnuemonia. He was also denied water.

    These complications and the deliberate delay getting him urgent medical coverage were the cause of his death. Any decent country in the world deals with hunger strikers in the following manner, when they falter physically and well prior to death they are given urgent medical attention.

    Persons wishing to believe Raul Castro on this matter, including his humble servant, Pipefitter, have just as much blood on their hands as Raul does.

  26. Follow up post #26 added on March 01, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Tamayo was first charged in 1988, well before 2004, and was subsequently arrested and charged with more violent and disorderly conduct amongst other crimes. He attacked Leonardo Simon with a machete cracking his skull. He was sentenced to 3 years, he was released and and proceeded to be violent.He attacked prison guards etc. and subsequently prolonged his own stay in prison by many years. Amnesty International has no access to Cuba to verify anything and relys on hearsay.

  27. Follow up post #27 added on March 01, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    As shown in #3 comment above, Orlando’s death is not Raul’s fault or pipefitters fault so they don’t have blood on their hands.

    Raul said “That’s the result of relations with the United States”.

    Orlando died because of US Cuba relations.

    You believe Raul and pipefitter don’t you?

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  28. Follow up post #28 added on March 02, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    NPR commentator claims “Cuban authorities actually denied him water and put him in front of an air conditioner naked, so that he developed pneumonia. At the last moment, they put him in a hospital but he died hours later.”

    I’m not sure where he is getting his information since I have not read that anywhere else but he did say it here in an NPR interview.


    Regarding pipefitter’s stupid comment about “you don’t eat, you die”, the Cuban government is responsible for their prisoners and when someone is many weeks into a hunger strike you feed them with intravenous fluids if you want to keep them alive.

    So, pipefitter, why don’t you step aside on this one since there is nothing positive you can spin about this death.

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  29. Follow up post #29 added on March 02, 2010 by PDM with 12 total posts

    From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail
    Published on Tuesday, Mar. 02, 2010 12:00AM EST
    Last updated on Tuesday, Mar. 02, 2010 3:41AM EST

    Canadians vacationing in Cuba may be too busy sipping mojitos and frolicking in the ocean to consider last week’s tragic death of a Cuban political prisoner. But it is a powerful reminder of the island’s repressive underbelly, and illustrates the Cuban government’s continued and blatant disregard for human rights and civil liberties.

    Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a 42-year-old carpenter and plumber, stopped eating Dec. 3 to protest the conditions of his detention, and died in a hospital in Havana last Tuesday. He is the first political prisoner to starve himself to death since 1972, when Pedro Luis Boitel, a student leader and poet, suffered the same fatal end.

    Mr. Zapata was detained in a 2003 crackdown known as “Black Spring”, alongside 75 other opposition activists, who advocate peaceful political change but are seen by the Cuban government as U.S. mercenaries. He was initially jailed for three years for “disrespecting authority”; however, this sentence was increased to 25 years in subsequent trials, after he was charged with disobedience and disorder in a penal establishment.

    Amnesty International called Mr. Zapata’s death a “terrible illustration of the despair facing prisoners of conscience who see no hope of being freed from their unfair and prolonged incarceration.” The human rights group called for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience, and said a full investigation must be carried out to establish whether ill treatment played a role in the case of Mr. Zapata.

    Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, and officials from the European Union also condemned Mr. Zapata’s death, with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero calling for the release of all political prisoners. Reina Luisa Tamayo accused the Cuban government of murdering her son.

    Raul Castro, the Cuban president, took the unusual step of expressing public regret for Mr. Zapata’s death. But he used the occasion not to announce a political opening, but to deny that the deceased was mistreated and to attack the U.S. The only torture taking place on the island, Mr. Castro said, is at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, where terror suspects are held.

    It is clear that he does not intend to heed the international demand to free all dissidents, or to permit peaceful opposition voices in this country of 11 million.

    In fact, Mr. Zapata’s death provoked another act of repression, with dozens of his supporters locked up last week to prevent them from attending his funeral in Banes, his home town in the east.

    Cuba’s opposition believes, however, that the tragedy will galvanize resistance against the government. “I think there is going to be a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ in the murder of Tamayo,” said Marta Beatriz Roque, a Havana dissident also jailed in 2003 and later released for health reasons.

    Historically, the Cuban dissident movement has been weak and fraught with internal conflict. Government control of all media - and the limited access Cubans have to the Internet -has made it difficult for opposition groups to mobilize.

    But the movement may find strength and unity from Mr. Zapata’s decision to starve himself to death. On Friday, five dissidents, four behind bars, announced they had begun hunger strikes aimed at forcing the government to free all political prisoners. Mr. Zapata was a poor, black man from the countryside - the very sector of society the Cuban Revolution was supposed to help.

    As Canadians book their all-inclusive Veradero getaways this March break they would do well to remember that for many, Cuba is no island paradise.

  30. Follow up post #30 added on March 02, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    I left a posting on the Globe and Mail website, I urge all of the compassionate followers of Havana Journal also do so. It is time to put the heat on companies that are knowingly enabling Castro Inc. Write to your local politician, write to your local newspaper, contact your local travel agency, speak out to the charter companies enabling the Castro dictatorship, email CNN, post on all Cuban blogs, do anything and everything. Help the brave souls that are speaking up in Cuba, they have momentum now. Put pressure on the EU governments, the Canadian government and last but not least, Obama.

  31. Follow up post #31 added on March 02, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    From AP report taken from Cuban government’s version of Orlando’s death…

    “Doctors who treated Zapata Tamayo, a 42-year-old construction worker, said they tried to get him to eat.

    “We explained to him the consequences of his decision at every turn and how much he was endangering his life with this. But he kept it up,” said Maria Ester Hernandez, identified as a doctor for Interior Ministry officials.”

    I think after a few weeks of not eating a person is no longer sane enough to understand a doctor’s request.

    SHAME on “Doctor” Maria Ester Hernandez

    I guess she could not feed him intravenously while he was passed out and dying? No mention of any attempts to keep him alive.

    There is a lot of Orlando’s blood to go around. Hopefully it is not easy to wash off.

    Cuba consulting services

  32. Follow up post #32 added on March 02, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    from Associated Press about the Cuban newscast

    Human rights groups say Zapata Tamayo was refusing food to draw attention to Cuba’s human rights record and its treatment of political prisoners. The newscast contended he refused food because authorities wouldn’t put a TV set, a stove and a phone in his cell.

    From Fidel

    “Lula has know for many years that our country has never tortured anyone, never ordered the murder of an adversary, never lied to its people,” Castro wrote

  33. Follow up post #33 added on March 02, 2010 by PDM with 12 total posts

    Maybe Fidel should speak with Raul about cohersive treatment behind closed doors.

  34. Follow up post #34 added on March 02, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Pipefitter is amazing that you still believe Granma more than CNN or the BBC.

  35. Follow up post #35 added on March 02, 2010 by Marek with 49 total posts

    Jeez, nothing’s good enough for Cuba’s critics!  Tamayo chose to starve himself to death. Cuba’s doctors provided treatment and counselling. He chose to continue.  He died. No doubt if Cuban prison doctors force-fed the man, you’d all be crying that this was a violation of his right to die.  Tamayo’s history as a violent criminal is established. His adoption of the “dissident” cloak seems sufficient for all of you to elevate him to a saint. 

    Shame you don’t have the same sense of justice when we talk about victims of U.S.-based terrorism against Cubans, nor the criminal effects of the blockade, nor the continuing freedom of bastards like Posada, etc.

  36. Follow up post #36 added on March 02, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    F.Y.I. Marek;
    Some of us agree that the Posada case was and still is an example of injustice.

    Quite frankly the embargo excuse is old and tired, you can buy anything you want on the world’s market, you can buy agricultural products from the Americans, all it takes is money. The mismanagement of Cuba’s economy is solely owned by Castro Inc. and if Cubans don’t like that they should take that up with the brothers. Stop blaming others, stop the lies and in baseball terms, its time for all Cubans to step up to the plate.

  37. Follow up post #37 added on March 02, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Marek we all know your tactics.
    For the record I’m against any violent act against the Cuban people no matter where they are or live. I criticized the bombing of the Cubana Airplane in Barbados and many more acts like this. Furthermore I oppose the violence in most of its forms.
    Obviously nothing is good enough at least for me because there is a Tyrant that has been “democratily elected” for over 50 years and all this time squeezing the Cuban people. Now, I do know that Castro lovers like you cannot see that.
    Yes, we are crying but because he was a human being that died only for what he believed in.  What has been well established is that he was recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience. I know that for you that is not sufficient, Castro is always right, Castro says that he was violent, so he probably was.
    You are a good example that the Castro propaganda works.

  38. Follow up post #38 added on March 02, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts


    A collapsed economy.
    No free speech.
    Not free to travel.
    Governed by a dictator.
    Food shortages.
    Lacking in basic medical supplies.
    No access to a free press.
    A collapsed infrastructure.


  39. Follow up post #39 added on March 03, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    This is not about Tamayo but it will be a very interesting factor of how Castro Inc. deals with this.

    Associated Press

    Cuban punk rocker planning to return to Cuba
    (AP) – 12 hours ago
    MEXICO CITY — A Cuban punk rocker known for raunchy lyrics criticizing Fidel Castro says he will try to return to the island after an 11-month absence, but fears the communist government may not let him in.
    Gorki Aguila of the group Porno for Ricardo says he wants to see his 13-year-old daughter and his friends in Cuba.
    The 41-year-old Aguila says he will take a flight from Mexico City to Cuba on Wednesday.
    During an interview Monday, he wore a T-shirt printed with the words “Che Guevara International Murderer Oppressor of the Cuban People.”
    Aguilar was convicted of public disorder in Cuba in August 2008. He paid a fine of 600 pesos ($28) and was released, and later left Cuba.

  40. Follow up post #40 added on March 03, 2010 by MiamiCuban with 87 total posts

    It’s sad, but Tamaya is really just another victim of the cold war against Cuba.  You want to see progress in Cuba?  Just stop the aggression toward it.  It’s a simple law in physics…...it’s the law of cause-and-effect.

  41. Follow up post #41 added on March 03, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Wacky. Just wacky.

    Not Fidel’s fault. Not Raul’s fault. Not Communism’s fault.

    All the great healthcare and all the great doctors in Cuba just couldn’t save Orlando because of the big bad USA.

    I don’t know how any sane person can make your statement.

    You are either not capable of reasonable thought, brainwashed by Castro or your love for Communism or your hate for the USA or you are being paid by the Cuban government in some way for making such a stupid comment MiamiCuban.

    Which is it?

    Cuba consulting services

  42. Follow up post #42 added on March 03, 2010 by MiamiCuban with 87 total posts

    I don’t like the outcome anymore than you do, Publisher, but a hunger strike does carry its inherent risks and one shouldn’t embark on one if not ready to accept possible consequences.  I don’t know the exact details surrounding his death…..I wasn’t there and neither were you. 

    If you went on a hunger strike because you wanted regime change in the U.S., is the government to be blamed for your death because it didn’t acquiese to your demands?  What if 50 million people decided to go on hunger strikes for thousands of worthy causes?  Listen to yourself before you accuse others of being incapable of reasonable thought.

    My point is that there are better ways to bring about positive change in Cuba.  You don’t cave in to someone’s demands because they decide to stop eating.  Tamayo should have found a more procutive approach to bringing change.

  43. Follow up post #43 added on March 03, 2010 by MiamiCuban with 87 total posts

    correction…..I meant “productive”.....not “procutive”

  44. Follow up post #44 added on March 03, 2010 by PDM with 12 total posts

    What decent country sends a human being to jail for 3 years for disrespect, then extends the sentence to 25 years for other political variances.

  45. Follow up post #45 added on March 03, 2010 by MiamiCuban with 87 total posts

    PDM, if it were for “disrespect,” or “political variances,” there would be 10 million Cubans in jail.  Surely, there has to be just a tad bit more to this story?

  46. Follow up post #46 added on March 03, 2010 by Marek with 49 total posts

    Why is it that so many of you are dismissing this man’s history of violent criminal acts, treating him like a saint, and laying 100% of the blame on the Cuban government?  I take no joy in Tamayo’s death - it’s a sad event. But the ideological fever that runs through the blood of many posters here has overwhelmed any sense of perspective. But then again, this is Cuba, always held to a different standard…

  47. Follow up post #47 added on March 03, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    “My point is that there are better ways to bring about positive change in Cuba.”

    MiamiCuban please enlighten all of us how positive change can be made when Castro Inc. is in the way of change.

  48. Follow up post #48 added on March 03, 2010 by MiamiCuban with 87 total posts

    HavanaAndrew, I suppose when we figure it out in the U.S. we can let Cuba know.  You may seem to recall that we the people elected Obama because we wanted change.  It isn’t happening because Corporate America Inc. is “in the way of change.”  I suppose that means that things are the same everywhere.

    But I know that not eating or holding our breath (as I used to do as a kid) won’t bring that change.

  49. Follow up post #49 added on March 03, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    and deflect the argument to blame the US.

    Thanks MiamiCuban, you are a perfectly programed Communist robot.

    I honestly don’t know how you can live in this world being so out of touch with reality.

    You must really HATE the US and really LOVE Fidel Castro.

    Cuba consulting services

  50. Follow up post #50 added on March 03, 2010 by MiamiCuban with 87 total posts

    I don’t blame the U.S.  I do blame the aggressive stance towards Cuba that is propelled by Cuban exiles who use the U.S. government (and taxpayer money) to support their own agendas and selfish interests.

  51. Follow up post #51 added on March 03, 2010 by PDM with 12 total posts

    To quote Ghandi,” I want to live simply, so others may simply live.”

    Maybe that is why some young incarcerated people choose to send a message to the world, when all hope is lost, that maybe others and their families may benefit and live a better life. Quite a drastic choice, to starve to death, for freedom of speech and human rights, but perhaps no other avenues were available.

    His life now had some meaning. A brave soul! Sad but true!

  52. Follow up post #52 added on March 03, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    MiamiCuban if you hate the US so much and love Castro so much why you do not move to Cuba, once and for all. I know that there is a lot of bureacracy involved but if you show them copies of your postings I’m dam sure that you can overpass that quickly. MiamiCuban if you hate the US so much and love Castro so much why you do not move to Cuba, once and for all. I know that there is a lot of bureaucracy involved but if you show them copies of your postings I’m completely sure that you can overpass all that quickly.

  53. Follow up post #53 added on March 03, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    As many of you probably know, Orlando’s death has caused quite a stir inside and outside of Cuba. People can spin the news and the effects anyway they want but the reality is his death has been noticed.

    Now, with five more people on hunger strikes, looks like the Raul Castro might have another death on his hands.

    Apparently he can control their lives but not their deaths.

    But, that’s not their problem, right. Guillermo Coco Fariñas is just a common criminal too right Marek, pipefitter and MiamiCuban?

    Cuba consulting services

  54. Follow up post #54 added on March 03, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    If they all keep this up Castro won’t have to worry about dissidents any more. If they want change in Cuba they have to do it the smart way not by banging your head against the wall, confronting police, causing disturbances etc. they have to find, cultivate and gain support for ways to improve Cuba, in Cuba and not dictated by any foreign influence. By doing what they do they only polarize people and do nothing to improve life for Cubans. What they are doing will probably harden the government stance and make it worse for Cubans. Your Amnesty International by the way is against force feeding strikers. This guy Tamayo, the subject here I think, was a violent person. He seemed to like to attack people with a machete or knives or beat people up. This is no excuse for him to die, but that it seems was his choice, we will probably never know why he was determined to do it. You see no matter how you want to spin it he made that decision.

  55. Follow up post #55 added on March 03, 2010 by PDM with 12 total posts


    Loquasious diatribes of innane nonproductive eunuch blind sheep.

    Status Quo bull shit!

    Innocent people in Cuba and everywhere should speak up and say.” I AM MAD AS HELL AND I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

    Fidel and Raul and the 26th day of July movement felt like this once. However, that was a long time ago. Change happened and change should happen again. Like a tide, the Moon will rise and the waves will come marching in…..................Somewhere, somehow, a new Gallant Knight will shine under the new moon. The Cuban people deserve better!

  56. Follow up post #56 added on March 03, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Pipefitter as always applauding Castro no matter what…..
    “do it the smart way, not banging your head against the wall, confronting police…….”

    Could you pls enlighten us all about what you consider the “smart way”??
    Let’s see, what about if the dissidents sent letters to Castro asking him to Pls do not prosecute them anymore? Or what about if Yohani ask the immigration officer “ could you pls reconsider your decision of violating my human rights and let me fly to wherever I want”. Or the prisoner asks the guard “please do not beat me so hard….”

    Polarizing that is the word, Cubans have to polarize to get rid of this son of a bi…..

  57. Follow up post #57 added on March 03, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    The real Cubans, the knowledgable ones that are in Cuba, know how they have to bring about change, they don’t need us to tell them how. Obviously Yoani and the like don’t know how to do it.

  58. Follow up post #58 added on March 03, 2010 by robolucion with 33 total posts

    I’m glad that time is ticking for you left wing fascists. Enjoy socialism while it lasts, because real Cubans are ready to throw that crap out of the window when Castro dies.

  59. Follow up post #59 added on March 03, 2010 by PDM with 12 total posts

    The real Cubans you speak about are not the people that will be of any value in the future as thay are of no value in the present.

  60. Follow up post #60 added on March 04, 2010 by MiamiCuban with 87 total posts

    This is the same kind of bickering and nonsensical babbling that has been going on for 50 years.  You know why things don’t change?  Because people starving themselves to death won’t do anything except continue to divide Cubans, both inside and outside of the island.  Those of you on the right will, naturally, use Tamayo’s death as another feather in your cap, another reason to blame the government.  Hell, I bet you’d love to see 10,000 Tamayos.  In the end, the hunger-strike fad will go away.  But as long as the U.S. continues to be a declared enemy of Cuba, nothing will change.  U.S. taxpayer dollars will continue to be funneled to Cuba to support so-called dissidents, and when the Cuban government goes after these organizations, it will be accused of violation of free speech, etc., etc., etc., eventually there will be another hunger-strike phase, maybe even another wave of exiles hitting the rafts, and on and on the story goes.  And ten years from now bloggers on this site will still be advocating for tightening of measures against Cuba.  And of course they’ll be accusing others of being “U.S. haters” if they dare insinuate that there might be a bigger prism through which the U.S.-Cuba dilemma might be viewed.  Meanwhile, it’s the Cubans who suffer.

  61. Follow up post #61 added on March 04, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts


    It is just funny when you try to be rational.

    dividing Cubans? You mean the Cuban people and the Cuban government?

    I could go on but I hate engaging with disillusioned propagandists.

    Cuba consulting services

  62. Follow up post #62 added on March 04, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    To make positive change I am requesting that you take the USA out of the equation as I do on a continuous basis. Canada, Spain, France and others have encouraged Castro Inc. to make basic changes for civil liberties and at the same time maintained normal business relations with Cuba.
    Any sane person would agree that there has been ample opportunity for Castro Inc. to stop such antiquated policies that is not good for its citizens. Throughout the years, prominent world leaders such as Pierre Trudeau have pleaded with Fidel to implement change. They have done so without ulterior motives and with the best interests of all Cubans.
    So, MiamiCuban it is at this point that I ask you, how can the people of Cuba attain civil liberties without the threat of being put in jail?

  63. Follow up post #63 added on March 04, 2010 by MiamiCuban with 87 total posts

    I first have to say that I do like the way you engage in a discussion in a respectful manner.

    That said….in answer to your post, my first thought was:  Canada, Spain, and France have a very different relationship with the U.S.——and it is in their best interest to be “friendly” with the U.S., so their advice Castro, as good as it is on the surface, might have well been motivated by their own self-serving interests (meaning, we don’t know how genuine their advice was).  As for what I feel might bring betterment for the Cuban society?  I strongly feel that if we do away with the embargo, if we cease ALL attempts to fund “dissident” groups in Cuba, if we stop suing Cuba for petty things like spies marrying Miami Cubans under false pretenses…..if we stop provoking them into confrontations (i.e. remember the downing of the planes?)......if we allow Cuba to trade, buy, and sell as it pleases…...if we stop holding Cuba to higher standards than the rest of the world,  Cuba could focus their money and attention entirely on solving, first, their economic situation (which is primarily what fuels discontent in the first place).  Even a slight improvement in the economy would pave the way for more change…..we could very well see the flourishing of family businesses…...ideally, open-trade with Miami and the rest of the world.  As economic conditions improve, discontent would drop.  The less discontent among the populace, the more open the government would be….we’d likely see free speech and open debate.  Cuba could keep in place most of their socialized programs, like education and healthcare, while also opening up to small business.  None of this, however, could ever happen with the current hostilities toward Cuba.  It’s really very simple….if in your neighborhood there is a known thief-murderer lurking around, you’re probably going to have stringent curfews for your children, and at times perhaps not let them out at all.  When the threat is gone, the curfew is lifted.  Likewise, it’s only when we desist in being a threat to Cuba (whether real or perceived) that the lives of everyday Cubans will improve dramatically.

  64. Follow up post #64 added on March 04, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    First, let’s get back on track. This article is about the death of Orlando.

    Second, MiamiCuban, you live in a very different world than the rest of us. I guess you fail to see that Fidel and Raul NEVER want the Embargo lifted.

    I am sick and tied of you Communists blaming the US and never NEVER Fidel or Raul.

    When the US lifts the Embargo, the Castros would be gone in a year.

    Cuba consulting services

  65. Follow up post #65 added on March 04, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    This site is not about the USA but about Cuba.
    Stop using the same words Castro uses “everything that happens in Cuba is the US fault”
    Spot the continuous violation and abuses of human rights in Cuba.
    Stop using the pretext of US to prosecute pacific dissidents.
    If you are in favour of Castro them you are also in favour of the human rights violations in Cuba.

  66. Follow up post #66 added on March 04, 2010 by MiamiCuban with 87 total posts

    Sorry, but I don’t buy it.  It’s like trying to cure a migraine but refusing to look into what you’re eating.  The U.S. and Cuba have a symbiotic relationship that goes back centuries.  You cannot discuss Cuban politics without looking at it within the context of U.S. policies towards Cuba.

  67. Follow up post #67 added on March 04, 2010 by Marek with 49 total posts

    MiamiCuban offers an informed opinion, rational, with historical perspective and a reasonable set of proposals. The HJ regulars respond by calling him a Castro tool and useful idiot.  Yup. Pretty much the level of debate that exists in this forum. Too sad.

    We could just as easily respond with “capitalist tool” and “USA empire lover”. But that doesn’t ring quite right for the jingoistic crowd 90 miles north, eh?

  68. Follow up post #68 added on March 04, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Not that it matters but MiamiCuban is a female.

    She does not offer “informed opinion, rational, with historical perspective” but just propaganda and disillusioned commentary.

    I’m happy to be a “capitalist tool” and “USA empire lover”.

    Now, let’s get back to Orlando’s death.

    Nice try Marek, MiamiCuban and pipefitter to dilute the article as is your long time proven “debate” strategy.

    Cuba consulting services

  69. Follow up post #69 added on March 04, 2010 by MiamiCuban with 87 total posts

    Publisher:  How do you know I’m “female?”  Is this site just a way to spy on people?

  70. Follow up post #70 added on March 04, 2010 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    I’d like to add my opinions.

    First of all hunger strikes sometimes ending in the striker’s death have been used around the world incl in the USA and otehr western countries for a variety of reasons. Rarely do they get anything changed.
    But they do embarass the government big time, and the next one may be prevented from dying by forced feeding, but again rarely will the govt change to allow the striker to end his hunger strike.
    IMHO, I cant see the Cuban government making any sweeping changes in the short term, nor can I see an uprising to force change.
    But over the years Cuba has been changing.  For a communist country and a dictatorship ( I know some of you will disagree strongly to Cuba being a dictatorship) the Cuban people enjoy a surprising amount of freedom compared to , say, East Germany (communist country I was most familiar with) and I think this evolution will continue to develop, just a it has in China without the government being prepared to set the stage for its own
    Remember both the Castros are getting on in their years and once they are out of the picture, anything goes, from their replacement(s) continuing the same course or continuing the evolution to a democatic, yet still social system (I cant see it eveolving to a democatic capitalistic system, but could be way wrong there)

  71. Follow up post #71 added on March 04, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    Pierre Trudeau never danced to Washington’s tune and was the key person in opening normalized business relations with Cuba. If the USA wants to impose a trade embargo with Cuba that is their choice, quite frankly it is their loss, as it is quite clear that anything in the world is available on the open market, all it takes is money.

    I have been well aware that the unilateral embargo taken by Washington has not worked for the same reason that anything is available on the open market. It is also quite clear that Castro Inc. still does not get the urgent need to instill basic civil liberties as a part of their society. Quite frankly it is these basic reforms that would go a long way towards normalized relations with the USA. Don’t under estimate Obama’s willingness to have a peaceful relationship with Cuba.

    The unfortunate problem is that Castro Inc. continues to take an ignorant path. Basic reforms that such countries as Vietnam have taken is proof that change is attainable and better for a countries own citizens, This is not an extreme or new approach, it is about decency. Castro Inc. is in the way for a new and exciting future, not the U.S.A.

    Having said all of this, a full embargo including Canada and the E.U. seems to be the only action left. Also, there are certain provisions within the North American Free Trade Act that could force Mexico to take the same action. I would gladly sit down with the Cuban government to make the positive changes, in the spirit of co-operation that Fidel and Pierre Trudeau once had. Canadians are truly the key in making this happen, so let us help rather than forcing us to take an action that could truly hinder Cuba’s tourism industry.

  72. Follow up post #72 added on March 04, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts


    We exchanged emails a while back and somehow it came up in conversation. Didn’t mean anything by it.

    Just for the record, the only thing we know about our members is there user name, screen name, email address and IP address. We don’t ask for real names or any other information.

    All information is secure in a database and never used for outside purposes.

    Cuba consulting services

  73. Follow up post #73 added on March 04, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Havandrew, you say Cuba can buy items from countries other than the U.S. but as you may know, the U.S. has other impedaments, besides the embargo, to anyone trading with Cuba. ie the law that prevents ships that have stopped at a Cuban port from docking in the U.S. for a period of I think it was 180days. The law that prevents companies that have branches in the U.S. and other countries can’t sell to Cuba or they get fined. Funds can’t be transfered to and from Cuba for the same reason etc.

    Pub. If what you say is true, you say that the Castros don’t want the embargo lifted, so why doesn’t the U.S. gov. put the Castros in perril and lift it? Could it be that in the democratic U.S. the government is being controled, as we can see now with the health bill, by a mere 34 % of the elected representatives?

  74. Follow up post #74 added on March 04, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    The old exiles in Miami don’t want the Embargo lifted either. They would lose their power.

    Same reason Fidel and Raul don’t want it lifted.

    Really people, back to Orlando’s death.

    We’ve been over all this before… reality vs. propaganda stuff.

    Cuba consulting services

  75. Follow up post #75 added on March 04, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Well Pub, I am glad that you can now finaly see that the people on the left are talking reality.

  76. Follow up post #76 added on March 04, 2010 by MiamiCuban with 87 total posts

    I think that the fact we all keep straying from the topic of Orlando’s death speaks for itself.

  77. Follow up post #77 added on March 04, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    Havana Journal is a wonderful forum where persons from all sides of issues can express themselves, including some that I vehemently disagree with. Some of you have opinions that are one hundred and eighty degrees from that of the publisher. The publisher for the best interest of all Cubans has let some of the topics take detours. His patience is beyond reproach, yet none of us have been put in jail for our differing opinions.

    This type of dialogue is not a part of Cuban society, in fact it is grounds for charges that would put us in jail. So in order for someone within to promote change they have very few options. Hunger strikes are a desperate call for help.

    I will assure pipefitter, MiamiCuban and others that our friends and family on the island deeply appreciate all of our efforts to promote change in Cuba. They no longer want to be afraid, they want a better Cuba and many do not want to emigrate to the USA. PLEASE help make positive change.

  78. Follow up post #78 added on March 04, 2010 by MiamiCuban with 87 total posts

    You say that “Hunger strikes are a desperate call for help.”  That’s true.  And just how many hunger strikers are there in Cuba’s population of 11 million?

  79. Follow up post #79 added on March 04, 2010 by PDM with 12 total posts

    two too many

  80. Follow up post #80 added on March 04, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    HavanAndrew, If you speak spanish, look at Granma under “cartas a la direccion” you can see how Cubans are openly discussing problems with gov. etc., and how they would resolve them. They are not getting sent to jail. I am sure these ideas are being discussed quite freely around the island.

  81. Follow up post #81 added on March 05, 2010 by robolucion with 33 total posts

    Reading the comments by these useful idiots just makes me dislike socialism even more. Keep defending authoritarianism, and I’ll keep opposing your vitriol. You keep trying to paint left wing fascism with a rosy hue, like every typical leftist does.

    Just remember that if you call yourself a liberal and defend Cuban authoritarianism, you are actually a fascist. You try to play this role of “you guys just need to understand Cuban socialism”, but we know it’s trickery.

  82. Follow up post #82 added on March 05, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    Granma is full of great ideas? Only the select few have access to the internet in Cuba and they have that authority for a reason. So a debate between the select few is not an open debate. The real debates are within the confines of people’s homes. Quite frankly, Castro Inc. is done in the majority of minds, its just a matter of time.

  83. Follow up post #83 added on March 05, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Pipefitter….”look at Granma under “cartas a la direccion” you can see how Cubans are openly discussing problems with gov..”?
    Come on people, do you know that Granma is directly subordinated to the Revolutionary Orientation Department of the Communist Party of Cuba? Granma is the official diary of the PCC and all the high ranking bureaucrats are appointed by Castro directly.
    Every single word written on it is approved by Castro in person. One word wrongly spelled means that you no longer work for Granma.

    Cubans cannot openly or otherwise discuss their problems with the government; they cannot do it in Granma or in any other place, period. Cubans have to keep their problems for themselves.

    Do you really feel that all the conscience prisoners in Cuban jails today are common prisoners disguising as dissidents?

  84. Follow up post #84 added on March 05, 2010 by Cubana with 282 total posts

    Lets get one thing absolutely clear. Orlando Zapata LAID DOWN HIS LIFE for freedom in Cuba, just like that other great Cuban patriot Jose Marti. It is shameful to read pipefitter and marek and the other useful idiots and fellow travellers who post on this site already abusing his name. Shame on you!

  85. Follow up post #85 added on March 05, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Granma is a widely distributed newspaper that anyone can read. You can see that there are people arguing about the direction Cuba is going and signing their names to the letters in “cartas a la direccion” the same as in any newspaper.
    Orlando was a violent person, no doubt about it.

  86. Follow up post #86 added on March 05, 2010 by MiamiCuban with 87 total posts

    That he laid down his life, that much is 100% true.  That he did it for “freedom in Cuba”——NO ONE knows what what in his heart and mind.  It is sheer ignorance for anyone to claim they know.

  87. Follow up post #87 added on March 06, 2010 by robolucion with 33 total posts

    Defending left wing fascism…how progressive. You are no different than right wing fascists and their respective militants.

  88. Follow up post #88 added on March 06, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    Most deaths largely ignored
    The recent death by hunger strike of Orlando Zapata Tamayo is not a first-time event in Cuba. Sadly, we have records of another 12 political prisoners who died in hunger strikes during the Castro regime. More such deaths are probably unrecorded.

    The Cuban regime has launched an orchestrated campaign to portray Zapata as a dangerous criminal behaving bizarrely. Character assassination is a favored tactic to manipulate public opinion. But Amnesty International does not designate ``prisoners of conscience’’ lightly. In this case the facts are clear: The 42-year-old brick mason’s ``crimes’’ involved his peaceful opposition to a ruthless dictatorship.

    No free country jails anyone for ``disrespect to the figure of the Comandante’’ for signing petitions for change.

    Zapata turned to this extreme form of self-empowerment and protest when all other options had failed after years of unjust confinement, beatings, tortures and abuses. He demanded his safety and recognition as a prisoner of conscience, asking for no better treatment than the Batista dictatorship gave Fidel and Raúl Castro for leading the Moncada Army barracks attack. They enjoyed special privileges for political prisoners—comfortable living conditions, media interviews, visitors, plentiful reading materials, correspondence and participation in group sports. Moreover, Batista caved to public demands, and all attackers were freed in short order. Fidel served 18 months of a 15-year sentence.

    In contrast, during the 51-year Castro regime, political prisoners have typically been sentenced to decades in jail and sentences are often extended once completed. Treatment has been consistently appalling—hard labor, torture, beatings, malnourishment, denial of medical care, abuses of all kinds, and even killings at the hands of guards. Punishment cells are particularly horrifying.

    Hundreds of political prisoners at a time have resorted to hunger strikes to pressure a regime that only bends to suit its carefully crafted public image. Their ironclad conviction and willpower sometimes leads to improvements, often temporary.

    Cuba currently has around 200 political prisoners; many are so ill that their life is at stake. Ariel Sigler, 46, a former boxing champion, entered prison in 2003 strong and fit. Today, he is a near skeleton, paralyzed from the waist down and dying of an undiagnosed condition. His litany of ailments includes severe abdominal and throat pain, profuse rectal bleeding, intense headaches, painful urination and more.

    Mysterious illnesses

    Many prisoners in facilities islandwide develop a similarly mysterious pattern of illness beginning with impaired digestive absorption. The files of the defunct East German Secret Police, Stasi, reveal widespread cooperation with its Cuban counterparts, including training in repressing prisoners. Collaboration with former Communist Bulgaria reportedly centered on toxic substances. It is not farfetched to think that slow poisoning is part of the methodology of targeted terror. Prisoners have long reported tainted food and mysterious injections.

    Juan Carlos González Leiva heads the Cuban Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs, founded in 2007 to gather information on human-rights abuses throughout the island. Leiva reports around 250 penitentiary facilities and 300 police detention centers holding an estimated 100,000 people.

    Most are confined for economic crimes—primarily theft, ``sacrificing cattle’’ and black-market activities. Failed socialist central planning and state ownership of practically all means of production, coupled with an average monthly salary of $18, leave hardly any alternatives to secure basic sustenance. Hundreds also land in jail for the unique ``crime’’ of ``pre-criminal dangerousness,’’ a proclivity to disturb the social order. They would be considered political prisoners if their names and stories were known.

    Cuba’s prisons breed rampant disease, ghastly acts of self-mutilation, mental disorders and extreme suffering for prisoners and their families. Knowing exactly what goes on is impossible, however, because the Red Cross and international monitoring groups cannot inspect and the Cuban government provides no data.

    The Council monitors 40 prisons via reports from political prisoners, representing 16 percent of total penitentiaries. From 2007 to 2009, it reported at least 39 suicides or alleged suicides, 53 deaths for medical negligence and seven extrajudicial killings by guards.

    Most of the victims were young men, their stories ignored. In 2007, for example, Manuel Diende Rosa went on hunger strike at a Camagüey prison to demand his rights and reportedly committed suicide in a punishment cell. Extrapolating 99 deaths from 16 percent of monitored prisons and excluding police holding centers, we determine that 618 preventable deaths may have occurred in prisons from 2007 to 2009. This is alarming and widely ignored.

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