The family of the late Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata, who died last year while on hunger strike, was granted permission to emigrate to the United States.
“We do not yet know when we are leaving, but on the part of (Cuban authorities) we already have a passport and an exit permit,” said Zapata’s mother Reina Luisa Tamayo.
Last month, Tamayo and 12 relatives were granted political asylum visas that allow them to travel to the United States.
Tamayo, 62, said the family is now awaiting news from US authorities on the date of the flight. First, they plan to exhume and incinerate Zapata’s remains, which are buried in Banes, about 800 kilometers east of Havana.
‘I leave with great pain and great feeling, because this is my homeland. I leave it to save the four children I have left and my grandchildren, but otherwise I would have kept up my fight with the internal opposition in Cuba until I attained what my son longed for so much, which is freedom and democracy for all Cubans,’ Tamayo said.
Zapata, a bricklayer by training and a member of a small dissident organization, died on February 23, 2010, after an 83-day hunger strike. Dissident sources said he had been protesting mistreatment in jail and demanded to be regarded as a prisoner of conscience.
The authorities of communist Cuba, however, said he was a common prisoner who suffered no torture, got suitable medical care and instead went on strike to demand a kitchen, a telephone and a television set in his cell.
Zapata’s death led to international uproar against the government of Cuban President Raul Castro. The Castro government denounced what it perceived as a ‘media campaign’ against Havana orchestrated by the United States and the European Union.
In recent months, Zapata’s mother had complained of various instances of harassment by Cuban government supporters in Banes.