The death of the first Cuban political prisoner to die on hunger strike since 1972 is eliciting a combination of speechlessness and outrage on the web.
In an apt expression of this, Orlando Luis Pardo of Boring Home Utopics posts a series of solid black images, one after another, instead of words. Yoani Sanchez has posted a video she made of the prisoner's mother waiting outside the hospital where her son died. In it, Reina Luisa Tamayo calls her son's death a “premeditated murder.” This is a sentiment that others have echoed. “The Castro Brothers Have Returned to Murder!!!!” goes the headline of a widely tweeted post at El Tono De Voz.
Orlando Zapato Tamayo began the 86 day long strike on December 3rd, 2009, after a prison guard in the eastern province of Holguin beat him so brutally that the hematoma left on his head needed to be operated on. Initially, the director of that prison denied him water for 18 days, causing kidney failure. When he was transferred again, he contracted pneumonia. His last move was to the maximum security prison in Habana where he died.
Along the Malecon writes: in 2003 “he joined dissidents who were staging a hunger strike to try to pressure the socialist government to release prisoners. But then many of these protesters later wound up in jail themselves.”
The next year Zapato Tamayo was sentenced to 3 years of prison for contempt, public disorder, and disobedience. Once in prison, his term was extended to 36 years for “acts of disobedience.”
Former prisoner of conscience Jorge Luis García Pérez, reports Radio y Television Martí, said that this event “has caused enormous dismay throughout the country, not just among the opposition but also the whole population.”
It seems that some bloggers are hoping help make García Pérez’ prophecy a reality. As Uncommon Sense writes, “this is not a time for regrets but for action, to follow Zapata's example and continue the struggle against those who murdered him and for Cuban liberty.” A commenter at Diario de Cuba writes:
“Atencion estamos convocando una marcha mundial para el 13 de marzo del 2010 en favor de la libertad de todos los presos politicos cubanos, asi como la condena por la muerte de Orlando Zapata Tamayo.”
“Attention we are organizing a global march on March 13, 2010 for the release of all Cuban political prisoners, as well as a conviction in the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.”
Tienen razón al decir que fue un asesinato, pero los medios esconden al verdadero asesino: los grupúsculos cubanos y sus mentores trasnacionales. Zapata fue asesinado por la contrarrevolución.
They are right to say it was murder…but the media are hiding the real murderer: small Cuban groups and their international mentors. Zapata was murdered by the counterrevolution.
The party line, then, has a web presence too.
According to CNN Spanish reporter Daniel Vottio, there are guards surrounding the Tamayo household where the wake is being held. Sanchez tweets that dissidents are being kept from leaving their homes; her and others’ movements seems to be generally restricted.
Two other Cuban prisoners of conscience, Ariel Sigler Amaya and Normando Hernández González are also imprisoned and in poor health. What this augurs for them, and for Cuban civil society, is to be determined.