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Cuba: Resorting to Hunger Strike

Cuban netizens, primarily from the diaspora, are once again blogging about instances of police abuse in the country and how the island's justice system routinely makes hunger-strikers out of prisoners of conscience.

Uncommon Sense republishes a report from the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy about “a recent clash between the Castro police and a large crowd of Cuban citizens who in one instance, said no to repression”, while babalu notes that:

The repression against Cuba's Ladies in White, a peaceful group of human rights activists continues without abatement.

In a later post, babalu adds:

It is news that unfortunately has become routine every Monday morning: The women members of the peaceful Cuban human rights group the Ladies in White arrested by Castro State Security agents for attempting to attend Sunday church services.

Imprisoned dissident and former member of the Black Spring “Group of 75″, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, continues to get lot of attention from the Cuban blogosphere – even more so after his “Me están asesinando” (“They are killing me”) testimony, which Blog for Cuba carries here [ES]. The statement from Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU) (the Patriotic Union of Cuba) refers to Ferrer's commencement of a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment. Uncommon Sense explains that:

No formal charges have been filed against Ferrer, but the authorities have accused him of ‘public disorder’ and ‘convening marches,’ his role as the national leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba.

Ferrer was one of the Group of 75 dissidents sentenced to lengthy prison terms during the ‘black spring’ of 2003, and whose release was part of a deal struck by the Catholic Church, the government of Spain and the Castro regime. However, Ferrer and 11 others were the last to be released because they had rejected overseas exile as a condition of their release.

That's right, Ferrer had a chance to leave Cuba with his family, but he chose to stay and to fight for freedom.

Which is why tonight, he is jail.

And which is why again, he is laying his life on for that fight.

Pedazos de la Isla posts an update explaining how other activists on the island are mobilizing to support Ferrer and other prisoners of conscience:

During this past week (and weekend), a number of dissidents throughout the island have carried out different kinds of protests- from pots and pan demonstrations to strikes- demanding the release from prison of various political prisoners/detainees, among them Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia (arrested on April 2nd after the political police raided his home), Jorge Vazquez Chaviano (detained on March 27th as he was trying to travel to Havana from Santa Clara to assist the Papal Mass), Niurka Luque Alvarez (a Lady in White who was arrested on March 16th while she protested against a forced eviction in Havana) and Sonia Garro Alfonso (arrested after being shot at by police agents with rubber bullets).

The demonstrators declared that they would fast (only eating during the night) and they hung signs outside the house with the names of those unjustly arrested.

Human rights activist Guillermo Farinas reported on his Twitter account (@Chirusa32) that, at around 9:30 PM on Sunday, the former political prisoner Librado Linares, a resident of Villa Clara, suffered a ‘violent act of repudiation (…) for putting up signs outside his house demanding freedom for Jose Daniel Ferrer and others’. Later, it was confirmed that Linares was physically assaulted by regime-organized mobs. However, he was not detained.

Generation Y says that she “knew they would go after him”:

José Daniel, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), is today State Security’s main headache in the East of the country. He occupies that place — admirable but dangerous — in part because his every word projects honesty and determination. Good-natured, young, conciliatory, he has managed to revive a dissident movement languishing between repression and the exile of some of its members. His drawing power, and the respect many have for him, comes also from his perseverance and, in particular, from the fact that he is quicker to embrace than to distrust. He has become a human-bridge between several citizen projects and, right now, that makes him a sharp stone in the Cuban government’s shoe.

For 23 days this tireless Santiaguan has been detained. His wife, Belkis Cantillo, still has no information about how much longer he will be under arrest, or even if they plan to file legal charges. Some of us, his friends, have a bad feeling. José Daniel Ferrer has come to have an ability to call people together that frightens the Cuban authorities and they will punish him harshly for that.

But Ferrer is not the only prisoner on hunger strike – Uncommon Sense reports that:

Cuban political prisoner Luis Enrique Labrador has [also] started a hunger strike to demand that prison guards who beat him recently are punished by their superiors.

For many jailed dissidents, the hunger strike appears to be the last-resort method of protest in Cuba.

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