Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Health of Cuban hunger striker deteriorates

Health of Cuban hunger striker deteriorates
28 Jun 2010 21:59:35 GMT
Source: Reuters
* Hunger striker has several health problems
* Death could bring new condemnation of Cuba
* Cuba says doing everything possible to keep him alive

By Esteban Israel

HAVANA, June 28 (Reuters) - Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas is getting
weaker and his health deteriorating after more than four months of a
hunger strike seeking the release of ailing political prisoners, his
doctor said on Monday.

The 48-year-old psychologist, who has vowed to die if the government
does not accede to his demands, has fever, swelling and a blood clot
near his jugular vein that could be life-threatening, physician Ismel
Iglesias told Reuters.

"His general state is bad. If the clot breaks loose, he could have a
stroke and die," he said.

Farinas has refused to eat or drink since the day after the Feb. 23
death of another dissident hunger striker, Orlando Zapata Tamayo. He has
spoken freely with reporters throughout his 125-day hunger strike, but
was not taking calls on Monday.

Zapata's death, which followed 85 days without food in a quest for
better prison conditions, provoked international condemnation of human
rights in Cuba.

Farinas' death will likely prompt a similarly "vigorous international
reaction," said Elizardo Sanchez of the independent Cuban Commission on
Human Rights.

The communist-led government has been working to repair its image by
slightly easing its policies toward dissidents and working with the
Catholic church to improve conditions for some of its estimated 190
political prisoners.

One prisoner has been released and 12 others transferred to jails closer
to their homes. Church officials say they are hoping for more releases
in the near future.

Farinas initially demanded the release of 26 political prisoners, but
has recently said he may drop his hunger strike if a dozen are freed.

President Raul Castro, who called Farina's hunger strike an
"unacceptable blackmail," has said his government is doing everything
possible to save Farinas and will not be responsible if he dies.

Farinas has been receiving liquids intravenously at a Cuban hospital
since collapsing on March 11.

Castro has blamed the United States for the hunger strikes, saying both
Zapata and Farinas were "common criminals" who turned political to get
material support from U.S. programs that aid Cuban dissidents.

Cuba considers dissidents to be mercenaries working with the United
States and other enemies to undermine the communist-led government.
(Editing by Jeff Franks and Todd Eastham)


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