Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cuban hunger striker who sewed lips shut hospitalized

Posted on Thursday, 09.23.10
Cuban hunger striker who sewed lips shut hospitalized
The Cuban dissident who sewed his mouth shut to prove he was on a hunger
strike fainted amid spasms, according to a report.

A Cuban dissident who sewed his lips shut after doctors made fun of his
hunger strike was taken to a hospital Wednesday suffering from
convulsions and blackouts, an independent journalist reported.

Vladimir Alejo Miranda, 47, stopped eating 62 days ago, sewed his mouth
Sept. 5 and stopped drinking water Tuesday, journalist Heriberto Liranza
Romero told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana.

Alejo's wife, Rita Montes de Oca, joined his hunger strike and also
sewed her lips Sept. 12 with regular sewing thread and a needle, the
journalist said.

Alejo was taken to a hospital in the Havana municipality of Guanabacoa
on Wednesday after he blacked out and went into convulsions, Liranza
added. No independent confirmation was immediately available.

He was receiving intravenous fluids and could be sent home or
transferred to a larger hospital depending on his condition, Liranza
said. Alejo and his wife also suffer from infections around the lips.

About 15 Cubans sewed their lips together in recent memory to protest
against the communist government, said Ricardo Bofill, a founder of the
Cuban Committee for Human Rights now living in Miami.

``It's a kind of extreme sacrifice, very rare although it has been done
on a few occasions,'' Bofill said.

Próspero Gaínza Agüero, arrested in the 2003 crackdown on 75 dissidents
known as Cuba's Black Spring and sentenced to 25 years, sewed his lips
for several days in 2004 to protest prison conditions.

Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, arrested in the same roundup and sentenced
to 20 years, did the same in 2008 to demand his transfer to a prison
closer to his home in eastern Guantánamo province.

Both were freed and sent to Spain in recent weeks as part of a Cuban
government promise in July to release 52 political prisoners, the last
of the 75 still jailed. About two dozen were freed for health reasons.

Alejo, a former political prisoner, is president of the Human Rights
Movement Miguel Valdés Tamayo, named after a dissident who was jailed in
the 2003 crackdown, was released in 2004 because of ill health and died
in 2007.

Jobless because of his political activism, Alejo went on a hunger strike
to demand the right to work, the right to receive assistance from abroad
and live ``like a human being, not an animal,'' Liranza said.

He's been taken to hospitals several times since he stopped eating, the
journalist added, and has received about 30 bags of intravenous liquids
but never before suffered convulsions.

Alejo sewed his lips together after doctors made fun of his hunger
strike during one of the hospital visits, telling him that a good meal
could fix whatever was ailing him, Liranza added.

``I call on the international community to raise the alarm for the
condition of Vladimir Alejo Miranda and his wife,'' Liranza told the
Miami-based Cuban Democratic Directorate, which supports dissidents on
the island.

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