Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Freedom House

( Washington – February 23, 2011 –

It is with great sadness that Freedom House marks the one-year
anniversary of Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo's death.
On February 23, 2010, the 42-year-old political prisoner died after more
than 80 days on a hunger strike, which he began in protest of prison
conditions in Cuba. Freedom House recognizes the enormous impact that
Mr. Zapata Tamayo had on exposing abuses suffered by Cuban prisoners.

In 2003, Mr. Zapata Tamayo was arrested and sentenced to three years in
prison. Although not part of the group of 75 dissidents rounded up
during Cuba's "Black Spring" in March of that year, Amnesty
International declared him a "prisoner of conscience" soon after his
detention. His courageous dedication to denouncing prison abuses
resulted in several additional prison sentences, totaling 36 years,
along with alleged beatings and torture by prison guards.

"Mr. Zapata Tamayo's death is a glaring example of the Cuban
government's continued blatant disregard for human rights," said Paula
Schriefer, advocacy director at Freedom House. "Freedom House strongly
urges the Cuban government to respect Cuban citizens' right to peaceably
congregate in celebration of Zapata Tamayo's life and to mourn his
death. Today serves as a solemn reminder that the struggle for basic
rights in Cuba must continue; not just for Cubans, but for people

Freedom House condemns the increasing harassment that Zapata Tamayo's
family and other well-known dissidents have reported suffering leading
up to the anniversary of his death. Reina Luisa Tamayo, Orlando Zapata
Tamayo's mother, has been prevented from organizing activities in her
son's memory. According to most recent reports, Reina and her husband,
Jesus Ortiz, were detained and beaten over a 12-hour period on Friday
February 18.

Freedom House consistently ranks Cuba among the world's worst regimes.
Cuba is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's
annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in
Freedom of the Press 2010. The island nation also received the lowest
ranking in Freedom on the Net, a Freedom House study of internet freedom
in 15 countries released in 2009.

For more information on Cuba, visit:

Freedom in the World 2010: Cuba

Freedom of the Press 2010: Cuba

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports
democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and
advocates for democracy and human rights.

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