Wife of top Cuban dissident says he launched hunger strike to protest
The wife of José Daniel Ferrer García said he began the hunger strike to
protest his detention.
By Juan O. Tamayo
Cuba's most aggressive dissident, José Daniel Ferrer García, freed only
last spring after eight years in prison, has declared a hunger strike to
protest his three weeks in police custody without charges, his wife
Ferrer's wife, Belkis Cantillo, told human rights activists that during
her visit to Ferrer in a state security interrogation center in eastern
Santiago de Cuba he told her, "they are killing me slowly" before a
guard abruptly cut off the visit.
The dissident quickly shouted that he was going on a hunger strike, said
Havana human rights activists Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz, who noted
that Cantillo telephoned him around 1 p.m. Monday, shortly after the
Cantillo's home and cellular phones appeared to be blocked, and El Nuevo
Herald could contact her as of late Monday, but blogger Yoani Sánchez
also Tweeted that Cantillo had reported her husband's hunger strike.
Ferrer, 41, has been a thorn in the communist government's side over the
past year, organizing almost weekly protest marches in his hometown of
Palmarito del Cauto and nearby Palma Soriano, 18 miles from Santiago,
which drew unusually harsh police crackdowns.
He founded the dissident Cuban Patriotic Union and worked closely with
Ladies in White in eastern Cuba as they were repeatedly detained while
trying to attend Sunday masses in the Santiago Cathedral and the Virgin
of Charity basilica in the nearby village of El Cobre.
Ferrer was one of the 75 peaceful dissidents arrested in a 2003
crackdown known as Cuba's Black Spring, and was sentenced to 25 years in
prison. Cuba branded them as "mercenaries" on the U.S. payroll.
Cuban ruler Raúl Castro agreed in a 2010 dialogue with Catholic Cardinal
Jaime Ortega Alamino to free the last 52 of the 75 still in jail.
Virtually all agreed to go into exile in Spain with their relatives, but
Ferrer and 11 others insisted in remaining in Cuba.
Ferrer and 42 other dissidents were arrested April 2 during street
protests in Palmarito and Palma. The others were freed hours later, but
Ferrer was transferred to the provincial capital. The Castro government
has made no public comment on his arrest.
Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, last week
added Ferrer to its list of "prisoners of conscience, detained only for
peacefully exercising their right to free speech," and expressing
concern that he might be forced to serve the rest of his 25-year sentence.
Sánchez Santa Cruz said Cantillo told him that the guard cut short her
visit when Ferrer began to make political statements, because only
family issues are supposed to be discussed during such meetings.
Cantillo described Ferrer as having lost much weight and quoted him as
saying, "They are killing me slowly" in a reference to the notorious
swarms of mosquitoes that plague the state security interrogation
center, the human rights activist added.