Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cuban dissident passes 1 week on hunger strike

Posted on Monday, 09.17.12

Cuban dissident passes 1 week on hunger strike
Associated Press

HAVANA -- A prominent Cuban dissident completed her first week on a
hunger strike with supporters saying her condition is worsening each day
and they fear she might die. Pro-government bloggers, meanwhile,
denounced the strike as a sham.

Martha Beatriz Roque, a 67-year-old, state-trained economist turned
dissident leader, was in a "very delicate" condition, said Idania Yanez,
a supporter who was standing vigil at her Havana home.

"We are afraid that at any moment something bad could happen," she said.
"Thank God nothing fatal has happened, but this is destroying her."

Roque, who suffers from diabetes, launched her strike on Sept. 10 and
dissidents say she has been joined by more than two dozen others around
the country.

She is demanding the government release a little-known opposition
prisoner who she says was due to leave jail more than a week ago, among
other things.

Roque has refused food, and has stopped taking medication, adding to
concern about her condition.

The government, which considers all dissidents common criminals paid by
Washington to stir up trouble, has declined repeated requests for comment.

But pro-government bloggers have expressed doubts that Roque's hunger
strike is legitimate, saying they interviewed doctors who examined her
and noted no decline in her condition.

One blogger, H.M. Lagarde, described the episode as a soap opera and
noted that in a previous hunger strike Roque had reportedly received
last rites, only to re-emerge apparently healthy days later.

"It wouldn't be surprising if now, as then, Martha Beatriz, surprised us
with another of her resurrections," he wrote on his blog.

Cuba's small opposition community has already lost two of its leaders in
less than a year. Veteran dissident Oswaldo Paya was killed in a car
accident in July, and Ladies in White founder Laura Pollan died of heart
failure in October 2011.

Two other Cuban opposition figures have died in hunger strikes in recent
years. Wilman Villar died in January following a 50-day hunger strike he
called to protest his four-year sentence for assault, resisting arrest
and disrespecting authority.

In February 2010, Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after refusing food for
months. He was considered a prisoner of conscience by U.K.-based human
rights group Amnesty International.

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