Thursday, August 18, 2016

Deteriorating health of Cuban dissident on hunger strike worries international observers

Deteriorating health of Cuban dissident on hunger strike worries
international observers
By Elizabeth Llorente Published August 16, 2016Fox News Latino

Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas is on the fourth week of a hunger
strike, and his health continues to deteriorate, his mother told Fox
News Latino in a telephone interview from Cuba.

Fariñas started his hunger strike in July, he told FNL last week, after
he was beaten by Cuban police for inquiring about another dissident.
Fariñas said that his condition for ending the hunger strike is that
Cuban government stop beating dissidents who peacefully demonstrate for
human rights.

The U.S. government, the Vatican, political leaders from around the
world and Cuba policy groups have been monitoring Fariñas' condition,
well aware that a turn for the worse as far as his health could have
far-reaching ramifications for the still-fragile restoration of
diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

The 54-year-old has lost about 30 lbs. and has low blood pressure, a
slow pulse and reduced heart rate, according to his mother, Alicia
Hernandez Cabeza, who is a nurse. Others who have visited the dissident
have also described a decline in his condition.

"He needs help to get out of bed, he is extremely weak," Hernandez
Cabeza said Tuesday. "The injuries from the beating the police here put
him through are slowly healing, but he is dehydrated and has muscle
fatigue and is barely awake."

Fariñas, who has won numerous international human rights awards and has
met with President Barack Obama at least twice to discuss the lack of
personal freedoms in Cuba, has been hospitalized twice since he began
the hunger strike.

"For a mother, there is no comparison to seeing a son or daughter
suffer, to see them in this condition," Hernandez Cabeza said. "I am by
his side until midnight or 1 a.m. every night. I come home and then the
next day, early in the morning, I am back at his side."

"I pray to the saints for my son," she said. "There is no talking him
out of going on a hunger strike or fighting for liberty and human
rights. When he started the hunger strike, it upset him greatly when
people told him to stop for his health. I see that he gets very
agitated, and I don't want his health worsening because of the stress."

Fariñas – a dissident who has gone on about two dozen hunger strikes,
barely surviving some of them – has served a total of about 11 years as
a political prisoner in Cuban jails.

In recent weeks, representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Havana, the
Vatican, as well as others, have visited Fariñas.

Fariñas has been a vocal opponent of the Obama administration's move to
restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, saying that President Raúl
Castro has not ended the repression on the island. Fariñas says the
harassment of dissidents continues unabated.

He called Obama's decision to restore relations with Cuba a betrayal of
a promise the president made to him and other dissidents that held that
there would be no change in U.S.-Cuba policy without their input and

"He seems very serious about taking this to the end," Sebastian A.
Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida
International University, told FNL. "The human implication of someone of
the value of Fariñas dying is very dramatic. He represents so much of
the new Cuba that many there want to build, which is not the one
[President] Raúl Castro is building."

"Politically speaking, if he dies as a result of this hunger strike,
it's going to essentially put the entire process of the normalization of
diplomatic relations into question," Arcos said. "It's going to put into
question the entire idea that the way for democratic nations to deal
with Cuba is diplomacy and that it will force a change in the nature of
the Cuban regime."

Obama wants the decades-long trade embargo against Cuba to be lifted,
but many in Congress, which Republicans control, are opposed to removing
it until Castro takes steps toward implementing democratic changes,
including allowing freedom of speech and holding legitimate elections.

While some significant economic reforms have taken hold in recent months
– such as the ability of many Cubans to start businesses, and the
ability of dissidents such as Fariñas to travel outside Cuba – the
Castro government has staunchly resisted giving its citizens many basic

Elizabeth Llorente is the Politics Editor/Senior Reporter for Fox News
Latino, and can be reached at
Follow her on

Source: Deteriorating health of Cuban dissident on hunger strike worries
international observers | Fox News Latino -

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