Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cuban dissident dies while on hunger strike

A prominent Cuban dissident who had been on a hunger strike since early December has died.

Yoani Sánchez and other Cuban bloggers reported Orlando Zapata Tamayo passed away earlier today. Zapata's mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, confirmed her son's death in a brief telephone interview with el Nuevo Herald in Miami and on a YouTube video on Sánchez's blog.

Authorities arrested Zapata, 42, along with more than 70 other dissidents in a 2003 crackdown. And Zapata began his hunger strike on Dec. 3, 2009, to protest what he described as beatings and other human rights abuses in the eastern Cuba prison in which he served a 36-year sentence.

"Orlando Zapata Tamayo has died on the eve of Raúl Castro's second anniversary in power," Sánchez tweeted earlier tonight. "We call for national mourning!"

Comisión de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional (or the Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation) reported authorities detained at least 23 people in Camaguey on Feb. 3 while they participated in a demonstration that called for Zapata's release. Amnesty International further reported CCDHRN said the authorities beat the demonstrators after they took them into custody.

"Orlando Zapata Tamayo's life has been added to a very long and painful list of names of valiant men and women who have given their entire lives for a free Cuba,"
a posting to Vocescubanas.com read.

This list unfortunately grew even longer with Zapata's tragic death.

Estoy en solidaridad con los cubanos que siguen hablando su verdad desde su patria. I stand in solidarity with those Cubans who continue to speak their truth from within their homeland.

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