Cuba rejects hunger striker’s ‘blackmail’

Cuba says it will not be
“blackmailed” by a dissident journalist who is on hunger strike to
seek the release of ailing political prisoners.

Guillermo Farinas, 48, began his
action after Orlando Zapata Tamayo died while on hunger strike in jail.

Communist Party newspaper Granma,
which reflects government policy, said it would not bow to pressure.

It said Western media were
“calling attention to a prefabricated lie” by reporting his case.

“Cuba, which has demonstrated
many times its respect for human life and dignity, will not accept pressure or
blackmail,” the newspaper said.

Mr Farinas says he will continue to
refuse food and water until the Cuban authorities release the country’s 26 most
vulnerable and ailing political prisoners.

He has said he is not seeking the
overthrow of the government or greater freedom of expression in the country.

“I say to them – either they
free the 26 political prisoners who are sickest, or nothing. I am going to
stick to my position to the end,” he said.

But Granma said Mr Farinas was
“an agent in the service of the United States”, Cuba’s foe and added:
“It is not medicine that must resolve a problem created with the intent to
discredit our political system but the patient himself and the stateless
people, foreign diplomats and the media who manipulate him”.

Mr Farinas began his strike on 24
February, a day after Zapata died following an 85-day hunger strike to protest
at prison conditions.

The case of Zapata, whom human
rights campaign group Amnesty International declared a prisoner of conscience,
drew widespread international condemnation and calls for the release of all
Cuba’s detained political dissidents.

His death marked the first time in
nearly 40 years that a Cuban activist had starved himself to death to protest
against government abuses.