Cuba Post-‘Normalization’: Tortured Dissident Begins 24th Hunger Strike to Protest
Guillermo Fariñas, a Cuban human rights activist who has been a vocal critic of President Barack Obama’s concessions to dictator Raúl Castro, has declared himself on a hunger strike following a severe beating in which communist agents tortured him for hours for daring to inquire about the status of another dissident in custody.
Fariñas has posted a video online describing the injuries he suffered this week at the hands of Castro’s police. Fariñas and a group of dissidents had walked to a police station to inquire about a dissident recently arrested: Carlos Amel Oliva, currently himself on a hunger strike.
Fariñas notes that they did not assemble in protest; they made no public declarations against communism, held up no signs and brought no flyers to distribute urging dissent. He was nonetheless arrested and tortured, suffering two fractured ribs and speaking through a swollen, “black” tongue.
In the video, he describes the methods of torture: Attempted asphyxiation, elbow blows to the ribs, and having his tongue pulled out until it turned purple. The police, he said, told him “it was important for me to know… they didn’t want me on the street anymore.”
“He told me he was going to kill me and ‘viva Fidel,'” Fariñas adds, calling the torture “crimes against humanity.”
Fariñas will not eat or drink water, he declares, until “Raúl Castro says publicly to everyone that there will be no more torture, no more beatings, no more death threats, no more false charges against opposition and arbitrary confiscation.” He confirms to the cameraman that he is willing to die in protest.
Fariñas has also penned an open letter to Raúl Castro in which he asserts that a wave of “abuse, terror, and violence by the repressive authorities of your government” has escalated in the past 19 months, since President Obama announced his concessions to the Castro regime in December 2014.
Fariñas, who in 2010 won the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for human rights advocacy and the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in 2015, has been an outspoken critic of President Obama. Following the initial announcement of the beginning of the “normalization” process in 2014, Fariñas said he felt “betrayed” by President Obama. “We live in daily fear that we will be killed by the fascist government. And now, the US – our ally – turns its back on us and prefers to sit with our killers,” he said.
In October, Fariñas threatened a hunger strike, then reported this would-be 25th (in the video released this week, Fariñas clarified this ongoing one is his 24th). “They have changed for the worse because the repression has hardened,” he said of the Obama administration. If the Castro regime “crossed the line,” he would stop eating, he promised.
Fariñas is currently forced to take eleven medications for life to delay the damage his previous hunger strikes have done on his body, and he cannot wear closed-toed shoes because his blood clots extremely easily following the strikes.
Increased state repression and confiscation of salaries of those working for foreign corporations have driven the number of Cubans seeking refuge in the United States to quintuple in the last five years, with a notable spike following Obama’s diplomatic push.