Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cuban hunger striker Fariñas leaves hospital

Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas, whose long hunger strike helped pressure the Cuban government into releasing political prisoners, left the hospital, not fully recovered, but ready to resume his life of opposition. Three weeks after ending his 135-day fast, Fariñas said in a telphone interview he felt "diminished" and still cannot walk well.
He stopped eating and drinking on Feb. 24 and ended the strike on July 8, a day after the government pledged to release 52 jailed dissidents in a deal with the Catholic Church.
His hunger strike added to international criticism of the Cuban government that followed the Feb. 23 death of imprisoned dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the harassment of the opposition group "Ladies in White" during protest marches.
The 48-year-old psychologist and writer collapsed on March 11 and from then on received nutrients and liquids intravenously in a hospital in his hometown of Santa Clara, 168 miles (270 km) east of Havana.
Fariñas, speaking from Santa Clara, told reporters he is eating "small quantities" of food and remains under treatment for a blood clot in his neck that doctors had described as life-threatening.
He said he would spend his first week out of the hospital giving interviews to the international press, then resume his work of editing and writing for a dissident blog.
So far, 20 of the promised 52 prisoners have been released in a process the church said could take four months.
Fariñas said he is prepared to re-launch his hunger strike if the prisoners are not all freed by Nov. 7.
"We're going to wait until the 7th of November to see if the government honours the word it gave to the Catholic Church and to national and international public opinion," he said.
Fariñas had conducted 22 previous hunger strikes, including a seven-month strike seeking improved Internet access.
Cuban officials consider dissidents to be US-backed mercenaries working to subvert the island's communist-led government.

From: Buenos Aires Herald 

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