UPDATED, Aug. 19, 2010 — Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta was released from prison in August 2010 under a deal reached between Spain, the Catholic Church and the Castro dictatorship.
“I began to experience changes in my opinion of the reality in Cuba and all that surrounded me. I noticed that the only one who can live under the so called ‘socialism’ are the governmental parasites, i.e. high level government officials and those who have power. I understood the falsity of the state-authored slogans and the unsuccessful five-year plans, the lack of progress, thousands of Cubans trying to flee from the abstractions, the impositions and the supposed uniformity.” Juan Carlos Herrera (as quoted by the Cuban Political Prisoners Web site.)
This weekend, we remember Guillermo Fariñas and his hunger strike against the Castro regime.
However, generating even less publicity than Fariñas' protest — if that is even possible — is a hunger strike by Fariñas' colleague in the Cuban independent press, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta. Unlike Fariñas, Herrera, who was arrested March 20, 2003, as part of the "black spring" crackdown, is in prison. In April 2003, Herrera, 38, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on trumped-up charges that he violated Article 91 of the criminal code which forbids "undermining national independence and territorial integrity" and also Law 88 which punishes activities that serve the "imperialist ends" of the United States, including working for foreign media, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Herrera went on a hunger strike on March 4 to protest living conditions and medical treatment in prison.
“We are extremely worried about the health of both journalists,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper, referring to Herrera and Fariñas. “We call on the Cuban government to release all 24 journalists currently jailed for their work.”
According to RSF, this is at least Herrera's fourth hunger strike to protest conditions in prison. He also has carried out other protests, including cutting himself in the leg and resisting political "re-education" efforts by his jailers.
Herrera was previously arrested on Oct. 6, 1997, and sentenced to five years in prison for "illegally trying to leave the country" and "other offences against state security," according to RSF. He was conditionally released on Sept. 16, 2001.
For more on Uncommon Sense's March 18 Project, read here.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
Reporters Without Borders has an ongoing petition drive asking Castro to release independent journalists in prison. You can sign the petition here. (A technical note: Reporters Without Borders is based in Paris, so the confirmation e-mail you will receive after signing the petition will be in French. Just in case you don't read French, the confirmation e-mail asks you click on the link to complete the petition signature process. Castro won't receive your message until you click on the link.)
For more on the Cuban dissidents, including a chance to "adopt a dissident," see the Cuban American National Foundation's Web site.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is find and read the work of independent journalists still on the island. A place to find their articles, in Spanish, English and French, is CubaNet.