Cuban independent journalist Ramón Velásquez Toranzo, accompanied by his wife and daughter, on Dec. 10 began walking across Cuba to denounce the Castro regime's human rights record and to demand the release of political prisoners.
He is now one of those prisoners, arrested Jan. 24 and imprisoned since Jan. 26 at the provincial prison in Las Tunas. He has been charged with being a "pre-criminal social danger," which typically carries a prison term of 1 to 4 years.
But the authorities seem willing to make a deal — if they can only get Velásquez and his family to go along.
Family members told journalist Guillermo Fariñas prison officials attempted to blackmail them in order to stop a hunger strike Velásquez started when he was arrested, according to a story posted at CubaNet.
Fariñas reported State Security officers visited Velásquez's grandmother and son and offered them the chance to visit the prisoner — on the condition they take him food and ask him to end his protest.
Velásquez's wife, Bárbara González, was denied a chance to visit her husband, but a prison official told her that Velásquez would be released if he began eating, according to Fariñas' story.
The blackmail did not work.
Velásquez's son reported back that his father was continuing his protest, and that his spirit was strong.
UPDATED, May 5, 2009
Ramón Velásquez is currently serving a 3-year sentence after being convicted of "social dangerousness.
UPDATED, March 3, 2010 — Velázquez was released from jail Jan. 19, 2010, after completing his sentence.