Orlando Zapata Tamayo
By the time you read this, Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo may be dead.
An unconscious Zapata on Tuesday was rushed from Amalia Simoni hospital in Camagüey to the National Hospital in Havana, according to a report from human rights activist/independent journalist Juan Carlos González Leiva.
Except for hospitalizing Zapata — and arresting a few dozen activists who marched in support of him — the dictatorship has ignored his protest and given no indication that it would meet his demands. The transfer, however, indicates that officials may be worried that a political prisoner may be about to die while in their custody, something the regime generally tries to avoid when it tortures a captive.
Zapata, a political and human rights activist imprisoned since the "black spring" of 2003, started a hunger strike Dec. 3 after he was transferred to the notorious Kilo 8 prison in Camagüey. He had been demanding a move back to the Holguín provincial prison and a general respect for his human rights.
The effects of the hunger strike have left Zapata critically ill, but he has stuck with his protest despite pleas from his mother and others. Against his will, doctors have been trying to feed him intravenously.
His mother, who was not allowed to accompany Zapata to Havana, said he lost consciousness on Sunday.
"The doctor told me he could die at any moment," said Reina Luisa Tamayo, who has pleaded for weeks for the international community to intervene on her son's behalf. "This prolonged hunger strike that began Dec. 3 to demand a better prison has killed my son."
Protest by suicide is not acceptable. The struggle for Cuban liberty needs Zapata to be alive, not another martyr.
But Zapata has fought back against the Castro tyranny with his only weapon: His life. In doing so, he has challenged others to try to save it by demanding of the dictatorship that his demands be met.
We may have failed, but only because of the ruthlessness and callousness of the Castro dictatorship.
Zapata has carried on his protest willingly. However, if he succumbs, make no mistake: His death will be on the hands of those who imprisoned him.
All the way to the top.
Read more, here.
Listen to an interview with Sra. Tamayo, here.