Cuba and the cause of freedom need men like Guillermo Fariñas to live. They are the future of the country.
As Zapata's death shows, the murdering Castro dictatorship is in no mood to negotiate with its opponents, so a hunger strike is potentially a suicide mission. All it is worried about is the potential public relations damage caused by having a political prisoner die while in its custody, so it goes through the motions of trying to save their lives.
But as the somewhat tepid response in many international circles shows, there isn't much for the dictatorship to worry about.
Still, argues human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez, the dictatorship will do whatever it takes to keep Fariñas and other hunger strikers alive because it is worried about the "domino effect" another death would cause. Fariñas' death would be "a disaster for everyone," Sanchez said.
Sanchez may have a point, if only because the dictatorship's only interest is its self-preservation.
The desperation the hunger strikers feel is understandable. They have no other way to fight back other than with their lives. Other methods of protest in the face of such an intractable foe, have proven similarly futile.
The blame for that desperation, for the conditions that Fariñas is trying to defeat, lies squarely with the thieves, thugs and murderers in charge of the Castro dictatorship. They are at fault, they are the guilty, they are the ones who have ripped the soul of a nation and driven its bravest citizens to the brink of death and beyond.
Protest by suicide is horrific.
However, I refuse to judge Fariñas and others who have started hunger strikes this week, and instead I admire them for their courage and their commitment to the cause, and I pray for them.
Theirs is a selfless cause. Fariñas is not demanding anything for himself, telling the Spanish newspaper Diario Público that he will end his protest once the dictatorship releases from its gulag political prisoners who are seriously ill.
It is the least he can do, he says, to demonstrate that Zapata's death was not an accident but the result of the Castro regime's cruelty.
Cuba, however, does not need any more martyrs.
Cuba needs its heroes, like Fariñas and Zapata, to be strong, to be alive, to lead.
Fariñas, a survivor of many prior hunger strikes, knows the risks he is taking. He is even hastening the effects by also refusing to ingest any liquids.
His body already weakened by his previous protests, Fariñas knows the odds are against him.
"I am convinced, and I am pessimistic. I could die within days," he tells the Spanish paper.
"They will not budge an inch but neither will I."
Read the whole interview with Fariñas here.
UPDATED, 6:50 p.m. EST — I updated the original post with some information posted at the increasingly invaluable Punt de Vista blog, which published this recent photo, shot by the Efe press agency of Spain.