Cuban Dissident’s Mom Fears Government Will Steal His Remains
SANTO DOMINGO – The mother of Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died last month after a hunger strike, said Tuesday that she fears the remains of her son will be stolen by the authorities of the communist-ruled island.
One month after her son died she still has not been given his death certificate nor the results of the autopsy, Reyna Tamayo told Dominican radio station Zol 106.5 by telephone from Cuba.
She demands that the Raul Castro regime have the body disinterred so that an investigation can be carried out to determine the causes of death, which came after he mounted an 85-day hunger strike to demand that authorities acknowledge his status as a prisoner of conscience.
“They’re a bunch of cynics. I don’t have the death certificate of my son, I don’t have any autopsy results. I need them – I don’t know exactly what my son died of,” she said.
She also said that she fears for the safety of her family, particularly that of her children.
Even so, she said, the Ladies in White, an organization comprising relatives of political prisoners, “will keep fighting.”
“The Ladies in White, we will keep on marching, we’ll keep demanding freedom for our brothers who are in jail, and we’re not afraid,” Tamayo said.
Reyna Tamayo also repeated her charge that Zapata was beaten and tortured in prison and said that the Castro government “has wanted to get rid of him for a long time.”
“They stopped giving my son water for 18 days and didn’t let his family see him,” the woman said.
She said that her son was beaten in prison on Aug. 29, Sept. 24 and Oct. 26, and that he still had marks on his body from the blows when he was buried.
“The government took every step to kill my son – that was premeditated,” Tamayo said.
Authorities in Havana insist physicians did all they could for Zapata, 42, short of subjecting him to force-feeding, an option rejected on ethical grounds, but other dissidents echo Tamayo’s charges that her son endured severe mistreatment prior to the hunger strike.
Cuba’s communist government says there are no political prisoners on the island and denounces most dissidents as “mercenaries” in the service of the United States.
The opposition, however, puts the number of political detainees at roughly 200. About a quarter of that group, including the late Orlando Zapata, have been designated by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience.
An international uproar over the Zapata case prompted President Raul Castro, younger brother of Fidel, to take the unprecedented step of publicly expressing regret for the prisoner’s death, though he denied the government bore any responsibility for the tragedy.