Cuban activist Jorge Luis Perez Garcia, or "Antunez." one of the most eloquent and forceful leaders of the opposition, is much more valuable to Cuba alive than as another martyr in the struggle versus communism. So it was alarming to hear that he on Monday started a hunger and thirst strike to protest last week's attack on his home, and his subsequent arrest and siege, by a Castro goon squad.
The Castro dictatorship is usually not impressed by protests like Antunez's, so that it may end with his death is a very real concern.
Antunez said he started his hunger and thirst strike -- a combination that could hasten his death -- to protest the siege that the political police have laid around his home in Placetas; and to demand the return of items stolen from his home after he was arrested Feb. 5.
Protest by suicide is still suicide. That's a moral challenge for those of us who support Antunez in his struggle against the regime but also believe it would be wrong for him to die from his own hand and wish he had not started a hunger and thirst strike against a regime whose instinct is to let him die. The risk is too high for a man vital to the ongoing struggle for freedom in Cuba.
Those who would question Antunez's tactics, and maybe even his motives -- he would die while demanding the return of material goods? -- need to remember one thing: In Cuba, those who oppose the regime have very little to fight back against injustice with other than their very lives.
Antunez's protest is not only a challenge to Castro, it is a challenge to the world.
Previous hunger strikes against the Castro regime that succeeded in forcing movement by the regime -- most notably, Guillermo Farinas' protest in 2010 after the death of Orlando Zapata that preceded a Cuba-Spain-Vatican agreement to release dozens of political prisoners -- were those protests that were accompanied by international attention and solidarity.
We again are being challenged, not to join with Antunez with our own hunger strikes, but to raise our voices, to take to our keyboards, to demand the Castro regime listen and respond to Antunez's call for justice, and the Cuban people's demands for freedom. Whether we believe hunger strikes are morally correct or not, we must stand with Antunez so he, and a dictatorship that wishes desperately he were dead, knows that he is not alone.
That kind of support and pressure could force the regime to act.
And it could save Antunez's life.