Cuban dissident ready to die for cause

By Paul Haven
Associated Press / March 6, 2010

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SANTA CLARA, Cuba - A dissident journalist who has gone nine days without eating or drinking said yesterday that he is willing to give his life to call attention to the plight of Cuba’s political prisoners.

If he does, Guillermo Farinas would be the second hunger striker to die on the communist island in as many weeks, and his death would probably spark a new round of international condemnation of the Castro government.

“There are moments in the lives of nations where martyrs are needed and I think that moment has arrived,’’ Farinas said during an interview at his shabby, two-story home with walls of faded pink and lime-green.

Farinas was hospitalized Wednesday after briefly losing consciousness. Doctors gave him fluids intravenously, then sent him home, saying there was little more they could do if he refused to eat.

Farinas is already approaching the limit of how long most people can go without water. But his family plans to hospitalize him each time he loses consciousness, meaning more fluid treatments that could keep him alive for weeks.

Farinas, 48, has held 22 hunger strikes in the past 15 years, and has been jailed repeatedly for dissident activities on charges including disrespecting authority, public disorder, and assault against a suspected undercover government informant.

This time, he stopped eating and drinking on Feb. 24, the day after jailed dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo died following an 83-day hunger strike in which he only accepted vitamin-fortified liquids.