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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dissident in Cuba quits hunger strike, claims victory

Posted on Thursday, 05.14.09
Dissident in Cuba quits hunger strike, claims victory
By FRANCES ROBLES
frobles@MiamiHerald.com

The Cuban activist who gave up solid food for nearly three months in a
protest over prison and housing conditions ended his hunger strike
Thursday, and vowed to launch an in-your-face campaign against the
government that does not damage his health.

Former political prisoner Jorge Luis ''Antúnez'' García gave up eating
Feb. 17 in a quest to force the government to fix the house his sister
lost to a hurricane last year and improve his brother-in-law's prison
conditions.

Antúnez, his wife, Iris Pérez, and several friends set up camp on
Antúnez's front porch in Placetas, a town about three hours east of
Havana. There, the Cuban National Police surrounded the street and
refused to let anyone pass.

In that time, Antúnez's frame went from 213 pounds to 147. Pérez dropped
from 157 pounds to 127.

''I am very thin,'' Antúnez said in a telephone call Thursday from Cuba.
``When I look at myself, even I get scared.''

Antúnez's brother-in-law, Mario Alberto Pérez, is no longer being
harassed in prison, and the family has been allowed to visit. But his
sister Caridad García still does not have a new home.

''We don't feel beaten. We don't feel frustrated,'' he said. ``We feel
healthy pride.''

Now he plans a series of confrontational acts the government will not be
able to ignore or cordon off.

''We are starting a new phase of this protest,'' he said. ``When we
begin to take those steps, you will know it and the government will know
it. It would be an error to discuss it on the telephone when our calls
are monitored. It will be much more head-on , much more open and strong.
It will be forceful , with a greater political cost to the government,
but less damage to our health.''

Just this week, he said, his supporters knelt in the middle of a public
street at a rally in honor of a political prisoner.

Janisset Rivero, who heads the Democratic Directorate, a Miami exile
organization that works closely with Antúnez, said the strike did
accomplish something: at a critical time when the buzz was about
improving relations between Havana and Washington, the hunger strike
helped remind people about the struggles Cuban dissidents face.

''If you look at this hunger strike qualitatively, you see they reached
some goals and not others,'' she said. ``I think it was brave of them to
start it, just like it was brave of them to come to the decision to end
it.''

Antúnez staged several hunger strikes during the 17 years he spent in
prison for spreading ''enemy propaganda'' and staging a public protest.

He was released in 2007 after serving his full term.

On Thursday, he insisted that he felt thirsty, but successful.

Dissident in Cuba quits hunger strike, claims victory - Breaking News -
Dade - MiamiHerald.com (15 May 2009)

http://www.miamiherald.com/459/story/1048972.html

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