Monday, March 29, 2010

Health of hunger-striking Cuban dissident worsens

Health of hunger-striking Cuban dissident worsens
Published on Monday, March 29, 2010

HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) -- Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, who has been on
a full hunger strike for 28 days, has a staph infection and is in the
early stages of a battle against septic shock that could kill him, his
mother told AFP Sunday.

Farinas is the second case of a recent strike by a political dissident
in Cuba, the Americas' only one-party communist regime.

Cuban opposition activist Guillermo Farinas is helped to stand up by
doctor Ismel Iglesias at his home in Santa Clara, Cuba. AFP PHOTO
The fate of dissidents has brought an international outcry from Europe
and the United States as well as from human rights groups.

"My son is on the verge of a major complication that will put his life
in danger. He is very unwell and could go into septic shock," said
Farinas' mother Alicia Hernandez, 75, who is a nurse, from her home in
Santa Clara 280 kilometers (168 miles) east of Havana.

An independent news blogger and psychologist by training, Farinas, 48,
launched his fast the day after political prisoner Orlando Zapata died
on the 85th day of his own hunger strike.

Farinas has been protesting the treatment of 26 political prisoners
needing medical attention in Cuba; he wants the prisoners freed.

His mother, who does not back his strike or ideological stand, said
doctors treating her son in the provincial hospital in Santa Clara are
trying to help him with antibiotics "but he is very frail, has pain in
his arms and legs, and fever."

"I am afraid he will not achieve a thing, but he is hanging in there,"
she said.

Meanwhile, wives and mothers of numerous political prisoners have held
an unprecedented week of protest marches in Havana in defiance of the
authorities to press for the release of the dissidents, some of whom
have been held for seven years.

Havana insists it keeps no political prisoners, branding the dissidents
in jail as "mercenaries" in the pay of the United States.

On Wednesday US President Barack Obama slammed Cuba for its continued
political and human rights repression and called for an end to the
Communist regime's "clenched fist" policy against its people.

"I join my voice with brave individuals across Cuba and a growing chorus
around the world in calling for an end to the repression, for the
immediate, unconditional release of all political prisoners in Cuba, and
for respect for the basic rights of the Cuban people," he added.

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