By Lenin Ledo Galano
HAVANA TIMES — If I had the opportunity to meet and speak with someone between the Pope, Barack Obama, the best soccer player or singer at the time, any other celebrity and Guillermo Farinas Hernandez, I would choose the latter without a second of doubt.
Hated and vilified by his enemies, vilified by many of those who should admire him, criticized by some for having received help from Cubans outside the country, a “crime” that millions of Cubans and the Cuban government itself is guilty of.
Criticized on social media by some people for even gaining a bit of weight, for traveling, something which many of those criticize him also do, or even for being Black and against the revolution, Guillermo Farinas has carried out over 20 hunger strikes which have led him to the brink of death and have had serious effects on his health.
Accused by the government to be a mercenary, as if fighting Communism, from the inside, were a “profitable business”, something which it has never been: not in Moscow, or Beijing or in Pyongyang; always judged “in his absence”, like every dissident, without their own media channels on the island and therefore, unable to publicly defend himself. This is how he’s lived his life for the last 25 years, without giving in or emigrating.
Those who consider Farinas their enemy try and discredit him, saying that he was physically violent on several occasions: about 15 and 20 years ago, that he assaulted a woman and an old man. The level of truth to these claims and the circumstances under which these events occurred are unknown. However, it’s a well known fact that this man has been struck many a time without hitting back once, a Gandhi of the 21st century. Nevertheless, even if these accusations were true, it’s also true that many saints and prophets have enjoyed the excesses of youth, and even brandished weapons, before converting to their holy ways. There are more than enough examples of this and I’m not going to name them so as not to offend religious followers.
One of Farinas’s hunger strikes, in 2010, ended when the government released 116 political prisoners after a controversial mediation process with the Catholic Church and the Spanish government. While Farinas was still conducting his protest, when he was on the brink of life and death, Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the fact that Spanish authorities had offered Farinas the chance to leave Cuba and seek refuge in Spain, which Farinas refused.
Now, according to El Mundo newspaper, the Cuban dissident declared himself on a hunger and thirst strike on July 20th to protest the abuse that he claims he received from policemen when he went to find out about an imprisoned dissident and to ask that the Cuban government begin talks with the island’s dissidents. This time, he’s asking for the Cuban government, along with other things, “to commit to ending the escalation in violence against peaceful opposition and to stop the beatings, death threats, prosecutions for false crimes and that they stop confiscating their personal property,” something which the government has never agreed to .
To point out two hunger strikes that captured the world’s attention, there was Julio Antonio Mella in Cuba and the Irish prisoners whose hunger strike became a fight against Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which unfortunately ended with 10 of their deaths. I understand that where one person dies because of a hunger strike, it’s because there are too many hearts made of stone. It’s very painful, hypocritical and cruel to see that a lot of those who complained about the deaths of these Irish prisoners and used them for their own political ends and today aren’t upset and even feel contempt for Guillermo Farinas’ health and life.
With regard to Julio Antonio Mella’s hunger strike, I’d like to use an analysis that appeared in the article “Mella: the hunger strike” written by Rolando Rodriguez and published very recently in the newspaper Granma on December 4, 2015:
“The Communist Party could have taken any angle on the attitude adopted by Mella. However there’s only one truth: he observed beyond all of them put together about what his behavior should be, and he knew his life was on the line, because of the hunger strike as well as the attempts being made on his life, when his word and honor were on the line, the price he might have to pay was losing them. If he wasn’t ready to face this adversity, then he’d never be able to raise the Cuban people’s persuasion and support when he was convinced that people were ready to heal a society which everybody thought corrupt if it was well-guided.”
“Pressure to release Mella made President Gerardo Machado’s own parents ask their son to release him in a telegram which they sent from Santa Clara. Mella’s case became a continental cause, senators in Mexico, Argentina and the Buenos Aires’ city council asked for the Cuban leader to be released as well as the Mexican President, Plutarco Elias Calles. Protests were held outside Cuban embassies and consulates in different cities across the southern hemisphere.
“On December 23rd, pressure on the government forced President Gerardo Machado, inconveniently, to give the order for Mella to be put on bail. That very same day, Nicanor Mella paid the 1000 pesos bail which was asked for his son. After having lost 35 pounds, the extraordinary 22-year-old leader had won out against the government and his reputation went far beyond our borders,” noted Granma. The analysis between the different attitudes adopted by Granma in relation with each of these different hunger strikes is simple and I’ll leave it up to the reader to come to their own conclusions.
It’s shameful, I don’t approve of immolation as a weapon and violence much less, but’s it’s very worrying at the same time because repression in Cuba has been blessed by the Pope, tolerated by Obama, ignored by the European Economic Community, supported by Latin American presidents, including former president Lula da Silva, who, when he was still in power, even went as far as comparing Cuban dissident prisoners to everyday Brazilian prisoners, It’s worrying because we know the courage it took Farinas to put his life on the line and the government’s will to see its opposition leave the country or the world… if it’s necessary, before making “significant” concessions.
It’s another damn human tradition that began at the beginning of time: let men die so you can worship them later. Those of us, who only have the power of prayer, pray for him, those who have other powers should use them to prevent the worst from happening.