Suicide as a Political Weapon in Cuba

Fernando Ravsberg

Guillermo Fariñas - photo:

HAVANA TIMES, March 11 — I had to think a long time before deciding to write a post on the issue of hunger strikes.  This is not a professional problem; in fact —journalistically— I covered the case of Orlando Zapata much like that of Guillermo Fariñas.

But for me, to write something more personal implies an ethical and human problem.  I don’t believe the taking of one’s life is a good strategy for political struggle, and a hunger strike taken to its logical conclusion is no more than prolonged suicide.

I’m not trying to analyze the reasons, whether they’re Cuban dissidents or Irish militants, it’s all the same thing.  Nothing changes the essential: it is an attack on one’s own life, an action condemned in almost all cultures, philosophies and religions.

I wanted to go to Santa Clara before writing this.  I needed to see Fariñas, to speak with him, to try to understand, to try to get into his skin.  In the conversation I asked him the reasons for so desperate a measure, and he tried to explain them to me in different ways.

Several times I persisted over the matter, because nothing he told me convinced me that the step he was taking toward the vacuum was indispensable for his cause.  Nor was I able to convince his mother or most of the opposition of that.

The Cuban government has already responded in the official press that it won’t give in to “pressure and blackmail.”  In other words, it won’t accept the demand to free 26 political dissidents who, according to the opposing Human Rights Commission, are in prison and are ill.

“I hope I die”

“I don’t care,” replied Fariñas, adding, “I hope I die!”  He told another colleague that it was his “dream to be a martyr.”  Now, in his home —face to face— when I interviewed him he recalled the national hymn, where it affirms “to die for the homeland is to live.”

“Coco” believes that with his death it will be clear to everyone that Cuban dissidents are not mercenaries.  However, as long as the US continues sending them tens of millions of dollars, the government Cuban will continue repeating that same line.

In the international environment, most governments are keeping silent about the death of Orlando Zapata.  Those which spoke out limited themselves to “regretting” what had occurred and repeating the old call for freedom for Cuba’s political prisoners.

Brazilian president, Lula da Silva, revealed the fears of all: “Hunger strikes cannot be used as a pretext of human rights in order to free people (…) imagine if all the crooks in prison in Sao Paulo went on a hunger strike and asked for their freedom.”

In Cuba it’s even worse; the majority of Cubans don’t even talk about the hunger strikes.  In the middle of Santa Clara —in his own city— passersby questioned assured us they didn’t know of any Guillermo Fariñas.

The political prisoners who began the strike with Coco have already changed their minds and have all begun eating again.  He, however, is continuing.  He has already gone into shock one time and it’s possible that by the time this posting is published he will be on the verge of suffering a second attack.

In the previous crisis he arrived at the hospital in time and the doctors there gave him almost two gallons of liquid nutrients intravenously.  He recovered briefly, but a few days later again suffered pains throughout his entire body from dehydration and hunger.

His life is in serious danger, and no one should contribute to his self-destruction.  That’s why I was undecided about writing; I felt and still feel fear of collaborating with his suicide.  Because, beyond works of epic poetry, what is certain is that to die is to die.

Havana Times translation with authorization from BBC Mundo of the original post in Spanish.

9 thoughts on “Suicide as a Political Weapon in Cuba

  • i do not feel a thing..he made a in the heck did he believe he could call the Cuban Gov bluff..
    Personally this man according to family a coward who played a game of cat and mouse…he did not research his adversary?

    Of course there are those who were not evenb born before 1960 who scream the loudest..or those who have nothing nut the Miami mafia mentality of the 3 b’s in mind who will disagree..However prove your case.

  • Where are the millions? Gee julia, the people in the US don’t even TRY to hide the fact that their government send (a lot of) money to the Cuban opposition:

  • Where are the millions that the US government is sending the dissidents? there is no such thing. Do you see that the dissidents are living in the lap of luxury? I do not see that. These strikes are happening because it is better to be dead than to live in Castro’s Cuba. Fernando does not understand this because in Cuba he is an observer and not a participant, capable to leave at any time and not suffering the non stop indignities of the average Cuban resident, prevalent over 50 years. This column is ignorant a lot of t he time and clearly the product of Ravsberg outsider mentality.

  • Because i am Cuban i will never give up and give in to the belief that we as Cubans living anywhere in the world should forget what we went through pre 1959.. This Any traitor whether he be African Cuban or a white Cuban mixed up or other knows what to expect..So i believe that any one who is not committed to the revolution and to the sovereignty of a free country should leave or be placed in a position to be pushing daisys.
    .Now i know that this is horrific for most civilized LOL ya right.. supremacist however it is what it is and before anyone who is not Cuban or does not have a working knowledge of what it means to be Cuban ..i suggest that you read the book VEINS OF LATIN AMERICA..and get back to me!

  • Carol, traitors to whom. Who did they betrayed? Fidel Castro, a dictator?
    I do not think anybody can believe that money can pay jail and death.

  • Farinas is a dupe and pawn for Fidel’s failed gusano assassins who can still be found living out their last days on Calle Ocho in Little Havana (South Florida) where they support admitted terrorists like Luis Posada Carilles & Orlando Bosch who hijack airliners -ala- Al Qaeda. Go to Versailles restaurant and you’ll see them.

  • Thank you for the thoughtful discussion of this issue.

    You raise several facets of public suicide in the hope of promoting a personal political view, and being viewed as a Martyr. I cannot. as a US citizen subjected to the endless ‘War on Terror’, fail to see the similarity of Orlando Zapata and Guillermo Fariñas, and the statements and actions of the Muslim Suicide Bombers. Muslims consider them Martyrs, yet they don’t flinch at killing innocents. Neither did Luis Posada Carriles.

    vivamarti, asks about Gandhi. There is no similarity between Gandhi, and Orlando Zapata and Guillermo Fariñas. Gandi spent 30 years leading a very public, peaceful, movement against the British Colonizers of his country. Orlando Zapata and Guillermo Fariñas accept money from a United States Empire hoping to colonize Cuba. Again, the comparison is to Luis Posada Carriles

    Gandi is the Marti of India. These men are Traitors: That is the difference!

  • I must say, this is the first time I’ve read a political article on this web site that was non-biased or completely pro-castro. Maybe you’ve come to the understanding that Farinas is NOT a US mercenarie & Castro’s repeated use of that line IS gettting quite old.

  • I guess Gandhy example is not enough for you as a journalist .

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