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

  • April 24, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    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.

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