Cuban journalist Guillermo Fariñas drank a glass of water on Thursday, ending his 135 day-long hunger strike. The Catholic Archdiocese of Havana declared that the government would release five political prisoners as soon as possible and send them to Spain with their families, and then release 47 others in the next two to three months. This news coincides with a visit by Spain’s foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, and comes a month after the government announced it would move prisoners closer to their homes.
Fariñas, who earlier this week revealed he has two blood clots and is nearing death, started his hunger strike to call for the release of 25 political prisoners in poor health after activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo died from going on a hunger strike of his own. He told CNN en Español that if the government did not release the prisoners by November 7, he would resume his hunger strike.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the release of prisoners “a positive sign” though “overdue,” and a spokesperson for the State Department said the U.S. would be willing to provide asylum to prisoners.
On the other hand, Deputy Director at Human Rights Watch Daniel Wilkinson points out, “It’s a good thing, but we’ve seen this before,” citing the release of hundreds of prisoners in 1998 after Pope John Paul II paid a visit. Americas director José Miguel Vivanco argues, “So long as Cuba’s draconian laws and sham trials remain in place, they will continue to restock the prison cells with new generations of innocent Cubans who dare to exercise their basic rights.”
20 Minutos, commons.wikimedia.org