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  HOME | Cuba

Cuban Dissident Back Home After 3rd Arrest, Hospital Stay

HAVANA – Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas returned home after being taken to the hospital with chest pains following his third arrest in 48 hours, his mother said.

Alicia Hernandez said that Fariñas – winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Conscience in 2010 – had suffered “severe chest pain, shortness of breath and a slight fever.”

Those symptoms led police to move him to the hospital in Santa Clara where he had received treatment last year during a lengthy hunger strike to demand the release of ill political prisoners.

According to Hernandez, Fariñas underwent chest radiographies, an electrocardiogram and other exams before he was given a series of recommendations and later released.

“He is suffering from immune deficiency. He has migraines, he’s lost his voice and he’s dehydrated because over the past few days he went off his treatment regimen,” Hernandez, a retired nurse, said.

Fariñas, who has staged more than a score of hunger strikes over the past 15 years to protest a lack of freedom on the communist-ruled island, returned home in an ambulance late Friday with his mother with instructions to rest, stay hydrated and eat well. He was also prescribed the painkiller metamizole.

He is scheduled to have another checkup next week and be examined by an angiologist, his mother said.

Fariñas, a 49-year-old independent journalist and psychologist, and other Santa Clara-based dissidents were arrested three times by Cuban police over a period of 48 hours.

He was first detained on Wednesday for six hours for “creating a public disturbance” after protesting the eviction of a pregnant squatter from a home.

Fariñas was arrested again the following day when he went to a police station to inquire on the situation of a dissident who had been taken into custody hours earlier.

After being held for 18 hours at a police station jail cell, he returned home Friday morning but was arrested that same afternoon while he and 20 other government opponents were on their way to lay a wreath at a monument to Cuban independence hero Jose Marti on the 158th anniversary of his birth.

Spain’s main conservative opposition Popular Party on Saturday urged the European Union and the Spanish government to condemn the repeated arrests of Fariñas.

The EU and Spain’s ruling Socialists “cannot remain silent and consent to the repression suffered by dissidents and defenders of democracy and freedom in Cuba,” the PP’s international relations coordinator, Jorge Moragas said on Saturday.

More than 70 short-term arrests have been carried out over the past three days in Santa Clara, said the spokesman for the dissident Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Elizardo Sanchez.

That group said in a report earlier this week that brief, arbitrary arrests on the island increased in 2010 to more than 2,000, which, according to that organization, confirms that the Cuban regime is opting for “low-intensity repression” to keep the opposition in check.

In terms of political prisoners, the commission documented at least 105 cases of people held for political or socio-political reasons, compared with 201 in January 2010.

The drop is due to the release of dozens of dissidents beginning in the second half of 2010 following talks involving President Raul Castro’s government and Spanish and Catholic Church officials.

The commission described Havana’s move as a “positive development.”

Fifty-six people formerly held behind bars on the island – 41 of them considered prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International and who were part of a group of 75 dissidents rounded up in 2003 – have left prison “for exile in Spain” in recent months, accompanied by 323 family members, according to the commission.

However, 11 Group of 75 members who have refused to go to Spain remain behind bars, while eight other dissidents have been paroled in recent years but their sentences have not expired.

Last February, after jailed dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo died following an 85-day fast, Fariñas went on a more than four-month hunger strike to demand the release of the most ill political prisoners.

He ended the hunger strike on July 8 after Castro’s government promised to release 52 jailed dissidents following the church-state talks.

Havana denies holding political prisoners and says the island’s dissidents are mercenaries working with Washington to undermine Cuba’s communist system.

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