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  HOME | Cuba

Fidel Castro Defends Treatment of Dead Dissident

HAVANA – Fidel Castro and Cuba’s state media monopoly have confronted international and opposition criticism of the Cuban government following last week’s death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo after an 85-day hunger strike.

“In our country we have never tortured anyone, we have never ordered an adversary killed, we have never lied to the people,” the retired Cuban president said in the latest of his “Reflections” on public affairs.

He also defended Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva against those who accuse him of ignoring the case of Zapata on his recent visit to Havana.

“Some who envy his prestige and his glory, and even worse, those who are at the service of the (U.S.) empire, criticize him for visiting Cuba. To do so they use the vile slander that has been used against Cuba for half a century,” Castro wrote.

For its part, state television broadcast an extensive report Monday night accusing “the counterrevolution” of a “defamation campaign” to hide the medical attention that Zapata received before he died.

The program said that the dissident, who had been in jail since 2003, was attended “with the strictest medical ethics.”

Granma accused Zapata of being a common criminal who “adopted a political persona when he already had a long criminal record.”

State television also presented interviews with doctors and specialists who detailed the reactions of the human body to prolonged starvation and the physical process leading to the fatal result.

It also published pictures of Zapata’s mother, Reyna Tamayo, and videos of her visits to the hospital where he was admitted, meetings she had with police authorities, and wiretapped conversations with members of the opposition in Miami and Cuba.

One of the doctors said that the prisoner was treated with “the latest generation of products in terms of nourishment.’

The report said that “the counterrevolution” is promoting a campaign to “accuse the island’s authorities of not providing Orlando Zapata with medical attention,” and that “it therefore decided to manipulate and cover up any proof to the contrary.”

“The words of Orlando Zapata’s mother about the excellent attention her son was getting were never divulged. That truth was not suitable in a campaign of defamation against Cuba,” it said.

“The told us they were doing everything possible to save him...that they are going to fight to the last, but the situation is critical, critical,” Reyna Tamayo said in one of the wiretapped phone calls, according to the report.

Dr. Maria Esther Hernandez said she kept telling Zapata “about the consequences of his decision and how it was putting his life in danger, but he maintained his position at all times.”

In a related matter, two of the five dissidents who launched hunger strikes after Tamayo’s death decided to end their protests.

Political prisoners Eduardo Diaz Fleitas and Diosdado Gonzalez, both held at Kilo 5 prison in the western province of Pinar del Rio, announced they would resume taking nourishment.

Two other prisoners: Nelson Molinet, also at Kilo 5; and Fidel Suarez Cruz, serving time at the Kilo 8 penitentiary in Pinar del Rio, remained on hunger strike, the spokesman for the unofficial Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Elizardo Sanchez, told Efe.

Also continuing his hunger strike at home in the central city of Santa Clara was the psychologist and independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas, who has ignored the pleas of Sanchez, his family and other dissidents to end his fasting.

Sanchez said it seems probable that all the hunger strikes in prison will end and the only one to continue will be Fariñas, who is asking for the release of Cuba’s approximately 200 political prisoners.

Fariñas’ mother, nurse Alicia Hernandez, stressed her son’s obstinate character in a statement to Efe by telephone, while Sanchez expressed his concern for the grave state of his health.

Hernandez said her son’s constitution has been undermined by his 23 previous hunger strikes on behalf of human rights.

Zapata’s death brought an avalanche of criticism on the Cuban government, and President Raul Castro – Fidel’s younger brother – took the unprecedented step of issuing a statement expressing regret, though he insisted authorities were not to blame. EFE

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