Cuban dissident passes 1 week on hunger strike

AP News
Posted: Sep 17, 2012 3:41 PM
Cuban dissident passes 1 week on hunger strike

HAVANA (AP) — A prominent Cuban dissident completed her first week on a hunger strike with supporters saying her condition is worsening each day and they fear she might die. Pro-government bloggers, meanwhile, denounced the strike as a sham.

Martha Beatriz Roque, a 67-year-old, state-trained economist turned dissident leader, was in a "very delicate" condition, said Idania Yanez, a supporter who was standing vigil at her Havana home.

"We are afraid that at any moment something bad could happen," she said. "Thank God nothing fatal has happened, but this is destroying her."

Roque, who suffers from diabetes, launched her strike on Sept. 10 and dissidents say she has been joined by more than two dozen others around the country.

She is demanding the government release a little-known opposition prisoner who she says was due to leave jail more than a week ago, among other things.

Roque has refused food, and has stopped taking medication, adding to concern about her condition.

The government, which considers all dissidents common criminals paid by Washington to stir up trouble, has declined repeated requests for comment.

But pro-government bloggers have expressed doubts that Roque's hunger strike is legitimate, saying they interviewed doctors who examined her and noted no decline in her condition.

One blogger, H.M. Lagarde, described the episode as a soap opera and noted that in a previous hunger strike Roque had reportedly received last rites, only to re-emerge apparently healthy days later.

"It wouldn't be surprising if now, as then, Martha Beatriz, surprised us with another of her resurrections," he wrote on his blog.

Cuba's small opposition community has already lost two of its leaders in less than a year. Veteran dissident Oswaldo Paya was killed in a car accident in July, and Ladies in White founder Laura Pollan died of heart failure in October 2011.

Two other Cuban opposition figures have died in hunger strikes in recent years. Wilman Villar died in January following a 50-day hunger strike he called to protest his four-year sentence for assault, resisting arrest and disrespecting authority.

In February 2010, Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after refusing food for months. He was considered a prisoner of conscience by U.K.-based human rights group Amnesty International.


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