Cuban Dies on Hunger Strike

March 6, 2010 · Print This Article

A debate has raged on many websites in relation to the death in a Cuban prison of a hunger striker on February 23rd last. Here is one example from the website of The World Association of International Studies (WAIS).

JOHN HEELAN: The Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo has died in hospital as a result of his 85-day hunger strike. He started his strike as a protest against Cuban prison authorities refusing to allow him to wear white–a symbol of Cuban resistance.

Nearly 30 years ago, Bobby Sands, a Republican Irish dissident and member of the IRA, died from his hunger strike. He started his strike as a protest against Northern Irish prison authorities who insisted that he and his colleagues wear prison uniforms even though the latter claimed to be political prisoners (and Sands was an elected MP until Thatcher changed the law).

In December 2001, a memorial to Bobby Sands was unveiled in Havana, Cuba by the the IRA President, Gerry Adams, who was later greeted by Fidel Castro. Can we expect to see a similar memorial in Havana to Orlando Zapata Tomayo? If not, why not?

ALAIN de BENOIST replies: If I follow John’s reasoning, the memorial to Bobby Sands having been unveiled in Havana, Orlando Zapata Tomayo’s memorial should be erected in Ireland, not in Cuba! But I am afraid the comparison is not very significant. The great Bobby Sands was jailed for political reasons (I was extremely sad when he died). But, to my best knowledge, Orlando Zapata Tomayo, while being described since 2004 as a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International, never had any political activities before his arrest. He was arrested several times for crimes without any political content. He mainly started his hunger strike to obtain a television and a cellular phone in his jail.

Anyway, Zapata Tamayo’s death has been publicized all around the world as the death of a “victim of the Cuban dictatorship.” The media does not give the same publicity to everything. The murder of Claudia Larissa Brizuela, member of the National Front of People’s Resistance (FNRP), who was killed in Honduras on 24 February (one day after Zapata Tamayo’s death), has not been publicized anywhere. The discovery, in last December, in a mass grave located in La Macarena (Colombia), of 2,000 bodies of trade unionists and peasant leaders murdered by paramilitary and special forces of the Colombian army was not publicised much either.

JOHN EIPPER (editor of  WAIS) comments: Alain’s last point is unsettling for someone about to board a plane for Colombia. By the by, there won’t be many WAIS postings tomorrow morning, as we must leave for the airport at 4:30 AM. When we’re in Colombia (Cartagena, Santa Marta and Medellín), I’ll see what I can find out about the murders at La Macarena.


5 Responses to “Cuban Dies on Hunger Strike”

  1. JHR on March 6th, 2010 10:40 am

    I am frankly skeptical of the above account trivializing this particular H/S but am also skeptical of the counter-account making the man a martyr and hero. Surely Zapata Tamayo’s H/S was political, even if his life before had been apolitical or even tinged with common criminality. To dismiss the political aspect of his H/S seems itself to be politically motivated wishful thinking. But quite obviously also reactionary elements have capitalized on this man’s death to continue their attack against the Cuban revolution. I suspect the reality is far more complex and uncomfortable than either side will admit.

  2. Walter Lippmann on March 15th, 2010 2:34 am

    Bobby Sands was a political prisoner, jailed for activities against the British occupation of Northern Ireland.

    Zapata Tamayo was in prison for a common crime, not for political opposition to the Cuban government. That developed years after he had been imprisoned. It’s unfortunate that Zapata Tamayo died, of course. It’s a human tragedy for his family.

    There’s a lot more to the Tamayo story. Here’s a Venezuelan comment:

    Thank you,

    Walter Lippmann
    Los Angeles, California

  3. John Suarez on March 29th, 2010 9:25 pm

    Orlando Zapata Tamayo was not only recognized as an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience in January of 2004 but in the Cuban government’s own publication “Los Disidentes” which Walter Lippman has linked to his page, [] although the page still has the graphics the pdf files are mysteriously missing perhaps b/c in the book appeared Orlando Zapata Tamayo with other prominent dissidents prior to his arrest & recognized by the Cuban dictatorship as a dissident. Guess that has to now go down the memory hole and a new narrative invented to suit the current circumstances.

  4. Irotama on April 13th, 2010 6:17 pm

    Raul Castro: Cuba will resist hunger strike blackmail

    Raul Castro: Cuba will never yield to any country or group of countries

    Cuban President Raul Castro has attacked international criticism over
    hunger-striking dissidents, saying Cuba will “never cede to blackmail”.

    Mr Castro said the US and Europe were using Western media to wage “a
    ferocious campaign” to discredit Cuba.

    Cuba has been under growing pressure to release political prisoners and
    improve its human rights since a dissident died in February after a long
    hunger strike.

    Another dissident has been refusing to eat or drink for more than a month.

    In a speech to the annual congress of the Young Communist League,
    President Castro said his government had the right to resist efforts to
    destabilise it.

    “We will never yield to the blackmail of any country or group of
    countries, no matter how powerful they may be, no matter what happens,”
    he said.

    “We have the right to defend ourselves.”

  5. peter harrington on July 6th, 2010 6:18 pm

    Walter Lippmann is so full of sh*t. He goes to Cuba, hangs out with his teenage girlfriend (Walter is in his 50s, and no oil painting), and fools the naive into believing that there is any substance to his badly written wannabe leftist journalism. Then he goes home to LA.

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