SANTIAGO – The secretary-general of the Organization of American States on Tuesday asked the Cuban government to release 265 political prisoners whose fate has become an international cause celebre.
“I formally ask the Cuban authorities to let the people who are sick leave (prison) and thereby provide a humanitarian solution to the crisis,” Jose Miguel Insulza said after meeting in Santiago with Chilean President Sebastian Piñera.
Insulza said that he made his request “personally,” given that the OAS-sponsored Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has issued a statement about prisoners of conscience in Cuba.
“I make the request in all humility that, please, you resolve this humanitarian situation because it has become very dramatic and that is not in anyone’s interests,” the former Chilean Cabinet minister said.
Insulza expressed his concern over the situation of Guillermo Fariñas, who has been on a hunger strike for more than a month calling on President Raul Castro’s government to release 26 imprisoned opposition members who are sick.
He said that the case is getting to a “really crucial point,” and he asked Havana for “a gesture” so that Fariñas’ death could be avoided.
“What is not in your interest, of course, is for this person to die like the previous one,” said Insulza, alluding to political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died Feb. 23 after an 85-day fast.
“Making a gesture of this type does not weaken anyone, it increases one’s stature to prevent people from dying. I hope that they listen to us and do many things in many similar areas because the situation is serious,” the OAS chief said.
“People musn’t keep dying one by one without anything happening,” said Insulza, re-elected last week to a second five-year term as leader of the hemispheric body.
Members of the Cuban opposition said Tuesday that two more dissidents, one of them behind bars, have begun hunger strikes in support of Fariñas’ demand. EFE