MADRID – The secretary-general of the Organization of American States asked the Cuban government on Friday to free ailing political prisoners, as demanded by hunger-striking dissident Guillermo Fariñas.
“There’s a hunger strike going on, that of Mr. Fariñas, which is really terrible. I hope this can be resolved quickly,” Jose Miguel Insulza told Efe after speaking in Madrid at a seminar about relations between the European Union and Latin America.
The release of “political prisoners who are ill” would be a demonstration of goodwill that would not weaken the Cuban regime,” the OAS chief said. “Far from weakening it, I think it would improve its image.”
“It’s all in the hands of the Cuban government,” the former Chilean foreign minister said, adding that in any case, people should not be locked up for their opinions.
Guillermo Fariñas, 48, began his hunger strike on Feb. 24, when jailed dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo died following an 85-day fast.
Fariñas, a psychologist, is demanding that Cuban President Raul Castro free 26 political prisoners said to be in bad health.
For Insulza, Zapata’s death has meant a downturn in the international community’s perception of Cuba, representing “a negative factor” for the communist government in Havana.
About the economic embargo that the United States has maintained against Cuba since 1962, Insulza said: “I’ve never been in favor of the embargo. I don’t have much faith in blockades and embargoes.”
“After the OAS lifted its sanctions (against Havana) and suggested to Cuba the need for a dialogue on the subjects of democracy and human rights, what ought to follow are good negotiations between the United States and Cuba,” Insulza said. EFE