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  HOME | Cuba

Fariñas Slams Cuba Local Elections as “Farce” after 60 Days of Hunger Strike

HAVANA – Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas, who completed 60 days of his hunger strike on Saturday, called the local elections to be held Sunday on the island “a big farce,” and said that he will vote against “the Castro dynasty” if he is sent a ballot.

“There’s no such thing as a free nomination. It has to be in your neighborhood with a show of hands (an allusion to the way candidates are designated), and nobody wants to be identified to this regime of terror,” said Fariñas in a telephone conversation from the intensive care unit where he is hospitalized in the central city of Santa Clara.

The dissident recalled that Cuban electoral regulations state that ballots must be sent to sick people who are lucid, and said he was waiting to see what decision state security will take in his case.

“If they bring me a ballot, what I’ll do is put: Down with the dynasty of the Castro brothers (Fidel and Raul), my signature and my ID number,” said Fariñas, who was admitted to hospital in mid-March after twice collapsing from hunger.

“If they don’t dare bring it to me, I’ll just be one more of those who didn’t go to vote,” he said.

In Sunday’s voting, some 8.4 million Cubans over 16 years of age are eligible to vote for more than 15,000 delegates (councilors) of the island’s 169 municipal assemblies, in a process that is repeated every two years.

About his health, Fariñas said that upon completing two months of fasting he feels “a little down, with headaches and joint pain,” but said that he will continue “the hunger strike to the last consequences.”

“I think that with what is going on, we can’t do anything but keep up the hunger strike,” he said, adding that “without doing anything violent” he has managed to do “harm to the government.”

“In these 60 days a phenomenon has taken place that we didn’t really expect, which is that international public opinion is once more studying and evaluating what is happening with human rights and inside jails in Cuba,” he said.

The psychologist and journalist, 48, began his hunger strike in his home last Feb. 24 after the death of dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo following an 85-day fast demanding that Cuba’s president, Gen. Raul Castro, release 26 ailing members of the opposition.

Fariñas said international reaction has included “political groups of the left,” which in his opinion has caused “tremendous grief to the Cuban government.”

“I believe this is also a victory for the entire Cuban opposition and for Cubans in exile,” he said.

Earlier this week, Archbishop of Havana Jaime Ortega argued in favor of a more “conciliatory attitude” by Fariñas, whom he urged to end his protest.

“Now is not the time to incite passions,” Ortega said, adding that what is also “painful” are the mobs insulting the mothers and wives of several prisoners, especially the Ladies in White, who in the last few weeks have been repeatedly harassed by supporters of President Raul Castro’s government.

Cuba is “in a difficult situation, certainly the most difficult” that it has experienced in the 21st century, Ortega said, citing the global economic crisis, the losses caused by three hurricanes in recent years and the U.S. trade embargo.

These problems “come on top of Cuba’s perennial economic difficulties caused by the limitations of the kind of socialism practiced here and that at times give us a very gloomy outlook,” Ortega said.

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