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  HOME | Cuba

Cuban Uses Ballot to Demand Freedom for Political Prisoners

HAVANA – Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas scribbled a demand for the release of political prisoners on his ballot in weekend municipal elections on the communist-ruled island.

“I annulled the ballot because I had been urging citizens to go to the polls but to annul their ballots,” Fariñas told Efe by telephone from his hospital bed in the central city of Santa Clara.

The 48-year-old psychologist was hospitalized a month ago after losing consciousness while on hunger strike to demand the release of 26 ailing political prisoners.

Fariñas said the ballot was brought to him by an election official.

Besides demanding freedom for political detainees, he wrote on the ballot: “Down with the Castro dynasty,” referring to Fidel Castro and brother Raul, who took over when his older sibling was stricken with a serious illness.

“I think that elections in Cuba are pseudo-elections and a farse,” Fariñas said, adding that “the first great defect” of the process is that “there is no free nomination” of candidates.

He also criticized the Electoral Commission for having “the power to say who is fit to be a candidate” and the pressure exerted on citizens to go to the polls.

Fariñas began his hunger strike in February, a day after political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo died following an 85-day fast to demand better treatment.

Cubans 16 and older went to the polls Sunday to elect more than 15,000 delegates to the Municipal Assemblies. Though membership in the Communist Party is no longer a prerequisite, ruling party officials have the final say on who can be a candidate, and all media remain under state control. EFE
 

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