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The Strikers and the Tyrant

May 3, 2010 Leave a comment

In 1981, Fidel Castro was not an elderly man writing reflections; he was tyrant talking of the future and sending Cuban troops to the wars in Africa. Back then something memorable happened that attracted the attention of the Cuban tyrant, who referred to the issue with a sense of justice and ordered his own words to be perpetuated in a Havana park.

In a jail in England, ten hunger strikers died claiming Ireland’s independence. The island’s dictator condemned the British government’s apathy and honored the memory of the Irish martyrs, whose names were engraved in a small plaque in the monument built on I Street, between 21st St. and 19th St. in the same park in the Vedado neighborhood where lie, in perpetuity, the images of French writer Victor Hugo, Spanish politician Francisco Pi y Margall and Doña Leonor Pérez, mother of José Martí, our National Hero.

Since nowadays death is in charge in Cuban jails, where on February 23rd political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after more than two months on hunger strike, some of  us who are Havana’s residents have pointed our steps towards the monument that remembers Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Joe McDonnel, Kevin Lynch and other IRA hunger strikers who died between May and August of 1981 in the H-Block prison.

The first plaque reprints a quote from Fidel Castro’s speech during the 68th Conference of the Inter Parliamentary Union, on September 18th, 1981. Since they seem so apropos in today’s Cuba, I quote:

“The British government’s stubbornness, intransigence, cruelty, and insensitivity towards the  international community to face the problem of the Irish patriots on hunger strike until their death reminds me of Torquemada and the barbaric Inquisition in the Middle Age. Tyrants should tremble in front of men who are able to die for their ideals, after 60 days in hunger strike! In comparison, what were Christ’s three days of martyrdom that for centuries has been the symbol of human sacrifice? It’s time to put an end, through public denouncing and pressure from the international community, to this disgusting abuse.”

If we would change the date and the subjects “British government” and “Irish patriots”, Fidel Castro’s text would honor two if his own victims: Pedro Luis Boitel, died on a hunger strike in a Cuban prison in 1972, and Orlando Zapata Tamayo, whose martyrdom lasted more that eighty days.

The international condemnation against the stubbornness, the intransigence and the cruelty of the Castros will help to end the tyranny. Public denouncements and pressure from the international community perhaps will help to avoid the death of independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernandez and other peaceful fighters that are risking their lives for the freedom of political prisoners.

The regime is in a panic, manipulating the Cuban people and denigrating the democrats, but the carnage has its limits.

Translated by: Mailyn Salabarria