Internationally-known Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas is growing gravely weak from a two-week-old hunger strike to protest human rights abuses while the Catholic Church has emerged as a possible mediator between the opposition leader and the government of Raúl Castro.
Fariñas, who is refusing any food or water, said Tuesday that he feels “very weak” but vowed to continue with a hunger strike that now includes some 20 other activists from across the island.
“I can hardly take a bath by myself and feel very tired,” Fariñas said by telephone from his home in the central city of Santa Clara. A doctor that visited his home Tuesday recommended hospitalization but Fariñas refused.
The dissident, who received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010, said he was beaten on July 19 by two police officers when he approached them to inquire about the detention of another member of the opposition movement. Fariñas said was held inside a car for an hour and was repeatedly beaten while officers warned him to suspend any plans for community service projects.
“They are beating people up so that one does not get involved with socially-conscious projects anymore,” he said. “While they were hitting me, they told me they I could not distribute toys to children anymore, that I could not organize communal birthday parties, day care centers, excursions to the beach, rebuild any more homes for people…”
Fariñas said he believes the Cuban agents were trying to instill fear, “beat me with impunity” and without consequences.
Instead, the dissident launched a hunger strike, refusing to ingest food or water, until the Castro government publicly declares that it will stop beating opponents and harass small business owners or the self-employed known as cuentapropistas. Fariñas also is demanding a meeting between opposition members and a government official designated by Castro.
Last week, the opposition leader was admitted to the emergency room at a local hospital due to dehydration but he quickly requested to return home. Many fear for his health because of his frequent use of hunger strikes as a means of protest.
Dr. Eneida O. Roldan, chief executive officer at Florida International University’s Health system, said Fariñas could be facing a precarious situation.
“The average time a human being can be without drinking water is about two weeks albeit dependent on the physical and health conditions of the person and the environmental conditions of his or her location,” Roldan said. “Without food is a bit longer: usually four weeks. Again with the caveat of current body fat and physical and health conditions of the person.”
Fariñas is the most high-profile of the dissidents who have begun fasts and hunger strikes across the island to protest the beatings and arbitrary raids frequently launched against activists.