Cuban dissident Guillermo “Coco” Fariñas wins prestigious human rights award

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Guillermo "Coco" Fariñas amidst his struggle for freedom of Cuban political prisoners

Guillermo “Coco” Fariñas, a former member of the Cuban revolution, went on a 135 day hunger strike following the death of dissident hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo. His demand was straighforward–the release of political prisoners in poor health.

His drive was unwavering; he was on the cusp of death for some time until the Cuban government, in an agreement with the Catholic Church, announced the release of 52 political prisoners.

Mr. Fariñas, responding to the news of receiving the Sakharov human rights award, said:

The civilized world, the European Parliament, is sending a message to the Cuban governing class that it’s time for democracy and freedom of thought and expression in Cuba, an end to the dictatorship…

Shunning the well-deserved personal achievement, Fariñas said:

The award “was not for Guillermo Fariñas,” he told AFP, “but rather for the Cuban people, who for the past 50 years have been struggling to get out of this dictatorship.”

Everyone “who aspires for democracy in any part of the planet with their solidarity and calls for the release of (political) prisoners also deserves and has contributed to this award,”

Individuals such as Fariñas are remarkable in that by their mere words and non-violent actions, they can shake the foundations of seemingly intractable power. He is an individual to aspire to for those across the globe who face the difficult task of confronting injustice backed by the full weight of a well-armed government.

Why? Because he risked no one’s life but his own, preventing himself and his opponent from causing more harm than the harm that provided the impetus to the struggle.

In this award, recognition must be especially given to Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a political dissident who died after a lengthy hunger strike protesting inhumane prison conditions. Still today, the Cuban regime and its willing accomplices across the globe try their utmost to tar the legacy of Zapata, calling him a “violent common criminal”, and other such ignominious words.

Fariñas’ successful hunger strike would not have occurred but for the murder of Zapata. Thus, dual recognition of the Sakharov prize is merited. Thanks and congratulations is due to Guillermo Fariñas and Orlando Zapata Tamayo for their universal struggle in obtaining the liberties that no one should be prevented from.

 

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