30 Cubans began hunger strike on March 20 to protest human rights violations, activists say

MIAMI – In a pre-recorded message from Cuba, José Daniel Ferrer said he and others decided to start a hunger strike on March 20 to protest human rights violations.

The prominent Cuban opposition leader said about 30 people are involved in the protest. That was down from 47 on Thursday. Most of them are on the eastern side of the island.

Ferrer, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, also known as UNPACU, said they are defending their right to be able to deliver food and medication to a group of about 250 Santiago de Cuba residents. The need for aid has risen during the coronavirus pandemic.

Their supporters in and out of the island said they want the international community to stand against the Cuban government’s repression. They accuse the Cuban government of infringing on their freedom of thought, expression, assembly, and association.

“These activists felt that they had to do the hunger strike until the police harassment stops,” Rosa Maria Payá said.

The UNPACU headquarters were besieged by the Cuban police, Payá said. She is the leader of the Cuba Decide organization and the daughter of the late Oswaldo Payá, the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement.

A group of human rights activists continued a hunger strike on Tuesday in Cuba. (Courtesy of UNPACU)

“These activists ... are now at risk of death,” Payá said.

Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat, the co-founder of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a Miami-based organization that supports human rights, said the U.S. sanctions are working.

Gutierrez-Boronat said they are impeding the ability of Raul Castro, the first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel to fully oppress dissent.

“There is a growing discontent in the population and a great loss of fear,” Gutierrez-Boronat said.

The U.S. State Department released a report earlier this month alleging Cuban government officials, at the direction of their superiors, commit most human rights abuses on the island.

The official report also said Cuban officials were involved in “killings and forced disappearances,” “compulsory labor” and also in the torture of political prisoners.

The Cuban government denied the allegations made in the U.S. report on human rights in Cuba and a Cuban official said on Monday that it was full of lies.

Here are some statements from the U.S. report:

  • “The government subjected domestic human rights advocates to intimidation, harassment, periodic short-term detention, and long-term imprisonment on questionable charges.”
  • “Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.”
  • “Security officials often refused to take serious action on cases of sexual violence, including several cases where security officials were themselves implicated.”
  • “Afro-Cubans often suffered racial discrimination, and some were subject to racial epithets and beatings by security agents in response to political activity.”
  • “Elections were neither free nor fair nor competitive.”
  • “The government suppressed attempts to form other parties.”
  • “The government forcefully and consistently retaliated against those who sought peaceful political change.”
  • “Criminal libel laws were used against persons who criticized government leadership.”
  • “The government engaged in censorship and internet site blocking.”
  • “Members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.”

Related link: Here is the U.S. Department of State’s latest report on human rights in Cuba

About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.