Cuban dissident on hunger strike accepts mediation by Catholic Church

.- Cuban prisoner of conscience, Guillermo Farinas, who is in the third month of his hunger strike, has accepted an offer by the Catholic Church to mediate with the Castro government to find a solution to his protest for the release of 26 prisoners who are seriously ill. According to a recent report, the government has agreed to transfer some prisoners to hospitals.

Msgr. Ramon Suarez Porcari, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Havana, and Msgr. Jose Feliz Perez Riera, executive secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba, have visited Farinas on two occasions at the Arnaldo Milian Castro Hospital in Santa Clara, where he has been receiving care since March 11. The two clergymen informed him that they will soon be presenting a concrete proposal to the government.

 “They asked me if I was okay with them acting as mediators in the conflict and I did not object,” Farinas told Europa Press via telephone.  The “only” condition he had was that their participation be “impartial.”

“I am now awaiting what their proposals are to deal with my situation,” he added, saying if the proposal is satisfactory he would accept it and would end his hunger strike, although he said he remains firm in his position that the only solution is the liberation of prisoners who are sick.

Farinas said the Church believes there are more than 26 prisoners who are in poor health, and that permission will be requested for as many as 200 prisoners who need medical care to be released.

He also revealed that two “top diplomats,” one from Europe and another from the U.S., have visited him and offered to be “mediators” in the protest Farinas has been lodging since February 24, the day after prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo died from a hunger strike.  “They have asked me not to reveal details about this.”

On May 24, Farinas told Reuters over the phone that Cuba has agreed to move political prisoners held in jails far away from their hometowns to facilities closer to their homes and to transfer sick prisoners to hospitals.

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