In an interview with CNA, the president of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba, Oswaldo Paya, offered encouragement to those struggling for democracy in the country and accused the government of spreading lies about the recent death of prisoner of conscious, Orlando Zapata Tamayo.
Referring to the plight of prisoners of conscience, Paya remarked that they “are treated like common prisoners” and are “abused and harassed” right in front of government officials.
These prisoners are held “often far from their families, in conditions of extreme overcrowding, with barely enough water to drink,” said Paya adding that they “have to use paper or bags when they go to the bathroom.”
These conditions they face are in addition to the “systematic beatings and abuse they receive, such as the case was with Orlando Zapata,” Paya said.
Speaking about Zapata, who recently died, Paya explained that he was first sentenced “to three years in prison,” and after being “subjected to arbitrary trials” he was “sentenced to 36 more years.”
Because of this oppression, he said, “Zapata declared a hunger strike. He was put in a prison, in a cell that was truly like a cage. We even received reports that they left him without any water for several days.”
Paya said hunger strikes are sort of an “act of desperation because the prisoner has no other recourse and for this reason his demands must be supported.” When “a prisoner declares a hunger strike we must ask that his demands be met, which is different than the lies that the Cuban government has spread that are an insult to people’s intelligence. We must ask for a more decent treatment, for more respect of the human being.”
He then reported there are some 200 political prisoners in Cuba, and that the government paints them as dangers to society in order to avoid the appearance of incarcerating them for political reasons. “They are considered to be delinquents and agents of imperialism ... In this case the political motives were the defense of human rights, the proposal for peaceful change, the denunciation of human rights violations, the organizing of peaceful civic movements to promote dignity, rights and information.”
“This is what Stalin, Hitler, Franco, Pinochet, Saddam Hussein did, and it’s what the government of Fidel and Raul Castro are doing,” Paya said.