On Saturday, Cuba issued an unprecedented public report on the status of an imprisoned dissident. Guillermo Fariñas Hernández
began his hunger strike in February, the day after the first Cuban hunger striker death in almost forty years. He is now near death
As a rule, Cuba maintains an official near-silence on political prisoners. Its publicly-broadcast interview with Guillermo Fariñas' doctor and publication
in the state newspaper Granma
this weekend broke with standard practice and startled international observers.
This is Fariñas' twenty-third hunger strike. A photo of his shrinking figure
was taken in April. Though Fariñas has been on parenteral (IV) nutrition since March, a blood clot that has developed in his jugular vein poses a significant immediate risk to his life. The English-language blog Uncommon Sense
is posting updates on his situation. Friends of the prisoner are managing Fariñas' own blog
and a Twitter account
In February, fellow prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo
became the first dissident to die during a hunger strike since 1972. Granma
dismissed Zapata's death as a "case of political manipulation"
and announced that the "lack of martyrs within the Cuban counterrevolution is proportional to its lack of scruples."
Nevertheless, his death brought Cuba sharp international criticism and produced a new wave of hunger strikers
, Fariñas among them.
In response to the official piece about his health in Granma
, Fariñas dictated a brief statement
by telephone yesterday, saying that "I am conscious of my nearing death and I consider it an honor."
Fariñas was one of the signatories to a recent letter
addressed to the Congress of the United States, requesting the reversal of a long-standing ban on travel to Cuba for American citizens. On July 1 a House panel took first steps
in that direction, voting 25-20 in favor of lifting the ban.