Zapata Tamayo, a dissident jailed in
2003 and sentenced to 25 years on charges of disrespecting authority, died at a
Zapata’s death, which sparked condemnation from the international community and an unusual statement of regret from President Raúl Castro, highlighted the terrible conditions of Cuban jails and the inhumane treatment of imprisoned dissidents. It also prompted strong reactions from dissidents on the island.
“We urge President Castro to ensure the proper care of all journalists currently incarcerated,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ Americas program senior coordinator. “We hold the Cuban government responsible for the health and welfare of those imprisoned.”
Guillermo Fariñas, 48, a Cuban journalist and political activist in the city of
Fariñas, who almost died in 2006 after an extended hunger
strike to protest restrictions on Internet access, hasn’t had food or water
for a week and was showing symptoms of dehydration, hypoglycemia, and low blood
Jailed journalists Pedro Argüelles Morán and Adolfo Fernandez Sainz also reacted to Zapata’s death and fasted for three days, Laura Pollán, a leading human rights activist told CPJ.
Pollán, wife of jailed independent journalist Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez—a 2008 CPJ awardee—told CPJ that jailed journalists Pedro Argüelles Morán, José Luis García Paneque, Alfredo Pulido López, Adolfo Fernández Saínz, Normando Hernández González, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández, and Fabio Prieto Llorente continue to suffer serious illnesses while receiving inadequate attention.
CPJ research shows that that the health of Cuban journalists has seriously deteriorated amid poor prison conditions and insufficient health care. Relatives and friends described health problems ranging from diabetes and a tumor to pneumonia and cataracts. In some cases, they say, the journalists have received little medical attention. They say poor and unsanitary prison conditions have exacerbated the medical problems. Pre-existing ailments have worsened in prison, while a host of serious new illnesses have arisen among those jailed.