Cuban dissidents–both on and off the island–have been blasting the news of Víctor Rolando Arroyo’s 12-day hunger strike. In a matter of hours, CPJ received three concerned e-mails from Havana and Miami. In the meantime, foreign-based Cuban news Web sites plastered the story across the Internet.
Arroyo is one of 22 independent journalists imprisoned in Cuba today. He is being held in the Kilo 5 1/2 Prison in the western province of Pinar del Río, where he is housed in a hall along with 130 other prisoners, according to Cuban news Web sites. Like all the other journalists jailed in Cuba, Arroyo suffers from an array of ailments that have developed in prison. According to CPJ research, he has been diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, and pulmonary emphysema.
On May 15, the journalist began a hunger strike, his wife Elsa González Padrón said. The news reports said he is protesting a lack of medical attention, bad sanitary conditions in his cell, his cruel treatment, and the fact that he has not been allowed to practice religion. Arroyo is only permitted to see the sun once a month, added the news reports.
At least three other political prisoners are said to have joined the reporter in his protest out of solidarity.
On Tuesday, the 10th day of the hunger strike, prison authorities allowed a Catholic priest to see Arroyo, said Cuban independent journalist Miriam Leiva in an e-mail to CPJ. “The priest talked to him and found him to be very weak,” Leiva said. The same day, Arroyo missed his weekly phone call home, which she said is an indication that prison authorities have decided to further punish Arroyo for his dissent.
González Padrón told reporters that she is very worried about her husband’s debilitating health. She said she would blame the Cuban government if anything were to happen to Arroyo, reported U.S.-based Radio Martí.
Arroyo, a journalist with the independent news agency Unión de Periodistas y Escritores de Cuba Independientes, was imprisoned during a massive government crackdown against Cuban dissidents and the independent press in March 2003. He was sentenced in April 2003 to 26 years in prison under Article 91 of the penal code for acting “against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” In September 2005, Arroyo refused food for 25 days to protest mistreatment at the Guantánamo Provincial Prison, in eastern Cuba, where was then being held.