02/25/2010 -- You really have to wonder about the motivation – or, lack thereof – underscoring a story out of Cuba, a story running exactly one line in length.
Here is the Reuters dispatch, in its entirety:
Cuban President Raul Castro expressed regret Wednesday over the death of a leading dissident in a prison hunger strike, an official statement said.Not much context there.
Who was this leading dissident, named Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a 42 year old man who has been in prison for years?
Why was he in prison? Why was he engaged in a hunger strike?
The Miami Herald story by Juan O. Tamayo adds considerable context to this sad tale:
Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a 42-year-old plumber and bricklayer, stopped eating solid food Dec. 3 to protest what he described as repeated beatings by guards and many other abuses at his Kilo 7 prison in the eastern province of Camagüey.So, more to the curious point addressed in the single line of that Reuter's dispatch, above, for exactly what reason did Raul Castro express regret?
Active in several dissident organizations, he had been arrested in 2003 amid a government crackdown that sentenced 75 government critics to lengthy prison terms, and Amnesty International declared him a "prisoner of conscience."
Initially charged with contempt, public disorder and "disobedience" and sentenced to three years, he was convicted of other acts of defiance while in prison, and by the time of his death faced a total of 36 years in prison.
Raúl Castro, the 78 year old younger brother of long-time Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, has effectively been the dictator in charge in communist Cuba since Fidel's illness in the summer of 2006.
One wonders if his "regret" could be over the fact that the nation he currently leads detains and imprisons people for voicing criticism of the central government – as it has always done?
Of course not.
Was it that he regretted that Mr. Tamayo was beaten while in prison?
Of course not.
The Cuban government not only beats prisoners jailed for political control reasons, it even sends out its State Security thugs to exact official revenge on its own people, right in the streets of the island nation. They seek out and beat people for merely speaking out, or even just attending rallies!
Just this past November, they kidnapped and physically beat a courageous young woman blogger by the name of Yoani Sánchez who posts her blog, "Generación Y" on the portal, "Desde Cuba". As she thereafter posted back in November, the State Security thugs rounded her and two other friends up, threw them in cars, and she and her friend Rinaldo were subjected to a severe beating.
Thereafter -- a few days later -- Yoani turned the tables on the thugs and she actually took photos of them as they were officially hanging around her home spying on her, and she posted their photos on her blog. That took a special kind of courage that none of us will likely ever be able to display.
As for the events surrounding the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, here is how Mr. Castro’s comments were reported in The Times (of London) in a story entitled, Death of dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo leads to clampdown in Cuba:
Raúl Castro, the Cuban President, issued an unprecedented statement expressing regret for the death of a dissident. "Raúl Castro laments the death of Cuban prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after conducting a hunger strike," he said.The night of Tamayo's death, Yoani Sánchez traveled to the location where the autopsy of Mr. Tamayo was being conducted, and she spoke to his grieving mother, giving her the opportunity to make a statement for the record.
Here was what Reina Luisa Tamayo Dangier said (it is in Spanish, and the video quality is unfortunately poor because of the lighting).
Yoani published the full translation on her site, from which it is clear that Tamayo's mother obviously wanted to encourage people to attend her son's wake, and that she believed he was murdered. She said in part:
. . .Having posted the video of Reina Luisa Tamayo Dangier's comments regarding her son's death on February 23rd, it seems a bit unusual that Yoani Sánchez has since gone silent. Hopefully she will post more information soon.
"We will leave for Banes, Holguin Province, Embarcadero road, house number six, where we will hold the wake before our family altar, at my home, for as long as required.
I want to tell the world about my pain. I think my son’s death was a premeditated murder. My son was tortured throughout his incarceration. His plight has brought me great pain and has been excruciating for the entire family. Even, as he was transferred to this prison, he was first held in Camaguey without drinking water for 18 days. My son dies after an 86-day hunger strike. He is another Pedro Boitel for Cuba.
. . . ."
As for Raúl Castro, do not hold your breath for any further explanation about what he regrets. But I think we can rest assured that it had nothing to do with what he and his brother should be regretting -- such as putting people in jail for years for disagreeing with the government, or for "disobedience!" What he should regret, but never will, is the horror they have wrought on this island nation and its people over the past half a century!