A day after Cuban President Raul Castro said his government would not accede to "blackmail" by its enemies, dissident hunger striker Guillermo Farinas vowed on Monday to continue his protest until he dies, if necessary.
Farinas, who is seeking the release of 26 ailing political prisoners, said his death would be "a murder by the state" despite Castro's contention in a speech on Sunday that Farinas and his backers would have only themselves to blame.
"I think it was expected, but now it comes from (Castro) that they are going to let me die," he told Reuters in a telephone interview on the 41st day of a hunger strike that he said would continue until the "ultimate consequences."
"It's a challenge that I will respond to," said Farinas, a psychologist and writer from the central city of Santa Clara.
Farinas, 48, has been in a hospital receiving fluids intravenously since he collapsed March 11, but he has lost 33 pounds (15 kilos) and is growing steadily weaker, his mother Alicia Hernandez said.
"He is disappointed with everything, which hurts me in my soul. What he wants is to die now," she said, weeping so that she could not continue speaking.
Farinas' death would be the second this year by a Cuban hunger striker and would likely bring further international repercussions that Castro said the government is prepared to accept.
Farinas stopped eating and taking fluids a day after the Feb. 23 death of dissident prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who refused to eat for 85 days in protest of prison conditions.
Castro said Farinas, who has conducted 22 previous hunger strikes, was an instrument in a long-standing campaign by the United States and Europe to undermine Cuba's communist government.
"We will never give in to blackmail, by any country or any group of countries no matter how powerful they are, no matter what happens," Castro said in his nationally televised speech to the Union of Communist Youth.
Castro said Cuba was doing what it could to save Farinas, but that if "he does not change his self-destructive attitude, he will be responsible, together with his supporters, for the outcome we don't want."
Zapata's death was followed by protest marches in Havana by the dissident "Ladies in White," wives and mothers of government opponents jailed in a 2003 crackdown, who were harassed by government supporters.
The events have worsened relations with the United States and the 27-nation European Union, both of which condemned Cuba and called for the release of its estimated 200 political prisoners.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who had made a modest effort to improve hostile U.S-Cuba relations, accused Cuban leaders of continuing "to respond to the aspirations of the Cuban people with a clenched fist."
All this, and Cuba's imprisonment of U.S. contractor Alan Gross -- detained in December on suspicion of espionage -- have helped those opposed to easing the 48-year-long U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, Miami-based lawyer Timothy Ashby said.
"The pro-embargo activists have been seeking Cuban actions to use as a justification for stifling further policy liberalization," said Ashby, a former U.S. Commerce Department official responsible for trade with Cuba.
The recent events "were the actions the pro-embargo crowd had been hoping for," he said.
Cuba has said Gross, 60, was part of U.S.-funded efforts to subvert the government. The United States has conceded he entered Cuba on a tourist visa without declaring his true intent, but said he went to Cuba only to provide Internet services to Jewish groups.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 06 Nisan 2010, 00:52