Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas, whose health has sharply declined over the month since he began a hunger strike to protest human right violations, was rushed to a hospital Thursday.
Doctors and nurses spent eight hours trying to stabilize Fariñas, who lost consciousness, said another dissident, Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel, who has been holding vigil at the hunger striker’s home and serving as his spokesman.
The dissident's Thursday hospitalization was the third one in the last two weeks.
In a telephone interview with Fox News Latino, Montiel said that Fariñas, who has spent much of the last 10 days sleeping as he has grown weaker, was in a lot of pain in recent days and did not awaken, as he had several times a day.
“At the hospital he got injections, it was hard for them to get a vein to take the shots,” Montiel said. “They gave him vitamins, intravenous solutions containing sodium chloride, and things like that to try to stabilize him.”
The Cuban American National Foundation – one of the most influential anti-Castro lobby groups in the world – announced that it would hold a press conference in Miami Friday afternoon to discuss Fariñas.
Fariñas has dropped nearly 30 pounds since he began his hunger strike in mid-July, according to Montiel and the hunger striker’s mother, Alicia Hernandez Cabeza, who spoke to Fox News Latino earlier this week. A Cuban human rights website has posted photos of Fariñas that are said to have been taken within the past four weeks.
Fariñas told Fox News Latino that he was beaten and suffered two fractured ribs and other injuries in July when he asked Cuban state police about the status of a detained dissident, Carlos Amel Oliva. After the beating, he immediately wrote a letter to Cuban President Raul Castro asking for an end to “abuse, terror, and violence by the repressive authorities of your government.”
Meanwhile, Fariñas’s declining health is causing concern around the world, including among those who fear that his death would have ramifications for U.S.-Cuba’s renewed diplomatic relations.
President Barack Obama had responded to critics who called his conciliatory move toward Cuba premature given, they said, that Castro had insisted that the new relations did not mean that he would bring democratic reforms to the country. Obama administration officials responded to criticism by saying that diplomacy would encourage gradual democratic changes on the island.
But reports of dissidents being harassed and beaten, even as they protest peacefully, continue two years after Cuba and the United States resumed relations. Some dissidents, including members of the dissident group Ladies in White, report being harassed and detained by Cuban police as they were on their way to visit Fariñas.
Representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, as well as the Vatican, have gone to see Fariñas at his home in the last two weeks.
In an interview last week, a fragile-sounding Fariñas, who has long fought for human rights in Cuba – enduring 11 years as a political prisoner and staging about two dozen hunger strikes – told Fox News Latino that he feels his last remaining true option to bring worldwide pressure on the regime of Raul Castro is to continue to forego food and liquids and let the chips fall where they may.
“I am ready and willing to die,” he said, “I leave it in God’s hands.”
Fariñas said he is too tired of the systemic abuses by the Castro regime and that he will sacrifice his life to get the Cuban government to take action, or the world to take human rights abuses in Cuba more seriously.
“I’m not asking them to stop detaining people, though they should stop making up bogus reasons and trumping up charges and refusing to admit that they detain people just for political reasons,” Fariñas said of what he is asking of the Cuban government. “I want them to stop beating up people who are merely protesting peacefully for freedom, for democratic reform. They also should never beat someone up when they are handcuffed or put in some other restraints.”
Fariñas, who met with Obama when he visited Havana in March, said the United States' move to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba only has emboldened the Castro regime "by giving it validation."
In a press release about its scheduled press conference in Miami, CANF said it “calls upon the local Miami community, prestigious communication outlets, human rights organizations, diplomats and governments from around the world to support renowned hunger striker, Coco Fariñas, and the other brave activists and opposition groups who demand freedom and the respect for human rights of the Cuban people.”