A group of 30 members of the Cuban opposition, who began a hunger strike a week ago demanding the release from prison of peaceful activist Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, abandoned their strike after authorities announced that Vázquez would be released.
“The protest ended on Tuesday afternoon,” opposition member Idania Yáñez Contreras said in Havana. “It’s a victory for citizens.”
The decision ended a hunger strike that mobilized the Cuban exile in Miami and international human rights organizations. Solidarity with the strikers gained more traction earlier this week with the support of Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mario Díaz-Balart, David Rivera and former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart.
The strike began 11 days ago in the city of Placetas, Villa Clara, by the well-known opposition member Jorge Luis García Pérez, also known as Antúnez, member of the Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front “Orlando Zapata Tamayo.” Other dissidents such as economist Martha Beatriz Roque, director of the Cuban Network of Community Communications, based in Havana, joined his hunger strike.
On Tuesday, María del Carmen Hernández Martínez, Vázquez’s wife, was summoned by authorities to discuss her husband’s situation. Vázquez should have been released on Sept. 9 after serving a six-month sentence. He had been jailed in the “Alambradas de Manacas” prison, located in the province of Villa Clara.
However, the Cuban government refused to release him. Later, a municipal court in Sagua La Grande, Villa Clara, informed that he would be released in April 2013.
In a news release, the strikers who stopped their protest said that Hernández had discussed her husband’s situation with a colonel and a lieutenant colonel of the Cuban State Security Agency.
“They told Hernández that Vázquez would be home as soon as possible, although they did not acknowledge the mistake made by the municipal court of Sagua La Grande, which allowed the decision to revoke his stay in prison, saying that it didn’t matter whose fault it was,” the news release said. “It doesn’t matter that the dictatorship does not want to acknowledge what has happened. The sacrifice has not been in vain and it’s a victory of the opposition. These 30 dissidents have made it known to the world that, indeed, those who hold power in Cuba break their own laws.”
The strike was taking a dramatic and dangerous twist for the health of the dissidents. Antúnez was taken to the emergency room of the General Hospital in Placetas on Monday. He was unconscious after 10 days of fasting. He recovered in the hospital, but refused an IV to feed him and asked to be sent home immediately.
Roque’s condition was also serious. Roque, 67 and diabetic, suffered tremors, among other complications, and fainted. The strike also protested consistent abuse and beatings of dissidents, as well as harassment and arbitrary detentions.