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Guillermo Fariñas ends seven-month-old hunger strike for Internet access

Guillermo Fariñas ends seven-month-old hunger strike for Internet access

Published on Friday 1 September 2006. Updated on Thursday 25 January 2007.
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Guillermo Fariñas Hernández of the Cubanacán Press agency, who was hospitalised in February after staging a hunger strike, underwent a chest operation on 23 May and then, two days later, wrote to the UN Human Rights Council (of which Cuba is a member) to ask it to condemn the Cuban government.

Reporters Without Borders learned with relief that independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas decided yesterday to end the hunger strike he began on 31 January to press for unrestricted Internet access for all Cubans. Although he had been on an intravenous drip, there was concern that he could die. Fariñas said he would find another way to press his demands when he had recovered.

“We hope that Fariñas will recover quickly from this long ordeal that took him close to death,” the press freedom organisation said. “We again call on the Cuban authorities to grant his justified demand for unrestricted Internet access for all Cubans. We also hope that the small news agency he runs, Cubanacán Press, will be able to resume operating without being harassed.”

Fariñas, 42, called off his hunger strike on the insistence of Marta Beatriz Roque and Berta Antunez, leaders of the banned Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society (APSC), who were warned by dissident doctor Hilda Molina that he could die within a matter of days.

The day before he reached his decision, his mother, Alicia Hernández, had reported that he was suffering from fever, convulsions, kidney problems, a swollen abdomen and a heart disorder. Although still conscious, he was also suffering from constant migraines. He had been transferred to an intensive care unit on 20 August.


4.07.06 - Hunger-striking journalist back on drip

Niurvys Díaz Remond of the independent Cubanacán Press agency has reported that the agency’s director, Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, has again suspended the hunger strike he originally began more than four months ago and is once more being fed intravenously.

After initially agreeing to be put on a drip several days ago, he had it disconnected. But the staff at the Villa Clara hospital to which he was admitted on 8 February finally convinced him to call off his hunger strike. His advanced state of malnutrition means that wounds cannot heal properly. He has staphylococcus aureus and streptococcus infections that could do irreversible harm. He also has an extremely painful neuritis in the chest area for which he constantly needs painkillers.


13.06.06 - Officials reiterate refusal to give full Internet access to journalist on hunger strike

The condition of Guillermo Fariñas Hernández of the independent Cubanacán Press agency, who has been on hunger strike for more than four months, has stabilised but continues to be very worrying, Cuban Foundation for Human Rights president Juan Carlos González Leiva has reported.

Fariñas is refusing to eat to press his demand for unrestricted Internet access in order to be able to work properly as a journalist.

González said a Cuban telephone company representative last week proposed partial Internet access to Fariñas but he refused. A few days later, a Major Vladimir Ernesto Méndez went to see Fariñas and told him the government would never give him Internet access.

Noelia Pedraza Jiménez, the president of the Martha Abreu women’s movement in the city of Santa Clara, visited Fariñas yesterday and found him to be very weak. In an interview for the Miami-based radio station WQBA 1140AM, she said he was suffering from high fevers and numbness on the left side of his body as a result of a lung condition.

Reporters Without Borders voices its support to the members of various dissident groups who have themselves been on a rotating hunger strike since 4 June in a show of solidarity with Fariñas and to draw international attention to his condition.


05.06.06 - Guillermo Fariñas “critical” after more than four months on hunger strike

Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, head of the independent news agency Cubanacán Press, had to undergo an emergency operation at the Santa Clara provincial hospital in central Cuba on the afternoon of 2 June 2006. The treatment he was receiving was not working and fresh complications made rapid medical intervention essential. His condition worsened again at dawn the day following the operation but was stabilised by late morning. The journalist’s mother, Alicia Hernández, confirmed the deterioration in his health in a phone conversation with Reporters Without Borders. She said Fariñas was exhausted and very weak. His condition appears to have stabilised since 3 June, even though he remains critical. Doctors are unable to give any definite indication about the likely prognosis. Reporters without Borders expresses its solidarity with Guillermo Fariñas Hernández and regrets the indifference and inaction of the Cuban government which have contributed to the slow decline in the journalist’s health.


29.05.06 - Independent editor undergoes operation, writes to UN Human Rights Council

Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, the editor of the independent Cubanacán Press agency, wrote to the UN’s new Human Rights Council on 25 May, two days after undergoing an operation to drain excess blood from inside the thoracic wall. Fariñas urged the council, which includes Cuba as one of its members, to condemn Cuba for violating the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Family members said the operation left Fariñas very weak, but his condition is now more stable. He has no more fever, but continues to feel pain in the chest, legs and ankles. He stopped eating and drinking on 31 January to press the government to give Internet access to all Cubans, and was rushed to the Villa Clara provincial hospital, in central Cuba, eight days later.


16.02.06 - Guillermo Fariñas determined to resume his hunger strike

Journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández is determined to restart his hunger strike to press his demand to the Cuban authorities for Internet access that he began on 31 January 2006, friends said. Friend and colleague Manuel Vázquez Portal, founder of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro news agency, now living in exile in Miami, confirmed it. “I phoned him at the hospital on 14 February and he told me that he would resume his hunger strike as soon as he was discharged,” he said. He was admitted to the Arnaldo Milián Castro provincial hospital in Villa Clara, central Cuba on 8 February and is still on a drip. However his state of health has continued to progressively deteriorate despite the artificial feeding.


10.02.06 - Guillermo Fariñas gives up his hunger strike

Guillermo Fariñas Hernández gave way to pressure from his family and medical staff and agreed to end his hunger strike on 9 February 2006, accepting an intravenous drip, AFP reported, citing a family member. The editor of the Cubanacán Press news agency had been in intensive care at Arnaldo Milián Castro hospital in the central city of Villa Clara since 8 February. He had been refusing food and water since 31 January and remains in a very serious condition.


09.02.06 - Journalist hospitalised after refusing food and water for 10 days in Internet protest

Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern today at a sudden worsening in the condition of independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas, who was rushed to hospital yesterday after losing consciousness. He has been refusing food and water since 31 January.

The Cubanacán Press independent news agency said he was admitted to the Arnaldo Milián provincial hospital in the central city of Villa Clara at 12:30 p.m. after losing consciousness at 12:18 p.m. Doctors, who described his condition as critical, put him on an intravenous drip.

Fariñas recovered consciousness at 3 p.m. and, despite the gravity of his condition, found the strength to rip out the drip. He previously announced that he could continue his hunger strike until the end unless the authorities allow all Cubans unrestricted access to the Internet and let independent journalists work freely.

Reporters Without Borders paid tribute to the courage of Fariñas, who is clearly putting his life at risk for the sake of free expression and the right of Cubans to Internet access.


8.02.06 - After nine days of refusing food and water, Guillermo Fariñas is on the point of death

Reporters Without Borders is extremely anxious about Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, director of the Cubanacán Press news agency, who is on the verge of death after a nine-day total hunger strike in which he has refused both food and water.

The journalist has said he is ready to die unless the Cuban authorities give all Cubans free access to the Internet and allows independent journalists the right to freely inform the public.

“Guillermo Fariñas could die at any moment. His fate is in the hands of the authorities,” said Reporters Without Borders. “We urge the government to listen to his message and reply to it, giving him at least the right to use the Internet for his work.

“Failing that, we ask for the journalist to be allowed to receive visits from foreign representatives based in Cuba,” said the press freedom organisation.”

The mother of Fariñas Hernández has given the organisation details about her son’s condition: “He sleeps badly, he can hardly walk. His blood pressure is very low,” she said on 8 February 2006.

There has been a sudden deterioration in the state of health of the Cubanacán Press editor, who started refusing food and water at 12am on 31 January. He is confined to his bed and barely moves.

The news agency’s 18 full-time staff and other dissidents have since 6 February been taking it in turns to fast for one day to keep Guillermo company, one of them told Reporters Without Borders. The same source said that the political police had twice prevented the journalist from receiving visits at Villa Clara in central Cuba, on 3 and 6 February. According to his mother, he is being checked twice a day by a doctor.

He is supported by all the leading dissident figures, including journalists Raúl Rivero and Manuel Vazquez Portal, who were imprisoned in March 2003 and now live in exile.

Fariñas Hernández has warned that he is ready to die unless the Cuban government gives way to his demands. “I want assaults on independent journalists to stop,” he said. “I want all Cubans to be allowed access to the Internet, if the government can do as it said at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis in December, and give it to them.

“I am ready to die. Fidel [Castro] knows my position”, Guillermo Fariñas, who sent a letter to the Cuban head of state on the first day of his hunger strike, told Reporters Without Borders.

According to Manuel Vazquez Portal, his warning should be taken very seriously. “’El Coco’ (the journalist’s nickname) has already staged several hunger strikes. And he is not the man to give in.” This view is shared by the Ladies in White - wives and mothers of prisoners of opinion.


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