Today, 18 March, marks the seventh anniversary of the events in which 75 Cuban dissidents and independent journalists were arrested, imprisoned and unjustly sentenced to many years in prison for exercising their freedom of opinion and assembly, acts which the Cuban government considers to be against national sovereignty.
These arrests, remembered as the "Primavera Negra de Cuba" (Cuba’s Black Spring), resulted in sentences of up to 28 years in prison for the so-called Group of 75. In June 2003 Amnesty International declared them prisoners of conscience. Today, seven years later, 53 of them remain in prison, suffering constant abuse from the Cuban authorities who isolate them from other political prisoners, deny visits from their families, hold them hundreds of miles from their places of origin while physical tortures debilitates them and endangers their health. They are often denied basic medical services.
A sad example of these serious violations of human rights is the death of Miguel Valdés Tamayo, who died in a Havana hospital on 10 January 2007. He had been released from prison due to serious disease contracted in prison, but was not allowed to leave the country to be treated despite having visas from the Netherlands and the United States. Miguel is considered the first martyr of the Group of 75. In a more recent case on 26 February this year, after spending 86 days on hunger strike, Orlando Zapata Tamayo died. His martyrdom has become a symbol of resistance to oppression, and his example followed by other Cuban dissidents.
Despite the loss of life the Cuban opposition is determined to continue defending their rights and those of all Cubans. Today, the psychologist and independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas accumulates 20 days of hunger and thirst strike. He is protesting the death of Zapata Tamayo and demanding the release of 26 political prisoners whose health condition is critical, and incompatible with the conditions of confinement in Cuban jails. Currently, Fariñas is hospitalized, and is being fed intravenously, after losing consciousness a some days ago.
While all this happens, the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of prisoners of the Black Spring, are harassed and repressed by the regime’s mobs with actos de repudio (repudiation rallies), during which, from the impunity offered by the government, government agents physically and verbally assault these women who are peacefully marching to request the release for their loved ones. This March 17, thirty Damas de Blanco were brutally beaten and dragged by force to a police bus as they prepared to visit opponent Orlando Fundora, also in critical health condition. The attack, which involved police officers and government civil agents, is another example of disregard for basic human rights encouraged by the behavior of the Cuban authorities.
These women, as well as other human rights and democracy activists who are willing to sacrifice themselves in defense of the rights of their compatriots, have become a symbol of the new Cuba that awaits around the corner. They all are the future of a nation and deserves to live in democracy.
Today, the Global Cuban Solidarity Movement makes a special appeal to the international community to join the demand for the release of Cuban political prisoners and respect for their human rights and those of their families and the rest of the Cuban people.
The Global Cuba Solidarity Movement is composed of organizations and individuals around the world who support freedom for Cubans through a democratic transition. The Movement is aimed at increasing the international consciousness and support of the growing Cuban movement of pro-democracy. Through these efforts, Cubans on the island who are fighting for their freedom know that they matter to the world and their cause is believed in. For more information about the Global Cuba Solidarity Movement, please visit: www.solidaridadcuba.org / Write to firstname.lastname@example.org