The Miami Herald

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Jailed Cuban activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo dies on hunger strike
The Miami Herald

A jailed Cuban dissident on a hunger strike for 83 days died Tuesday, his mother reported, the first time in nearly 40 years that an island activist starved himself to death to protest government abuses.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a 42-year-old plumber and bricklayer, stopped eating solid food Dec. 3 to protest what he described as repeated beatings by guards and many other abuses at his Kilo 7 prison in the eastern province of Camagüey.

Active in several dissident organizations, he had been arrested in 2003 amid a government crackdown that sentenced 75 government critics to lengthy prison terms, and Amnesty International declared him a « prisoner of conscience. »

Initially charged with contempt, public disorder and « disobedience » and sentenced to three years, he was convicted of other acts of defiance while in prison, and by the time of his death faced a total of 36 years in prison.

Zapata’s case sparked several street protests by government critics earlier this month, including one during which police in Camagüey detained some 35 people for several hours. The detainees later complained that some of them were beaten during the roundups.