Today in Latin America
Top Story — The death of Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo from a hunger strike in protest against prison conditions on Tuesday has catapulted Cuba to the center of the hemisphere’s attention.
Zapata Tamayo demanded to be recognized as a prisoner of conscience and for prison conditions to be improved. He died in a Havana hospital, where he had been transferred due to his deteriorating health, on the 83rd day of his hunger strike.
Zapata Tamayo’s death comes just as a second round of U.S. talks with Cuba about migration concluded. The talks, reinaugurated by the Obama administration after being canceled in 2003, demonstrated that some progress toward better relations had occurred since Obama’s election.
But U.S. officials also met with political dissidents, provoking familiar protests from Havana that Washington supports anti-communist movements.
Raúl Castro lamented Zapata’s death in a statement that was reprinted by state media and said that Cuba does not mistreat prisoners, but at the time of writing the article was not accessible; the url disseminated from CubaDebate’s Twitter account produced an internal server error.
An account of Castro’s statement to the press is available in Spanish from Argentina’s Clarín. Castro addressed the press with Brazilian President Lula da Silva, who had arrived in Cuba on a state visit. Lula da Silva said he “profoundly lamented” Zapata Tamayo’s death.
The Cuban dissident’s death has also prompted strong reactions from the blogosphere, which are summarized at Global Voices online.
Zapata was arrested in 2003 for starting a hunger strike to demand the release of a political prisoner. A group of 75 Cuban dissidents were arrested that year, accused by the Cuban government of working with Washington to overthrow the Communist regime.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- A U.S. courts sentenced former Mexican drug kingpin, Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, to 25 years in prison ordered the forfeiture of $50 million during a a hearing in Houston.
- Mexican stock prices ended on a decline for the third day in a row.
- The president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce issued a letter to Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuno calling upon him to disclose the islands payments and subsidies to its rum companies.
- United States immigration authorities extradited a man suspected of homicide in El Salvador Wednesday.
- Honduras’ anti-corruption prosecutor asked a criminal court to charge former President Manuel Zelaya with allegedly diverting government welfare funds.
- A former Colombian senator and ally of President Alvaro Uribe was arrested Wednesday for allegedly working with far-right death squads.
- The Organization of American States issued a report Wednesday that criticized the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of human rights abuses, repression on other offenses.
- A report published Wednesday said that Ecuador’s business confidence rose 2 percent in January of this year.
- The United States will not back Argentina in its dispute with Britain over the Falkland Islands.
- Brazilian President Lula da Silva attacked the United Nations for not supporting Argentina’s position in the Falkland Islands dispute.
- Mapuche Indians claimed and occupied land in southern Chile.
- Jorge Borgoglio asked Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri to overturn a law permitting gay marriage.
Image: Trinidad-news.com @ Flickr.