Cuban head of state Raúl Castro
Latin America: Week in Review

Cuban Dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s Death Draws Attention To Cuba

February 25, 2010 By Staff

Cuban head of state Raúl Castro

Cuban head of state Raúl Castro

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.

Human rights group Amnesty International, the U.S. government, the Spanish government and others have criticized the Cuban government over Zapata Tamayo’s death.

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

North America


  • 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.

Central America

  • 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.


Southern Cone

Image: @ Flickr.


[…] death drew criticism even from states normally reluctant to criticize the one-party state.  Brazilian President Lula da Silva, who arrived in Cuba on a state visit, said he “profoundly lamented” Zapata Tamayo’s […]

[…] began his hunger strike on February 24 of this year, a day after the death of Orlando Zapata. Zapata was a Cuban political activist and prisoner who died on the 83rd day of his hunger strike […]

[…] European Union recently condemned the death of dissident Orlando Tamayo from a hunger strike as “avoidable.” Mexico’s Congress may follow suit, according […]

[…] Thousands demonstrated in Cuba’s May Day celebrations, which were billed as a rebuke against international criticism of the human rights situation in Cuba, following the death of hunger-striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo. […]

[…] has come under fire internationally for its treatment of political dissidence since the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo in February. The Catholic Church has played a key role in mediating the conflict, negotiating the release of […]

[…] who began his hunger strike after the death of fellow dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo in February, ended the strike after the Cuban government announced that it was freeing 52 political […]

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