Cuban prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in the Hermanos Amejeiras hospital in La Habana city, Cuba on 23 February 2010, as a consequence of 86 days on voluntary hunger strike.
Cuba has been highly criticised by sections of the bourgeois media and by the French and US governments for this death. Cuba was accused of not doing anything to save this prisoner’s life. Orlando’s mother Reina Luisa Tamayo, however, recognised the care given to her son in the hospital until his last breath.
Much has been said in the international press about this ‘political prisoner’ - something he was not. He already had a very notorious past and his deletive life started back in 1988.
Tamayo was arrested and convicted several times for disturbing the peace, two counts of fraud, public exhibitionism, injury and ‘possession of non-firearm weapons’ by 1990. He was convicted in 1993 for ‘trespassing’, and in 2000, Orlando Zapata Tamayo left Cuban citizen Leonardo Simon with a skull fracture after a machete attack on Simon. Tamayo was convicted again of injuring and possession of non-firearm weapons in 2003. He was also accused of fraud, exposing himself and aggression. He was freed on probation on 9 March 2003, but he committed another crime on 20 March the same year and was re-arrested. Tamayo was hence convicted in May 2004 and sentenced to three years for ‘disrespect’, ‘public disorder’ and ‘resistance’; however, the sentence became larger and larger because of his violent behaviour in gaol. After several acts of violence during his incarceration, especially against the guards, his sentence was increased to 25 years, and later to 36 years.
The reason for this hunger strike was that he wanted a cooker, a mobile phone and a television set in his cell! He was not a political prisoner; he only adopted such ‘qualification’ when his penal record was already mounting. It was only after his imprisonment that his mother approached US-backed right-wing opposition groups. Tamayo was in rehabilitation for alcoholism and he was invited to talk in front of a camera with the promise of a drink. So he just said what these people wanted to hear. He was used by the counter-revolutionaries so that they would have a ‘martyr’ in Cuba. His death is convenient to the enemies of the Revolution, and reactionaries internationally. His extremist political mentors forced him into this hunger strike. They orchestrated the show and a useful scapegoat died. Now the manipulation of Tamayo’s death and the grief of his family, for dubious political purposes can begin.
Nobody ‘disappears’ in Cuba, nobody is murdered by the police, and the only secret places for ‘interrogation’ or torture is at the US Naval base in illegally-occupied Guantanamo Bay.
Tamayo was very well looked after by the Cuban medical services. Sociologists spoke to him to warn him about the consequences of his actions. He had been on hunger strike before, and his body was already damaged as a result. He was cared for until the last minute and until his last breath. He was fed parenterally, and he was on an artificial ventilator for seven days. Cuban doctors explained to Tamayo very clearly what damage could be caused by not eating for several days. Even if you are fed through your veins, the digestive tube still gets badly damaged. Intestinal perforations and haemorrhages can also occur. Your immunological system suffers and weakens, and the alimentary canal gets so thin resulting in the intestinal bacteria that live there getting into your blood stream, and in eventual death.
President Raul Castro confirmed that the prisoner was not ‘executed’ and that there are no extra-judicial executions in Cuba.
Long live the Cuban Revolution!