John Suarez remembers the courage, sacrifice, and legacy of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.
Five years ago on February 23, Orlando Zapata Tamayo died
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
“I am convinced that publicity is the sole effective means of combating the evil and lawlessness which is rampant in my country today.” – Anatoli Marchenko
Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on February 23, 2010 after a prolonged water only hunger strike in which prison authorities over the course of more than two weeks on and off refused him water. Following his death the Castro regime and its agents of influence sought to slander Orlando’s memory. However, activists who knew Orlando had already spoken on the record as had Amnesty International.
For example, on the same day Orlando Zapata died, Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in a heartfelt message explained the circumstances surrounding his untimely death:
Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died on this afternoon, February 23, 2010, after suffering many indignities, racist slights, beatings and abuse by prison guards and State Security. Zapata was killed slowly over many days and many months in every prison in which he was confined. Zapata was imprisoned for denouncing human rights violations and for daring to speak openly of the Varela Project in Havana’s Central Park. He was not a terrorist, or conspirator, or used violence. Initially he was sentenced to three years in prison, but after successive provocations and maneuvers staged by his executioners, he was sentenced to more than thirty years in prison.
The slander campaign, so far, has failed because people of good will paid attention and refused to remain silent. In Canada, a punk rock band composed and played a song titled Orlando Zapata that placed his death in context. A video accompanying the song was edited by the Free Cuba Foundation. Orlando’s death focused attention on Cuban prisoners of conscience and was a factor in their release between 2010 and early 2011.
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