As we approach the 13th anniversary of the communist Castro dictatorship’s brutal murder of Cuban opposition leader Orlando Zapata Tamayo, here are some important facts you should know.
Fact Sheet on Orlando Zapata Tamayo
“Long live human rights, with my blood I wrote to you so that this be saved as evidence of the savagery we are subjected to that are victims of the Pedro Luis Boitel political prisoners [movement]” – Orlando Zapata Tamayo, letter smuggled out April of 2004
Fact #1 Orlando Zapata Tamayo was murdered by Cuban government officials
Both Abel Lopez Perez and Reina Luisa Tamayo charge that Cuban prison officials denied Orlando Zapata Tamayo water in an effort to break his spirit. Reina Luisa Tamayo in an interview with Yoani Sanchez, hours after her son’s death denounced that officials had denied him water. Abel Lopez corroborates the charge stating: “Before Zapata was checked into the hospital, he was regularly taking some vitamins. He was in a weak state of health. A military chief known as ‘Gordo’, who was the one responsible for ordering all of Zapata’s things to be taken out of the cell and to stop giving him water, also took his bottle of vitamins and poured all the pills down a drain. He told him, ‘Those who are in protest here don’t drink vitamins. I think those are pills sent to you by the Yankees so you can continue your hunger strike.’ Those were the exact words said to him, I verified them. His vitamins were taken away, as were any other medications. And they stopped giving him water for a while.” This type of practice was also documented in the 1966 death of another Cuban hunger striker, Roberto López Chávez.,  Denying water to a man on water only hunger strike is cruel and inhuman treatment that contributed to his death.
Fact #2 Orlando Zapata Tamayo was an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was recognized as an Amnesty International (AI) prisoner of conscience on January 29, 2004 a designation given only to nonviolent activists after careful examination. On January 29, 2004 Amnesty International outlined Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s past arrests:
“He has been arrested several times in the past. For example he was temporarily detained on 3 July 2002 and 28 October 2002. In November 2002 after taking part in a workshop on human rights in the central Havana park, José Martí, he and eight other government opponents were reportedly arrested and later released. He was also arrested on 6 December 2002 along with Oscar Elías Biscet, but was released on 8 March 2003. Most recently, he was arrested on the morning of 20 March 2003 whilst taking part in a hunger strike at the Fundación Jesús Yánez Pelletier, Jesús Yánez Pelletier Foundation, in Havana, to demand the release of Oscar Biscet and other political prisoners.”
Orlando Zapata Tamayo appeared photographed in the Cuban government’s own publication Los Disidentes, in photos prior to his 2003 arrest and was then recognized by Cuban officials as a dissident. The Spanish newspaper El Mundo carried a photo the day after the Cuban regime announced the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo with prominent Cuban dissidents.
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