Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cubazuela: The hunger strikes of Franklin Brito and Luis Enrique Santos

Former Cuban political prisoner Luis Enrique Santos Caballero evicted, humiliated and left homeless along with the rest of his family for political reasons in Cuba by State Security is slowly dying.  Luis Enrique began a hunger strike on May 24, 2013 demanding housing for him and his family. His health was compromised to begin with, he has only one kidney. He lost consciousness today and is said to be near death.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that such a case has drawn international attention. In Cuba the names of Pedro Luis Boitel and Orlando Zapata Tamayo are remembered as is Bobby Sands of Northern Ireland (who the Cuban dictatorship built a memorial to in Cuba) and Venezuela's Franklin Brito joined this select grouping that paid the ultimate price when engaging in a hunger strike on August 31, 2010. Unlike the other men mentioned above, Franklin was not in prison at the time of his hunger strike.

Franklin Brito was a farmer and a biologist whose land was expropriated by Hugo Chavez in 2000 according to CNN. Other news agencies place the date of expropriation anywhere between 2003 and 2004. He exhausted every recourse and was driven to the final option: the hunger strike in 2005
Brito began a series of hunger strikes that resulted in his death five years later.

On November 19, 2009 Franklin Brito in the midst of one of these hunger strikes, he explained what motivated him:
"I am not doing this strike for something material or because persons have behaved badly towards me - that one could say are corrupt. I am doing this strike for dignity and justice. I believe that these are the greatest values that a human being should have."
 Luis Enrique Santos Caballero like Franklin Brito is engaged in a hunger strike to defend his dignity and to demand justice for himself and his family. Both men are confronting regimes that claim to champion social and economic rights but in practice violate them as much as they violate civil and political rights. 

Sadly, as time passes the plight of the Cuban and Venezuelan peoples appears to become one. Let us pray that the struggle for dignity in the face of tyranny does not claim another casualty with Luis Enrique today as it did with Franklin Brito on August 31, 2010. 

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