Friday, January 28, 2011

158 years after the birth of José Martí a Cuban Woman is on hunger strike demanding her husband's freedom

It is terrible to speak of you, Liberty, for one who lives without you. - José Martí

On hunger strike, Alejandrina García de la Riva

José Julián Martí Pérez was born on January 28, 1853 and will be honored by a dictatorship that is the antithesis of everything he represented and advocated. Today, on the the 158th anniversary of his birth Alejandrina García de la Riva, wife of Cuban prisoner of conscience Diosdado González Marrero and thus a Cuban Lady in White, wrote to Yoani Sanchez: "I declare myself on hunger strike for the freedom of my husband Diosdado." Shortly after midnight on January 28, 2011 the Cuban Democratic Directorate released a statement from Alejandrina.

Alejandrina has a twitter account with one entry from June 11, 2010 that reads: "To the Cuban government I say: Do not be afraid to open the gates and free the prisoners of conscience."

Alejandrina García de la Riva speaks out on February 1, 2011, the 5th day of her hunger strike (video by Yoani Sanchez)

A month later on July 7, 2010, according to Cardinal Jaime Ortega, an agreement was reached where all prisoners of conscience imprisoned during the 2003 Cuban Black Spring would be freed by November 2010 with those wanting to remain in Cuba being released last. With the exception of one prisoner of conscience, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, age 68, the only one's released have been driven to the airport and placed on a plane out of the country into exile. Eleven prisoners of conscience from 2003 remain in prison today. One of them is Alejandrina's husband, Diosdado González Marrero.

He was arrested on March 18, 2003. According to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)he was "[s]entenced to 20 years imprisonment on April 7, 2003." The IACHR also informed that he was a "[m]ember of the Peace, Democracy, and Freedom Party (Partido Paz, Democracia y Libertad) in Perico Matanzas," and that he was born on August 10, 1962.

In 2004, Amnesty International described Diosdado as having "been an activist for several years" who "has been detained on several occasions" and had been "recognised by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience in the past." According to reports presented to Amnesty International, "he suffers from high blood pressure and apparently has not received adequate medical attention for his complaint."

Below you can listen to Alejandrina García de la Riva interviewed by the Argentine journalist Débora Plager on July 10, 2010 where she talks about the circumstances surrounding her husband's arrest and their family:

In the recording below you can listen to Alejandrina as she describes an activity carried out by the Ladies in White on September 26, 2010:

"The struggles waged by nations are weak only when they lack support in the hearts of their women. But when women are moved and lend help, when women, who are by nature calm and controlled, give encouragement and applause, when virtuous and knowledgeable women grace the endeavor with their sweet love, then it is invincible." - José Martí

Cuban Ladies in White silently marching through Havana demanding their loved one's freedom. Perhaps the dictatorship is afraid to free non-violent prisoners of conscience and would prefer to confront the powerful mobilization of Cuban women because they fear 11 courageous men. They who have organized acts of repudiation; sought to sow hatred and distrust into Cuban society in order to divide it; murdered innocent men, women and children in massacres like the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre and the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down; and falsely imprisoned, tortured and murdered prisoners of conscience like Orlando Zapata Tamayo then slandered them in death and harassed their families lack all decorum.

They also know as José Martí long ago observed that "[w]hen there are many men without decorum, there are always others who themselves possess the decorum of many men. These are the ones who rebel with terrible strength against those who rob nations of their liberty, which is to rob men of their decorum. Embodied in those men are thousands of men, a whole people, human dignity." That kind of moral strength when faced with a morally bankrupt regime can bring it down quickly.

Update: On Tuesday, February 1, 2011 Cuban prisoner of conscience Diosdado González Marrero initiated a water only hunger strike in solidarity with his wife demanding freedom of 11 prisoners of conscience imprisoned in 2003 and was joined by fellow prisoner of conscience Pedro Argüelles. Associated Press reported on Tuesday that Alejandrina had already lost 5 pounds.