Orlando Zapata Tamayo, human rights defender
Born: May 15, 1967 - Died: February 23, 2010
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was a human rights defender who was unjustly imprisoned in the Spring of 2003 and was tortured by Cuban prison officials and state security agents over the next six years and ten months. He died on February 23, 2010 following a prolonged hunger strike, aggravated by prison guards refusing him water in an effort to break his spirit. He is a victim of Cuban communism.
Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who was killed under suspicious circumstances on July 22, 2012, issued a statement the same day that Orlando died and appeared in a photograph holding up a photocopy of the martyred human rights defender name and image.
"Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died 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."
|Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas with photocopy image of Orlando Zapata Tamayo|
Remembering Orlando Zapata
Dr. Biscet just released from prison a month earlier had sought to form a grassroots project for the promotion of human rights called "Friends of Human Rights." State security prevented them from entering the home of Raúl Arencibia Fajardo, Oscar Biscet, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Virgilio Marante Güelmes and 12 others held a sit-in in the street in protest and chanted "long live human rights" and "freedom for political prisoners." They were then arrested and taken to the Tenth Unit of the National Revolutionary Police, Décima Unidad de La Policía Nacional Revolucionaria (PNR), in Havana.
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was released three months later on March 8, 2003, but Oscar Elias Biscet, Virgilio Marante Güelmes, and Raúl Arencibia Fajardo remained imprisoned. On the morning of March 20, 2003 whilst taking part in a fast at the Fundación Jesús Yánez Pelletier, Jesús Yánez Pelletier Foundation, in Havana, to demand the release of Oscar Biscet and the other political prisoners. Orlando was taken to the Villa Marista State Security Headquarters.
|Orlando's mom, Reina Luisa Tamayo, holds up son's bloodstained shirt|
"My dear brothers in the internal opposition in Cuba. I have many things to say to you, but I did not want to do it with paper and ink, because I hope to go to you one day when our country is free without the Castro dictatorship. 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 in better days.|
Protests for Orlando Zapata Tamayo continue
Nine years have passed but the martyred Cuban human rights defender has not been forgotten. From the beginning the regime sought to put down and silence protests and acts of remembrance for him, but failed. In March of 2010 at the second Geneva Summit for Human Rights former prisoner of conscience Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo testified to what had happened to Orlando Zapata. In Norway, regime agents became violent and created international controversy after a Cuban diplomat bit a young Norwegian-Cuban woman for trying to record her mom engaged in a protest remembering Orlando Zapata Tamayo in front of the Cuban Embassy in Oslo in May of 2010.
On September 30, 2010 the Canadian punk rock band released a song linking what happened to Orlando Zapata Tamayo to the indifference of Canadian tourists visiting Cuba asking the question: Where were you the day Orlando Zapata died? On May 10, 2012 the Free Cuba Foundation published a video accompanying the song, after receiving the band's permission, with images and song lyrics.
|On 2/19/2018 twenty activists remember Orlando Zapata Tamayo in Cuba.|
The Castro regime did all it could to eliminate the memory of this humble and good man. The dictatorship failed.
The importance of remembrance
Friends of freedom all too often are on the defensive explaining who and what they are against. The lives of courageous nonviolent activists such as Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Harold Cepero Escalante, Laura Inés Pollán Toledo and the four men murdered in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down who were martyred by the Castro dictatorship should be remembered and told to others.
The enemies of freedom do not like to have such heroes remembered and honored. For example on May 24, 2010 in Oslo, Norway a Cuban diplomat attacked and bit a 19 year old Cuban-Norwegian girl who was filming her mother's protest on behalf of Orlando Zapata Tamayo outside of the Cuban embassy. The whole episode was a public relations disaster for the Castro dictatorship in Norway.
Take action on Sunday
On Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 3:00pm sharp join us at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC to protest this and other crimes of the Castro regime. If you are not in the area then make your own poster and take a selfie holding it up in protest. Ni1Mas! Not1More. Elie Wiesel is right: "To forget the victims means to kill them a second time. So I couldn't prevent the first death. I surely must be capable of saving them from a second death."
*Source: "Queridos hermanos míos de la oposición interna de Cuba", escribió Zapata en su misiva, "tengo muchas cosas que decirles, pero no he querido hacerlo por papel y tinta, pues espero ir a ustedes un día cuando nuestra patria sea libre y sin dictadura castrista. Vivan los derechos humanos, con mi sangre les escribí, para que la guarden como parte del salvajismo de que somos víctima el presidio político Pedro Luis Boitel". - "Golpiza y celda tapiada para Orlando Zapata" La Habana, 22 de abril 2004 (María López, Lux Info Press / www.cubanet.org