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Cuban hunger striker reported very ill

Posted on Thursday, 11.12.09
Cuban hunger striker reported very ill

Leading Cuban dissident Martha Beatriz Roque is extremely ill due to
complications from her diabetes and a liquids-only fast launched to
protest the government, another dissident reported Thursday.

“A doctor who visited her this morning said she may not last the day,''
said Vladimiro Roca in the early afternoon. By early evening, he
reported later, she was “not worse, but not better either.''

The 64-year-old Roque, who is diabetic and has suffered two heart
attacks, was released from prison in 2004 because of her health. She had
been sentenced to 20 years during the 2003 crackdown on dissidents known
as “Black Spring.''

An economist, Roque is one of the most active and best-known dissidents
in Cuba. She served three other years in prison, 1997-2000, for her role
in the Dissidence Working Group and a keystone opposition document
titled “The Country Belongs To All.''

Roque, Roca and six other dissidents launched the fast Tuesday — a
younger dissident is on a total hunger strike — to intensify a
month-long sit-in protest at Roca's Havana home against state security

A senior state security official paid a “personal'' visit to the house
Thursday and asked to speak to her, but offered no conciliation, Roci
said. So she refused to see him.

She fainted twice Wednesday and had staying in his bedroom Thursday,
conscious but weak and suffering from strong headaches, added Roca, a
former Cuban air force combat pilot and son of a leader of the island's
pre-Castro communist party.

An emergency ambulance crew apparently called by state security agents
checked on Roque four times Wednesday. The crew's doctor asked her to
sign a document saying she was continuing the fast on her own
responsibility, but she refused, Roca added.

He said her parish priest gave her communion and the sacrament of the
sick, formerly known as extreme unction, on Wednesday night. And during
a fifth visit Thursday the ambulance doctor said that Roque could
swiftly suffer a collapsed lung and die.

Roque takes medication to control her blood sugar, not insulin
injections, he added. But the liquids-only fast does not allow the
careful control of diet that diabetics require, he added.

“We hold the Cuban government and the State Security responsible for
what could happen to Martha,'' Roca told El Nuevo Herald during one of
two telephone interviews from Havana.

The nine have been staging a sit-in at Roca's house since Oct. 9 to
demand the return of a camera “stolen'' by a state security agent from
a member of the Cuban Network of Community Communicators, which posts
news and photos on the Web.

“It's not about the camera itself, but about the right [to work and to
free expression and information] implicit in the camera, the right that
they are violating,'' said Roca, who co-founded the Network with Roque.

But as time passed the group was increasingly harassed by pro-government
neighborhood groups and government officials. Roca said his nephew was
hit by a rock when they went out to buy food for the group, and two days
later, a state security official entered his house and shook him by the

Roca's house has been virtually sealed off for days by pro-government
groups, said Elizardo Sánchez, head of the illegal but tolerated Cuban
Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Sánchez added that October saw a worrisome increase in the number of
“arbitrary detentions'' — usually brief harassing detentions of
dissidents — that totaled 48 such detentions of 92 persons.

“That is much, much higher than in September,'' he said.

Cuban hunger striker reported very ill – Cuba – (12
November 2009)

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