Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fact Sheet on Orlando Zapata Tamayo

Cuban Prisoner of Conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo: 
Tortured and Murdered by Cuban Government Officials


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.[1] 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.”[2] This type of practice was also documented in the 1966 death of another Cuban hunger striker, Roberto López Chávez.[3], [4] 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.[5] 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[6], 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.”[7]

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.[8]


Fact #3 Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s hunger strike was an act of non-violent self-defense


Orlando Zapata Tamayo had been beaten and tortured on more than one occasion by prison guards and state security along with other prisoners. His body was scarred and his health in decline. For example Amnesty International reported that, on "October 20, 2003 [Orlando Zapata] was dragged along the floor of Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after requesting medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations."[9] Cuban political prisoner Abel Lopez Perez transferred to the same prison in Camaguey as Orlando Zapata Tamayo on December 3, 2009 briefly saw him and heard from other prisoners “that a few days before being taken away, Zapata stood up and shouted, ‘People, don’t let yourselves be lied to. Don’t believe anything that they tell you. I’m not demanding a kitchen or any of the things they took away from me. I’m demanding an improvement of treatment for all prisoners, and so you all know, I am going to die for it.’”[10] The case of Ariel Sigler Amaya, another Cuban prisoner of conscience, is instructive. He had to threaten a hunger strike, although already emaciated and crippled, to obtain medical treatment to save his life.[11] The hunger strike was not an act of suicide but rather a tactic of self defense within the arsenal of nonviolent options.


Fact #4 Between 1966 and 2010 at least six Cuban political prisoners died while on hunger strike: Roberto López Chávez , Carmelo Cuadra Hernández , Pedro Luis Boitel, Olegario Charlot Pileta, Enrique García Cuevas and Orlando Zapata Tamayo.


Roberto López Chávez, 25 years old, died on December 11, 1966 in Isla de Pinos prison on hunger strike without medical assistance.[12] Armando Valladares, in his prison memoir, Against All Hope described the circumstances surrounding his death: “When Roberto López Chávez, went on a hunger strike to protest the abuses in the prison, the guards withheld water from him until he became delirious, twisting on the floor and begging for something to drink. The guards then urinated in his mouth. He died the next day.”[13], [14]

Carmelo Cuadra Hernández, died in La Cabaña prison in April of 1969 on hunger strike, after suffering mistreatment and torture over eight and a half months, without receiving medical care and was the third political prisoner that has died on a hunger strike.[15], [16]

Pedro Luis Boitel died on hunger strike on May 25, 1972.[17],[18]

Olegario Charlot Pileta, died in the famous "Escaleras" (staircase) of the Boniato prison, in of January 1973 during a hunger strike, without medical assistance and is described in documents as a “black youth.” [19],[20]

Enrique García Cuevas died on a hunger strike, without receiving medical care, in cell No. 4 of the new Provincial Jail of Santa Clara, on June 24, 1973.[21]

Two of the four outlined above died on hunger strikes after Pedro Luis Boitel and there are partial estimates that place the number identified to have died while on hunger strike at twelve including both Boitel and Zapata. Since the death of Pedro Luis Boitel there are partial lists identifying six political prisoners dead on hunger strikes between May 25, 1972 and February 23, 2010.[22]



1. Sanchez, Yoani “Orlando Zapata Tamayo's Mother Speaks After Her Son's Death” The Huffington Post February 24, 2010 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yoani-sanchez/orlando-zapata-tamayos-mo_b_475006.html

2. Felipe Rojas, Luis “Abel Remembers the Last Days of Zapata in a Prison of Camaguey” Crossing the Barbed Wire November 24, 2010 http://cruzarlasalambradaseng.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/abel-remembers-the-last-days-of-zapata-in-a-prison-of-camaguey/

3. Valladares, Armando Against All Hope: The Prison Memoirs of Armando Valladares (1st edition Knopf April 12, 1986) quote taken from (1st Edition Encounter Books April 1, 2001) pg. 379

4. Glazov, Jamie United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror WND Books, 2009 Pg 48



5. Amnesty International “CUBA Newly declared prisoners of conscience” January 29, 2004 http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR25/002/2004/en/308bf23e-d648-11dd-ab95-a13b602c0642/amr250022004en.html

6. Quintero, Tania “CUBA | Llorando a un amigo ¡Así te voy a recordar, Orlando!” El Mundo February 24, 2010 http://www.elmundo.es/america/2010/02/24/cuba/1267020583.html

7. Amnesty International “CUBA Newly declared prisoners of conscience” January 29, 2004 http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR25/002/2004/en/308bf23e-d648-11dd-ab95-a13b602c0642/amr250022004en.html

8. Felipe Rojas, Luis “Abel Remembers the Last Days of Zapata in a Prison of Camaguey” Crossing the Barbed Wire November 24, 2010 http://cruzarlasalambradaseng.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/abel-remembers-the-last-days-of-zapata-in-a-prison-of-camaguey/

9. Rodriguez, Eliott “Paralyzed Former Cuban Prisoner Arrives In Miami” CBS4 July 28, 2010 http://cbs4.com/local/ariel.amaya.cuban.2.1829264.html

10. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights “Annual Report 1975: 1805 Cuba” http://www.cidh.org/annualrep/75eng/Cuba1805.htm

11. Valladares, Armando Against All Hope: The Prison Memoirs of Armando Valladares (1st edition Knopf April 12, 1986) quote taken from (1st Edition Encounter Books April 1, 2001) pg. 379

12. Glazov, Jamie United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror WND Books, 2009 Pg 48

13. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights SITUATION OF POLITICAL PRISONERS IN CUBA (1976) http://www.cidh.org/countryrep/cuba76eng/chap.1.htm

14. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights SEGUNDO INFORME SOBRE LA SITUACIÓN DE LOS PRESOS POLÍTICOS Y SUS FAMILIAS EN CUBA May 7, 1970 http://www.cidh.org/countryrep/Cuba70sp/cap.1b.htm

15. Amnesty International “CUBA Newly declared prisoners of conscience” January 29, 2004 http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR25/002/2004/en/308bf23e-d648-11dd-ab95-a13b602c0642/amr250022004en.html

16. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights “Annual Report 1975: 1805 Cubahttp://www.cidh.org/annualrep/75eng/Cuba1805.htm

17. Tamayo, Juan O. “Jailed Cuban activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo dies on hunger strike” The Miami Herald February 23, 2010 http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/02/23/1496572/cuban-activist-dies-on-hunger.html

18. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 6TH REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF POLITICAL PRISONERS IN CUBA: CHAPTER III: AN ANALYSIS OF CERTAIN INDIVIDUAL CASES SUBMITTED TO THE IACHR 14 December 1979 http://www.cidh.org/countryrep/cuba79eng/chap.3.htm

19. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights CHAPTER I SITUATION OF POLITICAL PRISONERS IN CUBA (1976) http://www.cidh.org/countryrep/cuba76eng/chap.1.htm

20. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights “Annual Report 1975: 1805 Cuba” http://www.cidh.org/annualrep/75eng/Cuba1805.htm

21. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights CHAPTER I SITUATION OF POLITICAL PRISONERS IN CUBA (1976) http://www.cidh.org/countryrep/cuba76eng/chap.1.htm

22. Corzo, Pedro “El calvario de las prisiones cubanas” El Nuevo Herald March 13, 2010 http://www.elnuevoherald.com/2010/03/13/674331_p2/pedro-corzo-el-calvario-de-las.html

1 comment: