The Cuban dissidents who launched a collective hunger strike six days ago to demand the release of an imprisoned colleague said Sunday that they felt "very weak," but they insisted that they would continue with their protest.
Rosa Maria Naranjo, one of the five people who joined the hunger strike led by dissident economist Marta Beatriz Roque, in Havana, told Efe on Sunday that she and her fellow strikers felt "very weak" and some of them "are going downhill," but adding that "we will continue until there is a response" from the Cuban government to their demand.
The opposition members involved in the group protest are demanding that Cuban authorities release political prisoner Jorge Vazquez Chaviano, whom they say has already completed his sentence and should have been set free on Sept. 9 in the central province of Villa Clara, and also to denounce the "difficult" situation in which they say the communist island's internal dissident movement finds itself.
Roque, a former prisoner from the "Group of 75," began her hunger strike last Monday, Sept. 10, at her home and some 20 opposition members, some of them imprisoned, followed her lead elsewhere around the country, including in the provinces of Havana, Villa Clara, Placetas, Ciego de Avila, Camaguey, Manzanillo, Santiago de Cuba and Holguin, according to a tally made by her assistant Idania Yanes.
Regarding the health condition of the 67-year-old Roque, who is diabetic and has high blood pressure, Yanes said that "she's very bad off, each day she deteriorates more. She's cold, sweaty and her hands are trembling."
Yanes said that other hunger strikers are in similar shape, including Jorge Luis Garcia, known as "Antunez," Alberto Reyes, a diabetic who is dependent on insulin, and Luis Enrique Santos, all of whom are at their homes in Villa Clara province.
Yanes also said that Vazquez Chaviano's family members said that he had been transferred from the jail in the town of Manacas to "Guamajal" prison in Santa Clara and that the authorities had told them that "they are considering letting (us) see him in the middle of next week."
She also said that Roque last Saturday received a visit from the parish priest of the San Juan Bosco church, which she attends.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Ladies in White dissident movement, Berta Soler, said that the women in her group are "very concerned" about the hunger strikers and have asked them to "desist because we need those men and women to stay alive."
"We respect any person who goes on a hunger strike. That method of struggle is not ours. We're women who are never going to do it, and although we disapprove of it, we're going to give them all the moral and spiritual support we can," Soler emphasized.
Also, she said that "on Saturday I spoke quite a bit with Marta (Beatriz Roque). I asked her to end the strike, (and I said) that if she halted it also the others (should do so), that this wasn't giving in, it was being reasonable and preserving (her) life, that I needed her and the Cuban people also."
Over the past few years, hunger strikes have become an anti-establishment tactic that has been used frequently in Cuba, above all after cases like that of Guillermo Fariñas, who holds the record with 24 hunger strikes, his most recent one in June 2011. EFE