Magazine March 22, 2010, Issue

Death by Hunger Strike

Reina Luisa Tamayo carries a box with the ashes of her son, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, in Havana, June 8, 2011. (Desmond Boylan/Reuters)
A Cuban prisoner of conscience and an extreme method

Many go on hunger strikes, few die from doing so. On February 23, Orlando Zapata Tamayo died. He was a Cuban political prisoner, one of about 200 kept in the Castros’ cells — in the “Cuban gulag,” as it has been rightly called. Conditions in that gulag are monstrous and unspeakable. The cruelty of man seems to know no bounds. Since the Communist triumph in 1959, many Cuban political prisoners have gone on hunger strikes, out of desperation. They feel they have no other option, no other card to play.

Hunger strikes are problematic, morally and otherwise, and we will discuss

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