Hunger strike in Cuba
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    A welcome word among Cuban exiles: `Unity'

    Posted on Tuesday, 03.30.10
    A welcome word among Cuban exiles: `Unity'
    By Daniel Shoer Roth

    He had neither bathed nor eaten since Saturday, March 20.

    That day, angry and frustrated, Sergio Rodríguez Lorenzo dressed in
    white, climbed into the bed of his '98 Silverado pickup truck, and asked
    his son to drop him off in front of the 2506 Brigade Memorial on Calle
    Ocho in Little Havana.

    He opened his cot, slept under the stars and, quietly, began a hunger
    strike in solidarity with Guillermo Fariñas, a former
    colleague in Cuba, and with the , the mothers, wives and
    daughters of Cuba's political prisoners.

    A group of exiles, who saw Rodríguez Lorenzo dozing, set up a makeshift
    tent the next day. They brought flags of Cuba and posters with the image
    of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died last month in Cuba
    after a hunger strike.

    Inside the tent hung a painting of a solitary flower that wept tears
    onto a dark night.

    “The strike has been successful,'' Rodríguez Lorenzo told me Thursday,
    on the same day that thousands marched in Little Havana for and
    human rights in Cuba. The 46-year-old handyman was imprisoned during the
    of 2003, but was not part of the case of the 75 dissidents.
    “Thousands of people have passed through here, the press has
    interviewed me and the tourists get off the to take photos of me.''

    Initiatives like his strike and others of greater magnitude, such as the
    march for freedom organized by Gloria Estefan, have flourished in South
    Florida in recent weeks, buoyed by an unusual twist — international
    support for Cubans seeking democracy.

    It is not unusual for the exile community to protest human rights
    violations and the lack of civic freedom on the island. But this time,
    sectors and groups that are usually fighting among themselves to defend
    their views on how to achieve democracy have come together under one voice.

    It is a voice of love of country — and of never giving up.

    “Unity among us is very difficult. . . . But there are points on which
    we agree: such as [the plight] of prisoners and the brave attitude of
    the Damas de Blanco, because you have to be courageous to take the
    pressure of the mob around them,'' wrote Marta , a
    prestigious figure in Cuba's opposition movement, by e-mail. “You have
    to show the world that the Cuban nation . . . lacks freedom.''

    Roque welcomed the exile initiatives. “We support them and especially
    if they come from people like the Estefans, who have Cubans'
    affection,'' she said. “It needs to be successful and, also, it can
    launch other efforts to help those of us here who are trying to do our
    part — and those who are losing their life.''

    The impressive Calle Ocho demonstration sparked similar efforts in New
    York, Los Angeles and European cities. During the Miami march, I walked
    alongside the group Unido Ya (Exiles Now United), formed four
    months ago on Facebook. The group, which supported Lorenzo Rodríguez
    during his recently culminated strike, has more than 600 members. You
    don't have to share an ideology or belong to a political organization to
    be part of it.

    One of the founders is Vicente Díaz, 35, who was exiled in 2000. His
    goal was to mobilize young people — and not so young — in a single

    “Exiles are going through a transitional stage of disorganization,''
    said Díaz, who was wearing a bracelet from the maternity ward at
    Baptist. Díaz left his newborn son briefly at the to be a part
    of the march, a historic milestone.

    “All organizations pull for their own interests and that sometimes
    weakens the fight against the real enemy,'' he added, stressing that for
    him there is no difference between the new generation and those from the
    “historic'' exile who arrived in the 1960s and '70s. Both are
    political, not economic, exiles, emphasized Díaz, who said he would not
    set foot in Cuba until the Castro regime “is completely swept away.''

    I left him to approach Nancy Rodríguez, 70, who was screaming
    euphorically, “We are united,'' while crying inconsolably. “We needed
    this,'' she said. “It's been a long time since I have seen such shared

    That's precisely what I felt the most.

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