Hunger strike in Cuba
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    Cuba dissident dies, allies allege police beating

    Posted on Sunday, 05.08.11

    Cuba dissident dies, allies allege police beating
    Associated Press

    HAVANA — A Cuban dissident died Sunday following a run-in with
    authorities at a protest, said fellow government opponents who accused
    police of beating him and provoking his death.

    Juan Wilfredo Soto died early in the morning in the central city of
    Santa Clara, fellow dissident Guillermo Farinas told The Associated
    Press in an interview by telephone from a funeral home where he said
    family members were gathered.

    Farinas said Soto was detained and beaten Thursday during an
    anti-government protest. Soto was hospitalized and Farinas said doctors
    told him he died of pancreatitis, but he said he had not seen a death
    certificate yet.

    Cuban authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment,
    and details of the protest and alleged beating could not be
    independently confirmed by the AP.

    Pancreatitis has a number of possible causes, and Farinas acknowledged
    that Soto, 46, had a number of pre-existing health issues including
    diabetes, circulatory and heart problems, and gout.

    But Farinas said he believes police are responsible: "This killing
    cannot go unpunished."

    Little-known outside Santa Clara, Soto was among those who supported a
    134-day hunger strike by Farinas last year to press for the release of
    political prisoners, a protest that the European Union recognized by
    awarding Farinas its Sakharov human rights prize.

    The government frequently calls the island's small community of
    dissidents "mercenaries," common criminals financed from the United
    States with the purpose of undermining the revolution.

    Elizardo Sanchez, leader of the dissident Cuban Commission for Human
    Rights and National Reconciliation, also linked Soto's death to his

    "We believe that the blows he received were a catalyst," Sanchez said.
    "We do not think there was a political intent to kill him, but there was
    a struggle when he was yelling anti-government slogans."

    He alleged that there has been increased physical intimidation and
    violence against dissidents in the past two months.

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