Hunger strike in Cuba
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    Cuba dissident – Fake site duped me into ending hunger strike

    Cuba dissident: Fake site duped me into ending hunger strike
    Published September 14, 2016 Associated Press

    HAVANA – Guillermo “Coco” Farinas became one of Cuba’s best-known
    dissidents by starving himself — launching two dozen hunger strikes
    demanding government concessions on human rights.

    He started his 25th strike in late July with the demand that President
    Raul Castro halt what Farinas called the worsening repression of
    dissidents since Cuba and the United States declared detente in December

    As the strike entered its second month, the dissident’s backers claimed
    he was close to death. On Monday those worries evaporated. Farinas
    announced he was ending his protest because the European Parliament had
    just voted to link improved ties with Cuba and progress on human rights.
    Also on the table: naming Farinas a special parliamentary adviser on
    civil society on the island.

    The only problem: Not a word of it was true.

    The “Farinas Amendment” was the creation of a faked website that
    masqueraded as the blog of the European Parliament for nearly a week,
    issuing reports widely distributed by anti-Castro Spanish-language media
    including the U.S. government-funded Marti news network.

    “It’s really weird,” said Kristof Kleemann, the chief of staff for
    German member of parliament Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, whom the bogus
    site described as the sponsor of the “Farinas Amendment.” ”Our people
    tell us that the website that published this article, that this website
    is a fake website.”

    Farinas charged that the site was a dirty trick by the Cuban government
    aimed at fooling him into ending a protest that was drawing too much
    attention. There’s no public evidence of a tie to the Cuban government
    or, indeed, anyone else. Because it was hosted on WordPress, a widely
    used blogging platform, the page’s individual registration is impossible
    for the public to trace.

    “Creating this page was an act of espionage,” Farinas said. “They were
    under pressure from the hunger strike and the possibility of my dying
    and they created a fake page so that I would stop.”

    Farinas and his camp frequently speak directly with European diplomats
    based in Havana but did not check Monday’s report with them before
    declaring an end to the strike, according to Jorge Luis Artiles, a
    dissident from the central city of Santa Clara who has served as
    Farinas’ spokesman during much of the protest. Artiles said Farinas’
    camp had learned of the report in a call from backers in Miami. He
    declined to provide further details.

    The Cuban government did not respond to a request for comment, but it
    has long accused Farinas and fellow dissidents of being charlatans
    focused on winning support from anti-Castro exiles in South Florida.
    Hunger strikes have been the target of particular skepticism, with
    government backers accusing strikers of secretly eating and drinking
    away from the public eye.

    “There’s no precedent for Cuban authorities publishing false information
    of this type or imitating established institutions as we see in this
    case,” said Iroel Sanchez, a Havana opinion columnist and blogger with
    close ties to the Cuban government. “Mr. Farinas himself has been a
    systematic source of false information about himself and his ‘activism’
    for profit, inventing all sorts of myths.”

    Artiles said Farinas had been on a total “hunger and thirst” strike at
    home but was given intravenous nutrition and hydration after he was
    rushed unconscious to the hospital five times during his strike.

    Farinas said the discovery that the report was fake would not cause him
    to restart his protest.

    “In a hunger strike, once you start to drink water again, going back
    would be madness,” he said.

    Farinas’ strike came at a critical time for Cuba’s small, factionalized
    community of outspoken government opponents. Once a centerpiece of U.S.
    policy on Cuba, traditional dissidents have found themselves on the
    sidelines as the U.S. abandons its support for swift regime change in
    favor of gradual reform. On issues from economic ties to environmental
    cooperation, the Obama administration is talking directly, amicably and
    frequently with Castro’s government.

    The fake webpage has been taken down, but at least one archived copy
    remains available. The page was loaded with genuine articles taken from
    the Spanish-language section of the European Parliament site, giving a
    casual or inattentive reader the impression that the page was
    well-established. The content that is still visible was added on Sept. 5
    and Sept. 6 — suggesting the site may have been built in about 24 hours
    or less.

    “It looks very professional, but then they make all sort of technical
    mistakes,” Kleemann said. “They cite a certain report in that article
    and that report is actually a report from the trade committee in the
    parliament on Jordan.”

    The reports about the “Farinas Amendment” were shared on social media
    dozens of times directly from the fake WordPress site. The first share
    appears to have been on Artiles’ Facebook account.

    The account appears to have been active throughout the strike, posting
    articles supporting Farinas and bitterly criticizing the Castro government.

    Artiles told The Associated Press Tuesday evening that he had not been
    on Facebook for nearly two months. He said he only discovered in the
    last week that hackers had long been in control of his account, and he
    alleged that the government was responsible.

    “They stole my page and it’s a fraud because it’s been 56 days since
    I’ve been online,” he said. “They’re publishing fake news.”


    Associated Press writer Raphael Satter in London contributed to this report.


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    Source: Cuba dissident: Fake site duped me into ending hunger strike |
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