Cuban political prisoners who have died in hunger strikes (1959-present)
11 Cuban political prisoners have died in hunger strikes
By Cuba Archive Saturday, February 27, 2010
Fidel Castro served only 18 months of a 15-year prison sentence for
leading an attack on the Moncada Army Barracks. Dictator, Fulgencio
Batista caved to public demands and freed all the attackers. During
their captivity, they had enjoyed privileges for political prisoners
-comfortable living conditions, visitors, plentiful reading materials,
and participation in group sports. During the 51-year Castro regime
political prisoners have been subjected to very harsh conditions, hard
labor, and appalling treatment, including torture, lack of medical
attention, and even killings by guards. Many have resorted to hunger
strikes demanding humane treatment; sadly, some have paid with their lives.
11 documented cases. For details on each case see CubaArchive.org/database.
Roberto López Chávez, Age 25, died 12/11/1966 at Isla de Pinos Prison.
In prison since 1961, he went on a 70-day hunger strike to protest
prison conditions after enduring a savage beating by prison guards. He
was moved to a punishment cell and denied drinking water, which made his
deteriorated condition worse. As he screamed for water, several guards
entered his cell and one of the guards urinated over his open mouth as
he lay on the floor. He died the next day without receiving medical
image Luis Álvarez Ríos, Age 31, died 8/9/1967 at Príncipe Castle Prison
in Havana. He had been sentenced to 20 years of prison in summary trial
for “counterrevolutionary” activities. With fellow prisoners, they went
on hunger strike to demand to not be confined with dangerous criminals.
On the 11th day, prison authorities agreed to negotiate and they ended
the strike, but were not given medical attention. Instead, they were
served a heavy meal, which doctors amongst the prisoners said was
dangerous, as the body needs to ingest food slowly after not eating. A
group of prisoners ate the food and Alvarez Ríos died almost
immediately. The family was allowed to hold a hurried 2-hour wake.
imageCarmelo Cuadra Hernández, died 7/29/1969 in a Havana prison from a
hunger strike, denied medical care.
imagePedro Luis Boitel, Age 34, 5/25/1972 at Príncipe Prison, Havana.
Leader in the struggle against the Batista regime who turned against the
Castro brothers for hijacking the democratic process, he was sentenced
to 10 years of prison for counter-revolutionary activities. He was
subjected to torture, beatings, many abuses, and the extension of his
sentence. He went on numerous hunger strikes with several fellow
prisoners to protest executions and inhumane prison conditions and to
demand rights as political prisoners. The hunger strike that took his
life on his 12th year of incarceration lasted 53 days. Denied medical
care even as his condition became critical, he was ill treated by prison
guards as he lay dying. After his death, his widowed mother was
subjected to physical violence and isolated in her home by State
Security. When she was allowed to visit her son’s alleged grave with
some women friends, an angry mob that threatened them with violence
awaited them and they were forced to leave without praying.
Olegario Charlot Spileta, died 1/15/1973 at Boniato Prison, Santiago de
Cuba, without receiving medical attention during a hunger strike.
imageEnrique García Cuevas, died 5/23/1973 at Pretensado Provincial
Prison, Las Villas. He went on a hunger strike at Manacas Prison of Las
Villas to protest the inhumane prison conditions, already very weak from
mal-nourishment and the hard labor he had been submitted to. After 25
days on strike, he was transferred to another prison, where he died
without receiving medical attention.
Reinaldo Cordero Izquierdo, died 5/21/1975 in a Pinar del Río prison.
After serving his 10 year sentence in its entirety, his sentence was
arbitrarily increased. During his last year of confinement, he had also
been severely tortured. He went on hunger strike, demanding a release
and died in his prison cell of complications, denied medical care.
José Barrios Pedré, died on 9/22/1977 at Pre-tensado Provincial, Las
Villas, province during a hunger strike he started while being confined
to an extreme punishment cell (“celda tapiada”).
Santiago Roche Valle, died 9/8/1985 at Kilo 7 Prison, Camaguey province,
from compli-cations after a hunger strike (heart failure), denied
Nicolás González Regueiro, Age 42, died 9/16/1992 in Manacas Prison, Las
Villas. He was serving a 4-year prison sentence for distributing enemy
propaganda when he developed a duodenal ulcer. He went on a hunger
strike to protest the lack of medicine and his internment among common
imageOrlando Zapata Tamayo, Age 42, died 2/23/2010 after a hunger strike
of over 80 days. He had been designated prisoner of conscience by
Amnesty International. Incarcerated since 2003 and sentenced to 3 years
for contempt, disrespect, and public disorder and his sentence was
increased by 25 years for “disobedience” as a result of his repeated
protests against prison conditions and his unjust incarceration. He had
suffered numerous beatings and torture by prison authorities and began a
hunger strike demanding his safety and to be recognized as a prisoner of
conscience. During the strike, he was denied water for 18 days and
instead minimally hydrated by IV, which led to kidney failure. Later, he
was held naked over a powerful air conditioner, which provoked
pneumonia. He was transferred to a hospital just hours before his death.
A PDF version of this document is available here:
A Spanish version will soon follow, to be posted on the section
“Informes” of the Spanish section of CubaArchive.org.
11 Cuban political prisoners have died in hunger strikes (27 February 2010)
Wilmar Villar Mendoza.
The death in custody of a Cuban prisoner of conscience after a hunger strike is a shocking reminder of the Raúl Castro government’s intolerance for dissent, Amnesty International said today.
Wilman Villar Mendoza, 31, died this morning in Juan Bruno Zayas Hospital in the city of Santiago where he was transferred from prison on 13 January due to health problems allegedly arising from a hunger strike protesting at his unfair trial and imprisonment.
He was serving a four-year prison term on charges related to his participation in a public demonstration against the government.
“The responsibility for Wilman Villar Mendoza’s death in custody lies squarely with the Cuban authorities, who summarily judged and jailed him for exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Javier Zúñiga, Special Adviser at Amnesty International.
“His tragic death highlights the depths of despair faced by the other prisoners of conscience still languishing in Cuban jails, who must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
“The Cuban authorities must stop the harassment, persecution, and imprisonment of peaceful demonstrators as well as political and human rights activists.”
“20 January 2012
Cuban authorities ‘responsible’ for activist’s death on hunger strike”