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Prisoners Of Conscience In Cuba

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Prisoners Of Conscience In Cuba

* Mr. SIRES. Madam Speaker, I rise today to share my deep sadness over the loss of a Cuban prisoner of conscience, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, held by the Cuban regime.

* Orlando Zapata Tamayo was first arrested in March 2003 for participating in a hunger strike to demand the release of Dr. Oscar Biscet and other prisoners of conscience. Since his initial arrest and unwarranted imprisonment, the regime consistently increased Zapata's prison term up to 47 years.

* While in prison, Zapata endured frequent beatings and unimaginable living conditions. On December 3, 2009, Mr. Zapata began a hunger strike to protest the human rights violations and the repeated beatings by the Cuban authorities. After an 83-day hunger strike, Orlando Zapata Tamayo passed away on Tuesday, February 23, 2010.

* In mourning the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, I urge my colleagues to listen to his message of freedom and respect for human life. As the atrocities he fought against remain the reality of Cuba today, we must continue to fight for human rights and the release of all political prisoners.

* In light of this tragic death, it is important to recognize the hundreds of activists and prisoners of conscience that continue to risk their freedoms and their lives in Cuba. One such man, Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, was also arrested in the massive crackdown on suspected dissidents in March of 2003. Mr. Hernandez was sentenced to 25 years in prison. While serving this term, his health has deteriorated significantly and he continues to suffer from several life-threatening aliments. I am very concerned for his well-being, and along with the international human rights community, I plead for his immediate release and the release of every wrongly imprisoned Cuban.


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