Mala Lengua  
 
AfroCubaWeb
  Home - Portal | Music - Música | Authors - Autores | Arts - Artes 
  Site Map - Mapa del Sitio | News - Noticias | Search ACW - Buscar en ACW 
 
  Mala Lengua
 

Orlando Zapata Tamayo

"El 23 de febrero fallecía el preso cubano Orlando Zapata tras 88 días en huelga de hambre. Los grandes medios de comunicación internacionales, sirviéndose de su control casi absoluto de la información, han llevado a cabo una gigantesca campaña de culpabilización del gobierno cubano, ocultando elementos informativos muy relevantes.

En primer lugar, el motivo de su huelga de hambre: conseguir lo que los medios han calificado como “mejoras carcelarias”, en realidad privilegios sobre el resto de reclusos, como tener televisor, cocina y teléfono en su celda, algo impensable en cualquier centro penitenciario del mundo.

En segundo lugar, su perfil personal. Frente al personaje fabricado por los medios -un humilde albañil y pacífico preso de conciencia- Orlando Zapata fue un violento delincuente común procesado, entre 1993 y 2002, por delitos como violación de domicilio, estafa y por las graves lesiones a un ciudadano tras un ataque con machete.

En 2003 fue condenado a 3 años de cárcel, pero esta sentencia se amplió a 24 años por diversos cargos de agresión violenta a funcionarios de prisión.

Al contrario de lo afirmado por los medios, Zapata no formaba parte del grupo de 75 personas detenidas en La Habana en marzo de 2003 por sus vinculaciones con el gobierno de EEUU. De hecho, este gobierno no incluyó su nombre en la lista de supuestos “prisioneros políticos” presentada a la Comisión de Derechos Humanos de la ONU. 

Es en prisión donde fue captado por Oswaldo Payá y Marta Beatriz Roque, representantes de la contrarrevolución cubana más fiel a Washington. Su familia comienzó entonces a recibir ingresos económicos de organizaciones de la mafia de Miami, como la Fundación Nacional Cubano Americana, financiada por el gobierno estadounidense y responsable de la muerte de numerosos civiles por acciones terroristas en Cuba." 

-- Orlando Zapata: un delincuente convertido en mártir por los estrategas de la guerra contra Cuba 

We have no proof for some of these assertions. We can note that it is a common medical saying that you cannot save someone determined to starve themselves. Doctors treating anorexics warn their families of this fact. So all the accusations that the Cuban government let this man die are likely false, particularly in view of the video of Zapata's mother thanking the doctors for their efforts in trying to save his life.

The Cuban government states that Zapata was not included in the list of 75 people detained in 2003 as is asserted by the hard right media -- this should be subject to verification, except that is hard to find a complete list of the 75. 

His not being included in the list the Cuban government presented to the UN Human Rights Commission will be countered by the Black civil rights organizations who will likely say that this fits a common pattern of black activists, who are not treated as political prisoners, but rather as common criminals. However, it is possible that a plantocracy practice to recruit common criminals as political prisoners and pay their families would account for this alleged pattern, which itself has yet to be verified. Research is needed here, not polemics.

As background information, we do know that there has for some years been an extensive effort to recruit dissidents in Cuba via the Independent Libraries and other mechanisms, dangling visas for the recruits. Librarians in the US and Europe have verified this process.

Cuba, the corporate media and the suicide of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, 3/4/10

By Salim Lamrani

March 4, 2010 -- On February 23, 2010, Cuban inmate Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after 83 days on hunger strike. He was 42. This is the first such incident in Cuba since inmate Pedro Luis Boitel died in 1972 under similar conditions. The corporate media put the tragic incident on front pages and emphasised the plight of Cuban prisoners.[1]

Zapata's dramatic exit sparked a justifiable global uproar. The Cuban prisoner's case undeniably fosters sympathy and a sense of solidarity with a person who expressed his despair and malaise in prison, carrying out his hunger strike to the ultimate consequence. The heartfelt emotion aroused by his case is quite respectable. In contrast, the manipulation of Tamayo's death and of the grief of his family and friends by the corporate media for political purposes violates the basic principles of journalistic ethics.

Since 2004, Amnesty International (AI) has considered Tamayo among Cuba’s 55 "prisoner of conscience". In addition, it has noted that Zapata’s hunger strike was launched not only to protest his conditions of detention, but also to demand a television, a personal kitchen and a cell phone to call his family.[2] Although not the devil incarnate, Zapata was not a model prisoner. According to Cuban authorities, he was guilty of several acts of violence during his incarceration, especially against guards, leading to his conviction being increased to 25 years.[3]

Curiously, AI has never mentioned the alleged political activities that landed Zapata in prison. The reason is relatively simple: Zapata never carried out any anti-government activities prior to incarceration. Instead, the organisation recognises that he was convicted in May 2004 and sentenced to three years' imprisonment for "contempt, public disorder and resistance".[4] This sentence is relatively minor compared to the sentences, ranging up to 28 years, that were handed down to the 75 opposition figures convicted in March 2003 of "having received funds or materials from the US government to carry out activities that the authorities consider subversive and damaging to Cuba", as recognised by AI is a serious crime in Cuba and any country in the world. Here AI cannot escape an obvious contradiction: on the one hand these people qualify as "prisoners of conscience" and on the other it admits they committed the serious crime of accepting "money or materials from the US government".

Unlike the 75, the Cuban government has never accused Zapata of accepting funds from a foreign power and has always considered him a common convict. Zapata had a serious criminal record. Since June 1990, he had been arrested and convicted several times for "disturbing the peace, two counts of fraud, public exhibitionism, injury and possession of non-firearm weapons". In 2000, he fractured the skull of Leonardo Simon using a machete. His criminal record does not involve any political actions. It was only after his imprisonment that his mother, Reyna Luisa Tamayo, approached government opposition groups, but she has never been bothered by the authorities.[6]

Double standards?

The United States and the European Union declared their consternation and demanded the "release of political prisoners". "We are deeply distressed by his death", said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who denounced the oppression of political prisoners in Cuba. Brussels followed suit and demanded the "unconditional release of all political prisoners". France’s foreign ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero announced that "following his situation closely, we called for his release along with the other detainees whose health seemed particularly worrying".[7]

Cuba's President Raúl Castro "regretted" the death and responded to the uproar from Washington and Brussels by stating "in half a century, we have not murdered anyone here, no one has been tortured, and there have been no extrajudicial executions. Well, here in Cuba there have been people tortured, but at the Guantanamo Naval Base", he said in reference to the torture centre under US administration. "They say they want to hold talks with us and we are ready to discuss with the US government all issues they want. I repeated it three times in parliament... We will not accept discussions unless both parties enjoy absolute equality. They can investigate or ask any questions in Cuba, but we have the right to ask about all the problems of the United States."[8]

During a visit to Cuba, Brazil's President Lula da Silva also declared his sympathy, but wished to highlight the double standards of the corporate media of Washington and Brussels, recalling a sad reality, "I know about virtually all the hunger strikes that have taken place over the past 25 years in the world and many people have died on hunger strikes in many countries".[9] The media ignored the vast majority of those tragic cases and absolutely none received the media coverage that has been afforded this Cuban inmate.

By comparison, in France between January 1, 2010, and February 24, 2010, there were 22 suicides in prisons, including a 16-year-old boy. In 2009 there were 122 suicides in French prisons and 115 in 2008. State secretary of justice Jean-Marie Bockel declared his impotence in these situations: "When someone decides to commit suicide and is determined to do, whether they are free or in prison, ... there is nothing you can do about it." The families of those victims were not entitled to the same media treatment as Zapata, nor even an official public statement from the French government.[10]

Ignored

We must put the Zapata’s case into perspective by looking at two much more serious situations deliberately ignored by the corporate media that clearly illustrate the politicisation and manipulation of this ordinary incident that would pass unnoticed in most countries, except Cuba.

Since the coup in Honduras took place and the military dictatorship was established on June 27, 2009, led first by Roberto Micheletti and then, since January 28, 2010, by Porfirio Lobo, there have been more than a hundred murders and countless cases of disappearances, torture and violence. The abuses occur daily, but are carefully omitted from the coverage of the corporate media. Thus, when Claudia Larissa Brizuela, a member of a group opposed to the coup, the National Resistance Front (FNRP), was murdered on February 24, 2010, just one day after the death of Zapata, there was not a single word about it in the corporate press.[11]

A similar case further illustrates the duplicity of the corporate media. In December 2009 in La Macarena, Colombia, the largest mass grave in the history of Latin America was discovered, with no fewer than 2000 bodies. According to testimonies collected by British MEPs on the ground in La Macarena, these were the bodies of union and peasant leaders killed by the paramilitaries and the Colombian army's special forces.

Jairo Ramirez, lawyer and secretary of the Standing Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Colombia, described the grisly scene: "What we saw was frightening. Countless corpses and hundreds of white wooden plaques inscribed with NN and with dates ranging from 2005 to the present. The army commander told us they were the bodies of guerrillas killed in combat, but the people of the region told us of the many community leaders, farmers and community advocates who have disappeared without a trace." Despite the many testimonies and the presence of the MEPs, despite a visit by a Spanish parliamentary delegation to investigate, no corporate media has given even a little attention to this news.[12]

The suicide of Orlando Zapata Tamayo is a tragedy and his mother’s pain must be respected. But there are unscrupulous people -- the corporate media, Washington and the European Union -- who care little about his death, just as they care little for the Hondurans and Colombians killed every day. Zapata is useful to them only in the media war against the Cuban government. When ideology is placed above objective information, truth and ethics are the first victims.

Notes

1 Juan O. Tamayo, «Muere el preso político cubano Orlando Zapata», El Nuevo Herald, February 24, 2010.

2 Amnesty International, «Death of Cuban Prisoner of Conscience on Hunger Strike Must Herald Change», February 24, 2010. http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/death-cuban-prisoner-conscience-hunger-strike-must-herald-change-2010-02-24 (website consulted on February 28, 2010).

3 Enrique Ubieta, «Orlando Zapata, ¿un muerto útil?», Cubadebate, February 24, 2010.

4 Amnesty International, «Death of Cuban Prisoner of Conscience on Hunger Strike Must Herald Change», op. cit.

5 Amnesty International, «Cuba. Cinq années de trop, le nouveau gouvernement doit libérer les dissidents emprisonnés», March 18, 2008. http://www.amnesty.org/fr/for-media/press-releases/cuba-cinq-ann%C3%A9es-de-trop-le-nouveau-gouvernement-doit-lib%C3%A9rer-les-dissid (website consulted on April 23, 2008).

6 Andrea Rodriguez, «Prensa oficial reacciona a muerte de opositor», Associated Press, February 27, 2010.

7 El Nuevo Herald, «Rechazo mundial al régimen castrista», February 25, 2010.

8 Raúl Castro Ruz, «Declaraciones del Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros Raúl Castro Ruz sobre el fallecimiento del recluso Orlando Zapata Tamayo», February 24, 2010.

9 Associated Press, « Washington Post cuestiona política de concesiones a Cuba », February 26, 2010.

10 Charlotte Menegaux, «Les limites du ‘kit anti-suicide’ en prison», Le Figaro, February 25, 2010.

11 Maurice Lemoine, «Selon que vous serez Cubain ou Colombien…», Le Monde Diplomatique, February 26, 2010.

12 Antonio Albiñana, «Aparece en Colombia una fosa común con 2.000 cadáveres», Público.es, February 26, 2010.

[Salim Lamrani is a professor at Paris Descartes University and Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée University, and French journalist, specialist on relations between Cuba and the US. He has just published Cuba: Ce que les médias ne vous diront jamais [Cuba: What the media will never tell you] (Paris: Editions Estrella, 2009). This article first appeared at MRZine. It has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Salim Lamrani's permission.]]

 

 

Links/Enlaces

From Carlos Moore

Blacks bear the brunt of Cuba's brutality  2/28/2010 Miami Herald: "Zapata's ordeal is being spun from the other side of the coin, too -- the predominantly white and U.S.-based, right-wing anti-Castro opposition who clearly stand to score political points from the case of a black martyr. Righteous declarations can be expected from organizations such as Democracy Movement, the Cuban American National Foundation, the Cuban Liberty Council and, especially, the Cuban Democratic Directorate. Many Cuban civil-rights activists accuse these groups of working to corral and control the new internal opposition forces on behalf of interests linked to Cuba's former Jim Crow oligarchy. That's why they see U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart's ``indignation'' over Zapata's death, as much as president Raúl Castro's ``regrets,'' as a double farce. A staunch supporter of the tiny, white elite of wealth that was overthrown in 1959, Diaz-Balart can cry crocodile tears, but during his time in Congress his right-wing, pro-embargo agenda has only hindered the ability of black Cubans to improve their lot." 

Commentary: Against the hijacking of a Cuban martyr  2/24/2010 McClatchy: "Certainly, I do not claim to speak on behalf of Cuba's majority. But I am surely not far from that majority's truth by stating that it can hardly be struggling for the re-empowerment of the tiny, white elite of wealth that was overthrown in 1959. It is that segregationist exiled elite that these so-called anti-Castro groups so distinctly represent. Orlando Zapata Tamayo is dead. He is now a people's martyr. But those who struggled with him and shared his aspirations must not allow this brave and principled man's legacy or memory to be hijacked; certainly not by those who before 1959 despised him for being black and continue to do so in spite of their hypocritical tears. Zapata's legacy belongs to Cuba's future, and not to that of its neo-colonial, segregationist and subservient past." 

Some observers credit Alberto Jones and Claude Betancourt's articles for this historic turn against the Miami Plantocracy, unprecedented, to our knowledge, in any statements by Black Cuban dissident groups. They detailed the long running plots to recruit black dissidents and support them via the usual Miami mechanisms, calling into question the legitimacy of these movements. Carlos Moore's statements cannot erase this history, but at least moves towards erasing the dubious spectacle of AfroCubans fighting openly on behalf of the Miami plantocracy

 

General

The Discourse on Racism in Anti-Castro Publications, 2008-2010

 

Articles/Articulos

Declaración del CIR sobre el fallecimiento de Orlando Zapata  2/1/2029 CIR: "La muerte el pasado 23 de febrero del defensor de derechos humanos y prisionero de conciencia Orlando Zapata Tamayo, tras una prolongada huelga de hambre en reclamo de sus derechos y del de los restantes prisioneros en Cuba tiene una connotación múltiple para la sociedad cubana. Ella merece también esta reflexión; más allá de la posición obvia de consternación y espanto de toda persona civilizada, consciente de que vivimos en el siglo XXI, ante el frío desprecio por la vida humana de las mentalidades autocráticas."

Second Cuban Hunger Striker, Guillermo Farinas, On the Verge of Death  3/2/2010 Huffington Post: "Like many dissidents, 'Coco' Farinas used to believe in Fidel Castro's revolution. He risked his hide fighting in the isolated villages of Angola during the 1980s civil war in that African country. He was a member of Castro's elite troops, but in 1989 when General Arnaldo Ochoa was shot, accused of drug trafficking, Farinas began to have second thoughts and unanswered questions. He has a degree in psychology, and better than anyone else in Cuba, he knows the methods of the political police for breaking those who dissent. Since 1997 this big-eyed mestizo has been one of the heavyweight dissidents on the island. He writes as a freelance journalist, and an independent library is located in his house."

Cuba TV report denies gov't let hunger striker die  3/2/2010 AP: "On Monday, state-controlled television aired a report that stretched nearly 10 minutes during the half-hour news program, which is broadcast simultaneously on three of Cuba's five national TV channels. Doctors who treated Zapata Tamayo, a 42-year-old construction worker, said they tried to get him to eat. "We explained to him the consequences of his decision at every turn and how much he was endangering his life with this. But he kept it up," said Maria Ester Hernandez, identified as a doctor for Interior Ministry officials. There was also footage of his mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, thanking "the best doctors for trying to give Orlando life." It seemed to have been shot with a hidden camera as she spoke inside a doctor's office. The afternoon of her son's death, Tamayo did interviews with radio stations in Florida shouting that Cuba's government had let her son die because he dared oppose the Castro government."

El Actor Willy Toledo criminalizado por hablar claro: "Zapata era un delincuente común, ni siquiera un disidente político"  3/2/2010 Kaos en la Red 

Miami manipuló el agradecimiento de la madre de Orlando a los médicos cubanos  3/2/2010 Kaos en la Red: "Paralelamente, en una conversación telefónica entre Yaniset Rivero, miembro de la organización contrarrevolucionaria, con sede en Miami, Directorio Democrático cubano, y el contrarrevolucionario Juan Carlos González, miembro de un grupúsculo en Cuba, se percibe la evidencia de que estaban más preocupados de cómo utilizar a la madre de Orlando en una campaña anticastrista antes de la preocupación de la salud del hijo. En la conversación Juan Carlos explica la dicotomía que le iba a proponer a Reina, “o hacer una conferencia o ir a ver a Orlando”, situando lo político por delante de lo humanitario. Los contrarrevolucionarios jamás han hecho público, dado que no pueden hacer uso político de ello, las afirmaciones de Reina sobre el excelente cuidado que tuvo su hijo en todo el periodo de huelga de hambre por el personal médico cubano que emitió por teléfono a la misma Yaniset Rivero. Como se puede ver en el video de Cuba TV, la Madre de Tamayo declaró a Yaniset como los médicos cubanos “vinieron a analizar la salud de Zapata y nos explicaron que era muy crítica, crítica, y que están haciendo todo lo posible para salvar a Zapata, que ya tenían preparado un riñón por si acaso le fallaba el suyo, que ellos van a luchar hasta lo último. Y estaban los médicos del CIMEQ, los mejores médicos, tratando de darle la vida a Orlando "."

Orlando Zapata: un delincuente convertido en mártir por los estrategas de la guerra contra Cuba  3/2/2010 Kaos en la Red: "El 23 de febrero fallecía el preso cubano Orlando Zapata tras 88 días en huelga de hambre. Los grandes medios de comunicación internacionales, sirviéndose de su control casi absoluto de la información, han llevado a cabo una gigantesca campaña de culpabilización del gobierno cubano, ocultando elementos informativos muy relevantes.En primer lugar, el motivo de su huelga de hambre: conseguir lo que los medios han calificado como “mejoras carcelarias”, en realidad privilegios sobre el resto de reclusos, como tener televisor, cocina y teléfono en su celda, algo impensable en cualquier centro penitenciario del mundo.En segundo lugar, su perfil personal. Frente al personaje fabricado por los medios -un humilde albañil y pacífico preso de conciencia- Orlando Zapata fue un violento delincuente común procesado, entre 1993 y 2002, por delitos como violación de domicilio, estafa y por las graves lesiones a un ciudadano tras un ataque con machete.En 2003 fue condenado a 3 años de cárcel, pero esta sentencia se amplió a 24 años por diversos cargos de agresión violenta a funcionarios de prisión.Al contrario de lo afirmado por los medios, Zapata no formaba parte del grupo de 75 personas detenidas en La Habana en marzo de 2003 por sus vinculaciones con el gobierno de EEUU. De hecho, este gobierno no incluyó su nombre en la lista de supuestos “prisioneros políticos” presentada a la Comisión de Derechos Humanos de la ONU."

For whom is death a useful tool?  3/1/2010 Granma 

Does Zapata's Death Mark a Turning Point for Cuba?  3/1/2010 Huffington Post: "The most notorious was the death of the prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, which occurred on the eve of the second anniversary of General Raul Castro's assumption of the presidency. To leave someone to die, to allow them to die, not to do something to prevent the death of a person who is the exclusive responsibility of a penal establishment is, anywhere in the world, a very serious thing. As serious, I would say, as letting patients in a psychiatric hospital die of cold and hunger." [As any doctor with experience treating anorexics will tell you, it can be difficult to keep someone alive with intravenous feeding. If they are determined to die, they will.]

Blacks bear the brunt of Cuba's brutality  2/28/2010 Miami Herald: "Zapata's ordeal is being spun from the other side of the coin, too -- the predominantly white and U.S.-based, right-wing anti-Castro opposition who clearly stand to score political points from the case of a black martyr. Righteous declarations can be expected from organizations such as Democracy Movement, the Cuban American National Foundation, the Cuban Liberty Council and, especially, the Cuban Democratic Directorate. Many Cuban civil-rights activists accuse these groups of working to corral and control the new internal opposition forces on behalf of interests linked to Cuba's former Jim Crow oligarchy. That's why they see U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart's ``indignation'' over Zapata's death, as much as president Raúl Castro's ``regrets,'' as a double farce. A staunch supporter of the tiny, white elite of wealth that was overthrown in 1959, Diaz-Balart can cry crocodile tears, but during his time in Congress his right-wing, pro-embargo agenda has only hindered the ability of black Cubans to improve their lot." [Some observers credit Alberto Jones and Claude Betancourt's articles for this historic turn against the Miami Plantocracy, unprecedented, to our knowledge, in any statements by Black Cuban dissident groups.]

Dissident's death will put Cuba on the spot  2/27/2010 Miami Herald 

The shamelessness of the United States government  2/26/2010 Granma: "ONE out of every four prisoners in the world is in a U.S. penitentiary. The composition of these prisoners is profoundly racist: one out of every 15 black adults is incarcerated; one out of every 9 is aged 20-34 years; and one out of every 36 Hispanics. Two-thirds of those serving life sentences are African Americans or Latinos, and in the case of New York state, only 16.3% of prisoners are white. Every year, 7,000 people die in U.S. prisons, many of them murdered or suicides. For example, U.S. prison guards routinely use Taser guns on prisoners. According to a recent report, 230 U.S. citizens have died as a result of the use of these weapons since 2001. The report refers to the case of a county jail in Garfield, Colorado, accused of regularly using Taser guns and pepper spray on prisoners, and then tying them to chairs in extreme positions for hours at a time."

Dissident’s Death Ignites Protest Actions in Cuba  2/26/2010 NYT: "Freedom House, an organization that ranks countries on their level of freedom and considers Cuba “not free,” called Mr. Zapata the first prisoner in Cuba to die by starving himself since Pedro Luis Boitel, a student leader and poet, did so in 1972." [Freedom House is a CIA related organization which former director James Woolsey joined after his retirement.]

Diaz-Balart reacts to the murder of Orlando Zapata Tamayo  2/25/2010 BigNews 

Commentary: Against the hijacking of a Cuban martyr  2/24/2010 McClatchy: "Certainly, I do not claim to speak on behalf of Cuba's majority. But I am surely not far from that majority's truth by stating that it can hardly be struggling for the re-empowerment of the tiny, white elite of wealth that was overthrown in 1959. It is that segregationist exiled elite that these so-called anti-Castro groups so distinctly represent. Orlando Zapata Tamayo is dead. He is now a people's martyr. But those who struggled with him and shared his aspirations must not allow this brave and principled man's legacy or memory to be hijacked; certainly not by those who before 1959 despised him for being black and continue to do so in spite of their hypocritical tears. Zapata's legacy belongs to Cuba's future, and not to that of its neo-colonial, segregationist and subservient past." [A historic turn against the Miami Plantocracy, which, to our knowledge, has never hitherto been rejected by any of the Black Cuban dissident groups.]

 

Contacting AfroCubaWeb

Copyright © 2009 AfroCubaWeb, S.A.