The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) profoundly laments the death today of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. We are both saddened and disturbed by his death, which occurred while the imprisoned Zapata was in a Havana hospital, as a result of an 85-day hunger strike waged to protest harsh prison conditions and abuse.
“The death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo is a horrible tragedy. Mr. Zapata should not have been in prison. The Cuban government should not criminalize peaceful political activity or those who defend human rights. Prison authorities should have recognized his deteriorating health, and responded,” said Geoff Thale, WOLA Program Director.
“We urge the Cuban government to release other prisoners convicted for peaceful political activity or for promoting human rights, and to change its approach to opposition political activity.” WOLA also calls on the Cuban authorities to investigate the facts of Mr. Zapata’s death, and what appears to be negligence on the part of state authorities.
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was arrested in March 2003. He was one of 75 anti-government activists detained by Cuban authorities, swiftly tried and sentenced. Zapata was originally given a three-year sentence, but the sentence was extended, reportedly because of protests and political activity he carried out while in prison. He was one of fifty-five “prisoners of conscience” adopted by Amnesty International in Cuba.
WOLA urges governments that have an ongoing dialogue with Cuba, including the governments of Spain and Brazil, to express their concerns about the death of Mr. Zapata to Cuban authorities.
Geoff Thale, Program Director