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WebStringers' Cuban journalist on hunger strike for over 30 days

WebStringers' Cuban journalist on hunger strike for over 30 days

On A Hunger Strike to Denounce the Situation of the 150 "Regulated" in Cuba

14ymedio, Ricardo Fernández, Camaguey | September 7, 2019 — Guillermo del Sol, 53, has committed himself to fighting against the Cuban Government’s arbitrary practice of “regulating” nonconformists by prohibiting them from leaving the country. Twenty-seven days ago he began to fulfill his promise with a hunger strike, which has made him lose 21 kilos, he says via videoconference from his home in Santa Clara.

“It’s not a matter of getting my own benefits,” clarifies Del Sol, who takes the opportunity to cite one of the most well-known verses of the Cuban national anthem of “dying for the homeland is living.” He speaks slowly, taking long pauses to take a breath and recuperate the little energy that the long fast is leaving him. Since he began the hunger strike, he assures, he has only consumed water.

He made the decision to stop eating on August 12 after Immigration officials at the Havana airport announced to his son, Adrián del Sol Alfonso, that he couldn’t board a flight to Trinidad and Tobago, where he was going to participate in an event on religious freedom. The young man found out that he was “regulated” after going to the airline’s counter and checking in his baggage; “regulated” is the euphemism used by the Cuban government that means a person is forbidden from leaving the country.

That same day, father and son carried out a peaceful protest in the terminal area, which ended with the arrest of both. They were brought to the National Revolutionary Police unit of the Boyeros municipality, where they were fined and later released.

“Indignation, that’s what I felt when I saw that they were treating my son like a terrorist at the border,” explained Del Sol to this media outlet. “Then I understood what so many young people, journalists, religious people, and people whose only crime is thinking differently from the regime are experiencing. It wasn’t only my son who was being humiliated. In front of me I was seeing that sector of Cubans who live according to their own principals and pay for that audacity with being prohibiting from traveling abroad.”

The practice of preventing activists, independent journalists, and political opposition figures from leaving the country has become more common in recent months as a form of repression. International organizations and human rights groups in Cuba have warned about the situation, but authorities continue arbitrarily denying freedom of movement to citizens.

Guillermo is a member of the Old Catholic Church, declared illegal by the Office of Attention to Religious Affairs, attached to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba. Additionally, he directs the independent press agency Santa Clara Vision. He knows that his health is delicate, because he suffers from diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and respiratory problems, but he is determined to continue on the strike.

In more than three weeks without food, he has suffered considerable weight loss, a gradual fall in blood pressure, and pain in the kidneys, legs, and joints. With great difficulty he reads the Bible and converses with friends who visit him.

It’s not the first time that Del Sol has declared himself on a hunger strike. The most recent ended on May 20, 2017, after more than twenty days without food as a demand for him to have some film equipment that the police had confiscated returned to him. On that occasion he achieved his demand.

“The Cuban authorities are going to be silent until I’m dying, that’s if they don’t decide to let me die. But it depends on them,” he says, unhurried, sure. “The only one who comes is the doctor from the office who checks on me in the mornings and informs the agents from State Security about my health.”

In his current situation he tries not to make any physical efforts and his son helps him bathe, in addition to remaining seated until the exhaustion forces him to lie down. “I try to save energy because this is a matter of time.”

He explains that he has received the support of many opposition organizations but laments that “certain religious organizations that suffer from the regulations have not declared themselves.”

“I know that demanding an end to the arbitrary ’regulations’ of the 150 ’regulated’ people that we have been able to count seems like madness and that demanding only the reversal of that condition for my son would have been easier,” he recognizes, but “the world has to know that the Cuban government is trying to turn our borders into bars.”

On social media, that demand is expressed with the hashtag #Ni1ReguladoMás (Not One More Regulated), which helps to raise awareness in public opinion and pressure Cuban authorities to “lift this arbitrariness,” emphasizes Del Sol.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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