believed to continue Wednesday, June 7, across the Communist island.
Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, a Baptist Christian and president of the Cuban Foundation of Human Rights, told BosNewsLife that he called for "a nationwide vigil to fast and pray as of Monday, June 5," for the life of independent journalist Guillermo Farinas, who has refused food for four months to protest government restrictions on Internet access.
The 42-year-old journalist is in hospital in the central province of Villa Clara where he had been rejecting solids and liquids, relatives said. His condition somewhat stabilized over the weekend after en emergency operation Friday, June 2, relatives said.
Some fellow dissidents have reportedly pleaded urgently with him, in a letter signed by 100 of them, not to keep endangering his life, but he refused to end his hunger strike.
In an open letter to Cuban President Fidel Castro, Farinas threatened to pursue his hunger strike "to the death" if he and fellow journalists are not allowed the Internet access they need for their work.
"I want all Cuban citizens to have the right to an Internet connection, but also for the independent press to be able to report on the government’s activities, and if I must be a martyr for Internet access, so be it," explained Farinas recently. In his open letter, he points out that the overwhelming majority of Cubans have no Internet access.
Cuba is on the list of 15 "Internet enemies" that Reporters Without Borders (RWB) identified as "one of the world’s most repressive countries as regards online free expression."
In nations like Cuba "Internet access is a privilege to which very few have a right and which needs express authorization from the ruling Communist Party," RWB said. Even if one manages to connect, often illegally, "one only gets access to a highly-censored Internet," the group added.
Since Farina began the hunger strike January 31, his weight reportedly plunged from 78 to almost 50 kilos (172 to 110 pounds), relatives said.
"This Saturday, June 3, I visited the city of Santa Clara and, after learning of the critical state of health of Guillermo Farinas directly from his mother, the Cuban Foundation of Human Rights became very concerned," added Gonzales Leiva, who himself was jailed and under house arrest for his political activities.
"We are demanding before the Cuban government, whom we hold responsible, to take note of the critical case of Guillermo Farinas," he stressed.
Gonzales Leiva has said there was power in prayer. "Jesus Christ is with us. He is accompanying us, and He gives us victory and peace. We are not going to lift a finger against anyone nor are we going to commit any crime," he stressed in previous remarks. "Whatever happens here is the responsibility of State Security, Cuban military officials, and the Cuban government."
Along with his Cuban Foundation of Human Rights, other independent organizations have joined in the nationwide vigil, including members if the Independent Women Peasants/Farmers, the Independent Cuban Farmers League, as well as the Democratic Cuban Coalition and the Youth Movement of the Cuban Foundation of Human Right.
"We hope that almost the entire independent Cuban civil society joins this vigil," Gonzales Leiva said.
The vigil also comes amid mounting concern over the health of another jailed journalist and physician, Dr. Jose Luis GarcÃa Paneque, which worsened since his transfer in November from Havana’s Combinado del Este prison to Las Mangas prison in Granma province, his wife and right watchers told BosNewsLife.
Garcia Paneque, director of the independent news agency Libertad, was jailed in March 2003 in a government crackdown on the independent media and political opposition. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
His wife, Yamilet Llanes Labrada, said Dr. Garcia Paneque’s "body doesn’t reach the weight of 50 kilograms (110 lbs.)," and that he “feels very tired [as] his blood pressure" is high and "the spoiled prison food he has consumed has caused and worsened the diarrhea."
There is also concern that a fellow prisoner may kill him.
Cuban authorities have so far refused to react to the latest allegations. President Castro has denied wrongdoing in the past, saying there are no dissidents and that his security forces deal with "mercenaries from the United States" who he described as "opponents" of the revolution.
Cuba has jailed 25 journalists, more than any other country except China, rights watchers say. (With BosNewsLife News Center, BosNewsLife Research and reports from Cuba).