Cuban political prisoner dies during hunger strike
Freedom House laments the death of Cuban political prisoner Wilman Villar, who died January 20, 2012, 50 days after beginning a hunger strike to protest his four-year jail sentence for disrespecting authority and resisting arrest. The Cuban government’s confinement of Villar under extreme conditions, as well as its failure to provide timely medical attention, contributed to his death.
A member of political opposition group Cuban Patriotic Union, 31-year-old Villar was arrested in November 2011 for participating in a demonstration, and during the protest, was beaten and threatened with imprisonment if he did not rescind his allegiance to the opposition. He is the second Cuban political prisoner to die while participating in a hunger strike since February 2010, when prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata died in a Havana hospital. Freedom House urges the government to end its crackdown against dissidents and to adhere to international human rights standards on freedom of assembly and expression.
Political dissent, whether spoken or written, is a punishable offense, and dissidents frequently receive years of imprisonment for seemingly minor infractions. Freedom House consistently places Cuba among the world’s most repressive societies. Cuba is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2011. The island nation also received the third-lowest ranking in Freedom on the Net, a study of internet freedom in 37 countries released in 2011.
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Freedom in the World 2011: Cuba