Cuban Hunger Striker Rejects Spain Asylum Offer

By: Andrea Rodriguez - AP Writer
By: Andrea Rodriguez - AP Writer

HAVANA (AP) - A Cuban dissident on a 13-day hunger strike to demand the release of ailing political prisoners has refused a Spanish offer of asylum, saying on Tuesday that he is determined to continue with his protest until he dies.

Guillermo Farinas told The Associated Press that a Spanish diplomat in Havana made the offer during a visit to his home in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara on Monday.

Farinas said the Carlos Perez-Desoy, the political councilor at Spain's embassy in Havana, told him that the offer of asylum followed a Cuban government request for Spanish help with the case.

But Farinas said he rejected the offer because he remained committed to winning the freedom of some 26 political prisoners said to be in poor health. He vowed to continue refusing food and water "whatever the consequences."

Perez-Desoy confirmed that Spain had made the asylum offer at Cuba's request, and that Farinas' had rejected it. He said that the offer remains open if Farinas changes his mind.

"It is true. The Cuban authorities asked us if we would be willing to take in Farinas," Perez-Desoy told AP. "We told them that in humanitarian cases we are willing to take anybody in."

Farinas, a freelance opposition journalist, began his protest on Feb. 24, the day after another Cuban dissident died following a lengthy hunger strike behind bars.

The 48-year-old Farinas passed out last week and relatives took him to a hospital, where doctors administered fluids intravenously.

On Monday, the government criticized foreign media coverage of the protest, declaring in the Communist Party newspaper Granma that Cuba would "not accept pressure or blackmail."

The Granma article said any responsibility for Farinas' fate rests with foreign diplomats, the media and Farinas himself - not Cuba's government.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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