For the second time in as many years, a political activist jailed in Cuba has died on a hunger strike protesting the repressive policies of the island nation’s government.
Wilman Villar Mendoza, 31, died on January 19 of complications from pneumonia in a Santiago hospital where he had been transferred from prison when his health deteriorated. For more than 50 days he had refused to eat to call attention to a sentence of four years in jail for his activism. His crime: taking part in a march and resisting arrest when confronted by security personnel attempting to break up the protest.
The United States joins with others in the international community in deploring the political repression and prison conditions that led to Mr. Villar’s unjust incarceration and subsequent death. In protesting the Cuban government’s continued mistreatment of peaceful political activists, he was a courageous defender of human rights on the island, one who put principles into action.
His death highlights the continuing problem of political repression by the Castro regime and prisoners held there for speaking out against it. His treatment in prison and the conditions that contributed to his death also underscore the urgent need for greater international, independent monitoring of Cuba’s prisons and its prisoners, whether those of conscience or not.
The United States will not waiver in our support for the liberty of the Cuban people. We will remain steadfast in our outreach to the Cuban people through unlimited Cuban American family visits and remittances, purposeful travel, and humanitarian assistance to dissidents and their families in support of their legitimate desire to freely determine Cuba’s future.