Rights crusader Farinas slams 'arrogant' Cuba government

14th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas on Tuesday slammed the "arrogant" Havana government for blocking his travel to France, where he was to have received a prestigious human rights prize.

Farinas was to have been awarded the European Union's Sakharov human rights prize in Strasbourg, France Wednesday, but one day before the ceremony he still had not received government permission to travel, making his attendance at the event impossible.

"I believe that the Cuban government has shown over the years that it is behaving in an arrogant manner," said Farinas, an independent journalist, psychologist and political activist whose weeks-long hunger strike earlier this year garnered worldwide attention and led to his being awarded the Sakharov prize.

"They think that we citizens of Cuba are slaves -- their behavior demonstrates that," he told AFP by phone from his home in Santa Clara, some 280 kilometers (175 miles) east of Havana.

The renowned dissident, 48, said that he nevertheless views as a "victory" that European officials honored him with the award, saying it reveals to the world "the essence of the Cuban government: its intolerance and its disregard for individual liberty."

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek on Monday made a last-minute plea Monday for Cuban authorities to let Farinas leave the island to pick up the top EU rights prize, but the entreaty appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

The European Parliament decided in October to award its prestigious human rights prize to Farinas, who put his own health at risk by carrying out 23 hunger strikes to protest Havana's policies.

Farinas's last hunger strike, for 135 days, followed the February 23 death of fellow dissident Orlando Zapata.

He ended his protest when President Raul Castro authorized the release of 52 political prisoners following talks with senior Catholic Church clerics in Havana.

Named after late Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, the prize comes in its 22nd year with a cash award of 50,000 euros (70,000 dollars).

Farinas is the third Cuban to receive the prize, after Oswaldo Paya in 2002 and the 2005 awarding to the Ladies in White, a group of women whose dissident husbands are jailed.

© 2010 AFP

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