Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas is on the fourth week of a hunger strike, and his health continues to deteriorate, his mother told Fox News Latino in a telephone interview from Cuba.
Fariñas started his hunger strike in July, he told FNL last week, after he was beaten by Cuban police for inquiring about another dissident. Fariñas said that his condition for ending the hunger strike is that Cuban government stop beating dissidents who peacefully demonstrate for human rights.
The U.S. government, the Vatican, political leaders from around the world and Cuba policy groups have been monitoring Fariñas' condition, well aware that a turn for the worse as far as his health could have far-reaching ramifications for the still-fragile restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
The 54-year-old has lost about 30 lbs. and has low blood pressure, a slow pulse and reduced heart rate, according to his mother, Alicia Hernandez Cabeza, who is a nurse. Others who have visited the dissident have also described a decline in his condition.
“He needs help to get out of bed, he is extremely weak,” Hernandez Cabeza said Tuesday. “The injuries from the beating the police here put him through are slowly healing, but he is dehydrated and has muscle fatigue and is barely awake.”
Fariñas, who has won numerous international human rights awards and has met with President Barack Obama at least twice to discuss the lack of personal freedoms in Cuba, has been hospitalized twice since he began the hunger strike.
“For a mother, there is no comparison to seeing a son or daughter suffer, to see them in this condition,” Hernandez Cabeza said. “I am by his side until midnight or 1 a.m. every night. I come home and then the next day, early in the morning, I am back at his side.”
“I pray to the saints for my son,” she said. “There is no talking him out of going on a hunger strike or fighting for liberty and human rights. When he started the hunger strike, it upset him greatly when people told him to stop for his health. I see that he gets very agitated, and I don’t want his health worsening because of the stress.”
Fariñas – a dissident who has gone on about two dozen hunger strikes, barely surviving some of them – has served a total of about 11 years as a political prisoner in Cuban jails.
In recent weeks, representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Havana, the Vatican, as well as others, have visited Fariñas.
Fariñas has been a vocal opponent of the Obama administration’s move to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, saying that President Raúl Castro has not ended the repression on the island. Fariñas says the harassment of dissidents continues unabated.
He called Obama’s decision to restore relations with Cuba a betrayal of a promise the president made to him and other dissidents that held that there would be no change in U.S.-Cuba policy without their input and consent.
“He seems very serious about taking this to the end,” Sebastian A. Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, told FNL. “The human implication of someone of the value of Fariñas dying is very dramatic. He represents so much of the new Cuba that many there want to build, which is not the one [President] Raúl Castro is building."
"Politically speaking, if he dies as a result of this hunger strike, it’s going to essentially put the entire process of the normalization of diplomatic relations into question," Arcos said. "It’s going to put into question the entire idea that the way for democratic nations to deal with Cuba is diplomacy and that it will force a change in the nature of the Cuban regime.”
Obama wants the decades-long trade embargo against Cuba to be lifted, but many in Congress, which Republicans control, are opposed to removing it until Castro takes steps toward implementing democratic changes, including allowing freedom of speech and holding legitimate elections.
While some significant economic reforms have taken hold in recent months – such as the ability of many Cubans to start businesses, and the ability of dissidents such as Fariñas to travel outside Cuba – the Castro government has staunchly resisted giving its citizens many basic freedoms.
Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.