POLITICS

Cuban dissident rejects international appeals to end hunger strike as health declines

Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas

Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas  (AP)

International calls are growing for Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas, who has been on a hunger strike since he was beat up by government officers in mid-July, to stop his protest.

The head of the most influential Cuban-American lobby group in the United States says he pleaded with Fariñas, who is 54, to end his hunger strike, telling the dissident that he can do more for his cause – democratic reforms in Cuba – alive than dead.

Jose Hernandez, the co-founder and president of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation, told Fox News Latino that Fariñas has refused his request to end his hunger strike.

“Guillermo is a great man, a great friend,” said Hernandez, who speaks daily with friends and relatives of Fariñas who have been holding a vigil at the dissident’s home, monitoring his health. “I told him that it would only benefit the Castro regime if he dies and is no longer in the picture.”

A high-ranking official of the U.S. Embassy in Havana also dropped by Fariñas’ home last weekend also urging him to resume eating and drinking liquids, according to Breitbart News. Cuban-American activists wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, expressing concern about Fariñas’ health and his allegations that he was beaten by Cuban government police.

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Fariñas, who had staged two dozen hunger strikes in protest of human rights violations in Cuba, was awarded the Sakharov Human Rights Prize by the European Parliament in 2010. He also has won numerous other international prizes for his human rights work. Obama has met with Fariñas twice, most recently when the president traveled to Cuba in March.

“The Castro regime will not cede, will not change its oppressive ways, because Guillermo is risking his life,” Hernandez said. “I told him that he’s gotten his point across to the world, the world knows his demands and human rights activists, thought leaders and political leaders have responded and showed support.”

Fariñas was hospitalized last weekend for the fourth time since he started the hunger strike.

Fariñas, who is said to be spending most of his days sleeping because of weakness, has spoken to a reporters a few times by phone during his hunger strike.

Last month he told Fox News Latino that he is prepared to die during this hunger strike, if that is what it will take to jolt the Cuban regime into moving toward democratic reforms.

Fariñas assailed Obama for restoring diplomatic relations with the Cuban government in the absence of any indication from it that it will allow more freedom for the Cuban people, and stop punishing those who oppose the government or even criticize it.

Fariñas has said that the olive branch from the United States has emboldened the regime of Raul Castro, making it more strident in cracking down on political opposition.

The Cuban government has been known to force-feed hunger strikers, considered a human rights violation.

Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.