The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), which has been working with the European Parliament to press Cuba to respect human rights, says a leading Cuban dissident was tricked into ending his nearly two-month hunger strike this week by a fake report.
Guillermo "Coco" Fariñas, winner of the 2010 Andrei Sakharov Prize, began the hunger strike in late July, to protest the treatment of dissidents at the hands of Cuban security forces.
CANF leaders say they are certain that the Cuban government was behind the scheme, which convinced Fariñas that the European Parliament had passed an amendment named after the dissident in order to get him to end the hunger strike.
“It was all a lie,” CANF co-founder and president Jose Hernandez told Fox News Latino. “We’re certain it was the work of Cuban intelligence agents, who have done this kind of thing before.”
“But the truth is, they did not hurt the accomplishment of what Fariñas set out to do with the hunger strike,” Hernandez said, “which was to raise awareness worldwide about the human rights abuses that continue in Cuba.”
The foundation, the most influential Cuban exile lobbying group, has been working with members of the European Parliament to pass the so-called Fariñas amendment, calling for greater human rights in Cuba and on making the naming of the dissident to the Cuban commission on democratic reforms a required part of any accord between the island nation and the European Union.
A European Parliament webpage evidently was duplicated to include a bogus item announcing that it had passed the amendment and that Fariñas had been named a special parliamentary adviser on civil society on the island.
The page looked so authentic, said CANF board member Cristina Canales, that many Cuban exile groups circulated it.
“The page looked authentic, and it was only after verifying with our contacts at the European Parliament that we learned it was fake," she said. “It’s another attempt to discredit the non-violent Cuban opposition movement, and this will not stop us from our work in defense of human rights.”
The hunger strike has been a frequent tactic for Fariñas over the years. The one he just ended was his 25th, but it was one of his longest.
As the strike entered its second month, the dissident's backers claimed he was close to death.
In an interview with FNL during the strike, Fariñas said he was too tired of the systemic abuses by the Castro regime and that he would sacrifice his life to get the Cuban government to take action, or the world to take human rights abuses in Cuba more seriously.
“I’m not asking them to stop detaining people, though they should stop making up bogus reasons and trumping up charges and refusing to admit that they detain people just for political reasons,” Fariñas said. “I want them to stop beating up people who are merely protesting peacefully for freedom, for democratic reform. They also should never beat someone up when they are handcuffed or in some other restraints.”
Fariñas, who met with Obama when he visited Havana in March, said the United States' move to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba only has emboldened the Castro regime "by giving it validation."
Meanwhile, CANF’s Hernandez said that the European Parliament plans to discuss the Fariñas amendment in about two weeks.