Cuban Dissidents Have Demands Met, End Hunger Strike

A longtime Cuban dissident and her followers have abandoned a hunger strike on its eighth day after receiving word the government will meet their main demand.

Martha Beatriz Roque called off the strike when told the government would free little known dissident Jorge Vasquez, who she claims is serving a jail term for a minor, non-political crime.

In a statement released to The Associated Press, Roque supporter Rosa Maria Naranjo said the protest had not been in vain.

The 67-year-old Roque is one of the best known figures in Cuba's small dissident community. Opposition members say more than two dozen others participated in the hunger strike.

Cuba's government considers all opposition members to be common criminals and stooges in the pay of Washington. It has had no public comment throughout the protest.

Cuba's small opposition community has already lost two of its leaders in less than a year.

Veteran dissident Oswaldo Paya was killed in a car accident in July, and Ladies in White founder Laura Pollan died of heart failure in October 2011.

Two other Cuban opposition figures have died in hunger strikes in recent years. Wilman Villar died in January following a 50-day hunger strike he called to protest his four-year sentence for assault, resisting arrest and disrespecting authority.

In February 2010, Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after refusing food for months. He was considered a prisoner of conscience by U.K.-based human rights group Amnesty International.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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