Through the international press media, we have learned that prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, 42, a neighbor in the municipality of Banes, a mason by trade, who had accumulated a prison sentence of 36 years, died in Havana after 83 days of a hunger strike. He was considered to be a prisoner of conscience and the strike that took his life was aimed at drawing attention to his demands regarding the penitentiary regime.
Death in these conditions is a tragedy for all, because at issue is the life of a person, which is always the greatest gift we all should protect and conserve.
For that reason, the Catholic Church has tried in similar situations to convince people not to use methods of complaint that endanger their own lives, which is a form of violence that a person carries out against himself.
On several occasions, the Church requested a visit with Mr. Zapata, which could not be accomplished. In the same manner, [the Church] has requested, and now reiterates its request, to the authorities who have in their hands the lives and health of prisoners to take the adequate measures so that situations like this will not be repeated, and at the same time to create the conditions of dialogue and suitable understanding to prevent such painful situations, which benefit no one and bring suffering to many.
To Mr. Zapata's mother, relatives and loved ones, we extend our condolences and the assurance of our prayers.
We ask God that we may all hear Jesus Christ's call to work for the common good, as if it were our own good.
May the Virgin of Charity, with her beneficent presence, make all of us Cubans feel like and be brothers.
/signed/ Permanent Committee
Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba