Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Cuban Dissident Awarded Top Human Rights Prize

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The European Parliament has awarded Cuba’s Guillermo Fariñas—psychologist, journalist and political dissident—the 2010 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in recognition of his defense of human rights. Fariñas is well-known in the international arena for staging more than 20 hunger strikes, leading to prison sentences totaling 11 years.

In announcing the awarding of this year’s prize to Mr. Fariñas, Parliament President Jerzy Buzek explained: “Guillermo Fariñas is an independent journalist and political dissident who was ready to sacrifice and risk his own health and life as a means of pressure to achieve change in Cuba… carrying the hopes of all of those who care for freedom, human rights and democracy.”

Mr. Fariñas is not the first Cuban laureate of the Sakharov Prize. Oswaldo Payá, perhaps the county’s most prominent political dissident, won the award in 2002, followed by Damas de Blanco in 2005—a group of women whose husbands are jailed in Cuba for protesting the regime. Damas de Blanco have been consistently barred by the government from collecting their prize in person, and Mr. Fariñas is not expected to be permitted to travel to Strasbourg, France, to receive this year’s award.

In his most recent hunger strike, Fariñas fasted for 135 days from February to July 2010 to pressure the Cuban government to free dozens of imprisoned political dissidents. He ended the strike when President Raúl Castro promised the Catholic Church that he would free 52 of the prisoners.

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