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Crimes of opinion

By mmguestblogger  •  March 25, 2010 03:17 PM

On February 23, 2010 Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died while in jail after an eighty-three day hunger strike. The Castro regime had denied him water for 18 days which led to renal failure that ultimately led to his death. His elderly mother was not allowed to visit him during the final weeks of his life.

His crime in Castro’s Cuba – for which he had been incarcerated since 2003 and which he gave his life for – was one of “opinion.” Tamayo had the audacity to believe himself an individual, a human being and thus entitled to think for himself. Freedom of thought is the worst enemy of the totalitarian state.

I cant help but think that were it not for an act of courage and conviction on the part of my parents, it could very well have been me who died in that fetid Cuban jail cell. It could have been me on the receiving end of brutal beatings and abject humiliation. It could have been my mother who suffered and anguished at the thought of her son in a prison cell, tortured and malnourished simply because her son thought himself a man like any other.

Had my parents not made the decision to leave their country, their lives and family and everything they’d ever known to bring my sister and I here to the United States of America, I might not have ever known what freedom means. There isn’t a day that goes by in my life where I don’t thank my parents for their courage and sacrifice, and there isn’t a day in my life where I don’t cherish being an American.

I think about my freedom every single day.

And it is precisely because I am free – free to think, free to speak, free to associate – that I feel compelled, duty-bound, to do whatever I can to help those like Orlando Zapata Tamayo realize their freedom. I am an American and the best way to use my freedom – the best way to protect it – is to work to ensure that those around me are afforded their freedom as well.

So I respectfully ask you all today to join me in spreading a little freedom. We wont be taking up arms or hitting the streets in protest or anything like that. All you need to do is learn a little about the plight of Cuba’s political prisoners and help me spread the word. Make some noise. Let those communist despots in Cuba and the rest of the world know that you’re watching them closely. Let them know that an affront to the freedom any one man is an affront to yours and all mankind.

For information on all of Cuba’s political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, visit Uncommon Sense.

For a short video on Orlando Zapata Tamayo and fellow hunger striker Guillermo FariƱas, go here.

For a short video showing how the peaceful mothers, wives, daughters and sisters of Cuban political prisoners are treated, go here.

And, if you would, please sign this petition calling for the release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Cuba. (Choose “English” on the box for complete text of petition in English).

I will be attending a peaceful march in Miami this afternoon meant to show support and solidarity with the Ladies in White. I know you all with be there with me in spirit.

The White House issued a statement yesterday regarding the death of Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the inhumane treatment of the Ladies in White (wives, mothers and daughters of current Cuban political prisoners), and the “intensified harassment of those who dare to give voice to the desires of their fellow Cubans.”

I know we have a lot going on in our own backyard, but I hope you’ll take a few moments

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