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Cuba dissidents end hunger strike

Wednesday, September 19, 2012    

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HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) — Prominent Cuban dissident economist Martha Beatriz Roque and 29 other protesters ended a eight-day hunger strike yesterday after a political prisoner was ordered freed as they wanted, an activist said.

"We have called it (the hunger strike) off because the wife of Jorge Vazquez Chaviano reported that a file from the Supreme Court arrived ordering him to be released," activist Rosa Naranjo told AFP at Roque's Havana home.

Roque, a 67-year-old economist, diabetic and former political prisoner, started the protest on September 10 in her Havana home. She had since stopped taking her medication.

Naranjo said Roque was exhausted and not immediately able to speak with reporters.

The economist had been pressing mainly for the release of opposition member Vazquez Chaviano. He was supposed to have been let out of prison September 9 after serving a sentence for an "economic crime," his relatives say, but has remained behind bars.

Initially, 13 opposition members joined Roque in her protest but the number later swelled to nearly 30.

Hunger strikes have become the highest-profile weapon of Cuba's dissidents. Two being held prisoner have died recently: Orlando Zapata in February 2010 and Wilman Villar in January 2012.

Award-winning dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez wrote on Twitter that with Vazquez Chaviano's release "the hunger strike is over, and a people's victory has been declared."

In 2003, Roque was the only woman among 75 activists arrested and given long prison sentences in a high-profile crackdown.

Roque however was released the following year for health reasons, and she went on to found an umbrella group that represents several opposition groups on the island, the Americas' only Communist-run nation.

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