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Wednesday, February 14, 2007


A tale of two hunger strikers

Always on the lookout for negative news about Cuba, papers today are carrying a story about a Cuban on a hunger strike demanding Internet access for Cubans. The man, we learn from the story, is practically a "professional" hunger striker, having done 20 of them, including such important causes as demanding a phone for his mother's home. The trigger for the latest one was a story he and his fellow "independent journalists" were trying to circulate, about how local blood banks had allegedly been depleted because the blood had been shipped to Pakistan. I wonder if they mentioned it was being used to help earthquake victims (the article about him in the U.S. press certainly didn't).

The full story of Cuban access to the Internet, which most definitely does exist, is told here. I thought I had blogged about it but apparently I hadn't, but it's a most instructive tale of how to apply technology and limited resources in a developing country for the benefit of the maximum number of people, rather than for the wealthiest.

Incidentally while our friend has been on a hunger strike triggered by the alleged depletion of his country's medical resources, he's spent several years in state hospitals being fed intravenously, consuming a lot more of those resources.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, another hunger strike is being conducted by one of the numerous victims of the U.S. government - Sami Al-Arian. Al-Arian has been in jail for four years, much of that in Guantanamo-like conditions, despite a trial which did not convict him on a single charge! Al-Arian's hunger strike? As far as I can tell, it's only been covered by Florida newspapers (Al-Arian is from Florida), with no national coverage at all.

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