Remembering Orlando Zapata Tamayo on the 45th Anniversary of His Birth
Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) offered the following statement for the Congressional Record, commemorating the life of political activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prominent figure in the fight for democracy on the island of Cuba:
“We commemorate the day that Orlando Zapata Tamayo would have turned 45 years old had his life not been cut short by the murderous Castro dictatorship. He was a member of the pro-democracy organizations Movimiento Alternativa Republicana and the Consejo Nacional de Resistencia Cívica. He was arrested several times, including on March 20th, 2003 during Cuba’s notorious ‘Black Spring.’ During his many years in prison, he suffered beatings, humiliation, and long periods of solitary confinement.
Orlando Zapata Tamayo began a hunger strike on December 3rd, 2009 to protest inhumane prison conditions and arbitrary extensions of his sentences. His hunger strike lasted more than 80 days. During that time, he was deprived of water, suffered abhorrent prison conditions, and ultimately died at the hands of the Castro regime on February 23rd, 2010. Sadly, the two years since Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s death have been years of increased repression and more murders by the Castro regime. The number of political arrests doubled between 2010 and 2011, and the first three months of 2012 have proven even more brutal and repressive than the same period last year.
While we continue to mourn the loss of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, his spirit and mission have nonetheless strengthened Cuba’s courageous pro-democracy movement. Shortly after Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s death, other pro-democracy activists continued his cause such as Jorge Luis Garcia Perez (‘Antunez’), who founded the ‘Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Front for Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience.’
In so many ways, Orlando Zapata Tamayo still lives. Among the pro-democracy activists that honor him and continue his mission, Orlando Zapata Tamayo is an enduring symbol of perseverance in the face of brutal repression. Although his life was brutally cut short, Orlando Zapata Tamayo will forever be a blessing to Cuba’s courageous pro-democracy movement and to the activists that will not allow his sacrifice to be in vain.”