Cuban Opposition Leader Urges End To Hunger Strike

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HAVANA (AP) - A leader of Cuba's Ladies in White opposition group said Sunday that she will urge a colleague to end a 10-day old hunger strike she launched to demand freedom for her jailed husband, saying the protest could be counterproductive.

Laura Pollan told The Associated Press she plans to travel to the home of Alejandrina Garcia, near the central city of Matanzas, to deliver the message personally.

The Cuban government on Friday released one of 11 political prisoners still held following a 2003 crackdown on dissent that swept up 75 dissidents, and the Catholic church announced another release is imminent.

Garcia has been on a hunger strike since January 28 to demand freedom for her husband, Diosdado Gonzalez, another of the remaining 2003 prisoners. Gonzalez and another political prisoner joined the protest from behind bars on Tuesday.

"We will talk to her about putting aside the strike," Pollan said Sunday before a protest march by the Ladies in White, which is comprised of the wives and mothers of some of the jailed political prisoners. She added that if the government felt boxed into a corner, it would be less likely to make good on its promise to release the dissidents.

Garcia's son, Reymar Gonzalez, said his mother was in good spirits 10 days into the strike, but that she is weak and suffering from abdominal pains.

Some of the prisoners had been released for medical or other reasons and in July, Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in July to free all 52 who remained after a meeting with Cardinal Jaime Ortega. At the time, Ortega said the deal called for the men to be out within four months, or by November.

Authorities quickly released 41 of the men, sending all but one of them into exile in Spain. But the process ground to a halt as those who remained behind bars refused to leave Cuba, a direct challenge to the government.

A break in the impasse came Friday, when Cuba freed Guido Sigler and the church announced the imminent release of Angel Moya. While Sigler has indicated a desire to go to the United States, Moya had made clear he would remain in Cuba.

Two days after the announcement, however, Moya is still in jail.

His wife, Bertha Soler, says her husband is refusing to leave prison, insisting that other dissidents who are in poor health be freed first. The Cuban government has had no comment. It considers the dissidents to be common criminal, and accuses Washington of funding them in an effort to stir up trouble on the island.


Associated Press writer Paul Haven contributed to this report.