Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo has died as a result of a hunger strike he began back in December 2009. He was only 42.
Zapata was one of the 75 Cuban dissidents jailed by Fidel back in March 2003 shortly after the War in Iraq begun. He was sentenced to 36 years in prison. Initially his sentence was only three years for "disobedience" but increased twelvefold after "acts of defiance" while in prison.
Zapata took these measures not to bring attention to his own plight but that of other Cuban political prisoners. Unfortunately, Zapata is not a cause célèbre amongst limosuine liberals. The only "political prisoners" in Cuba they care about are at Guantanamo Bay.
I cannot imagine being put in the kind of situation where I would be compelled to deny myself sustenance especially in an environment where I would require all of my physical and mental strength. But when one has nothing left to lose men will go to lengths even they had not imagined.
Yet it also illustrates the difference between noble martyrdom and ignoble martyrdom. Zapata sacrificed himself for what he believed to be a greater good. But he didn't take anyone else with him. The burden was his alone. Islamic terrorists by contrast not only sacrifice themselves but take as many people as they possibly can with them including women and children. Most of the people they take with them are those simply going about their business.
But has Zapata died in vain? Will his sacrifice spur other Cuban dissidents into action generating the international support necessary to bring pressure to bear against Raul Castro? Based on precedent, it is more likely that this will not come to pass. Yet often raw nerves are struck when you least expect it.