Cuban Dissident's Death Felt in Miami - NBC 6 South Florida

Cuban Dissident's Death Felt in Miami

Activists inspired by hunger-striker's passing

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    MIAMI - FEBRUARY 19: Alfredo Rey holds a painting of Cuban President Fidel Castro that reads, "Assassin terrorist", after Castro announced he will not accept a new term in office February 19, 2008 in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Florida. Castro announced he is stepping down after 49 years in power, saying he is no longer healthy enough to hold office. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

    They are glued to the phones at the Directorio.  The audio engineer at the group's shortwave radio station takes in a feed that includes shouts of "Libertad, Libertad, Libertad!" All attention focused on the funeral services for Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

    The Cuban Democratic Directorate is a low key, yet high energy Cuban exile group based in Miami that documents civic resistance on the Island.  They have been very busy this year. 

    "So far in 2010 we have seen a big spike in activism. This also corresponds with a big spike in repression," said Aramis Perez, a spokesperson for the group.

    The funeral of Zapata Tamayo was producing numerous examples of protest and resistance. Zapata Tamayo was a political prisoner, a dissident,  who died after an 80-day hunger strike. The handyman bricklayer was demanding the Cuban government respect his basic human rights. He died in prison serving time for opposing the Castro Brother's regime. "Murder," claims his mother.

    The death and funeral has attracted worldwide attention. The question is what will the effect be on the island? Will it send what is considered a growing dissident movement into the streets?  Despite Cuban government attempts to suppress the news of the dissident's death in the age of Twitter, Facebook, bloggers, and the Directorio's Radio Republica, the word is spreading across the island.

    Sorting through first hand reports, Aramis Perez noted, "Immediately leading up to the burial there was a march through the streets of his hometown. People shouted 'freedom, down with the dictator' and as they marched more people joined in."

    Perez said dissidents on the island have vowed not to let the death of Zapata Tamayo slide. "I personally  feel that we will continue to see the growth of the resistance movement in Cuba," Perez said.

    Cuba watchers including the crew at the Directorio are now waiting for a response from the Cuban government. The Castro Brothers do not like unrest especially when it gets the attention of the world media.

    Orlando Zapata Tamayo rests in peace but in Cuba that peace does not extend to his fellow dissidents.

    "Zapata Tamayo will be the example to follow until we achieve Cuba's freedom," one vowed as they left the grave site.