Cuban dissident Zapata Tamayo dies in prison during hunger strike

A jailed Cuban dissident on a hunger strike for 86 days died Tuesday, his mother reported, the first time in nearly 40 years an island activist starved himself to death to protest government abuses.

"They have assassinated Orlando Zapata Tamayo. The death of my son has been a premeditated murder" Reina Luisa Tamayo told El Nuevo Herald in a telephone interview.

"The managed to do what they wanted. They ended the life of a fighter for human rights."

It was the first time an opponent of the communist government died during a hunger strike since the 1972 death in prison of Pedro Luis Boitel, a poet and student leader who had fought against both the Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro dictatorships.

Zapata, 42 who had worked as a plumber and bricklayer, stopped eating solid foods Dec. 3 to protest what he described as repeated beatings by guards and other abuses at his prison in eastern Cuba.

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