The European Parliament recently gave its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named after the late Soviet dissident, to Cuban psychologist and journalist Guillermo Fariñas. This Gandhi-like emaciated figure has become famous for using repeated, almost fatal hunger strikes in protest against the Castros’ dictatorship and in particular its total control of media. Sakharov is a symbolically important but materially small prize with 50,000 euros given to the winner.
The granting of the prize has often been a polarizing issue, particularly when Cuba and the Israeli occupation are brought up. Other potential winners included the Ethiopian dissident Birtukan Mideksa and the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence. It is the third time Cuban activists have won the prize in 8 years.