Cuban hunger striker who sewed mouth shut is hospitalized

A Cuban dissident who sewed his lips shut after doctors made fun of his hunger strike was taken to a hospital Wednesday suffering from convulsions and blackouts, an independent journalist reported.

Vladimir Alejo Miranda, 47, stopped eating 62 days ago, sewed his mouth Sept. 5 and stopped drinking water Tuesday, journalist Heriberto Liranza Romero told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana.

Alejo's wife, Rita Montes de Oca, joined his hunger strike and also sewed her lips Sept. 12 with regular sewing thread and a needle, the journalist said.

Alejo was taken to a hospital in the Havana municipality of Guanabacoa on Wednesday after he blacked out and went into convulsions, Liranza added. No independent confirmation was immediately available.

He was receiving intravenous fluids and could be sent home or transferred to a larger hospital depending on his condition, Liranza said. Alejo and his wife also suffer from infections around the lips.

About 15 Cubans sewed their lips together in recent memory to protest against the communist government, said Ricardo Bofill, a founder of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights now living in Miami.

"It's a kind of extreme sacrifice, very rare although it has been done on a few occasions," Bofill said.

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