A leading Cuban dissident has vowed to launch a hunger strike to the death if independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas dies from his refusal to eat or drink -- a fast that marked its 15th day Wednesday.

If Fariñas dies, ``I would replace him in the hunger strike until the final consequences,' said a statement issued by Felix Bonne Carcassés, an engineer and former university professor in his 70s.

Bonne added he was not asking other Cubans to join the protest, to avoid giving the government the opportunity to embarrass the effort by creating fake strikers who would later be ``found to be feasting.'

Bonne and three other well-known dissidents were convicted of sedition in 1997 after issuing a declaration that criticized Fidel Castro's government. They were released in 2000 after serving part of their sentences.

Fariñas, a 48-year-old psychologist and journalist, was extremely weak Wednesday and dozed most of the day, said his wife, Clara Pérez, by phone from Santa Clara.



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