Cuban media has reported that Guillermo Farinas, a political dissident who has been on hunger strike for 130 days, is in danger of dying after developing a blood clot.
Farinas, 48, has been demanding the release of all political prisoners who are seriously ill, but said he would end the strike if 12 of them are freed and the government pledges to release the rest.
The story of his fragile health was reported by Communist party newspaper Granma on Saturday, although it is unusual for Cuban state media to report on a dissident's protest.
"You can say [the report] is almost unprecedented, but it is certainly meant for the national public opinion," Juan Jacomino, a Cuban journalist based in Havana, said.
"This is a weird case in many ways because this is a person who was not in jail, who was a free man, who has decided to go on what the Cuban media calls a voluntary fasting to demand the release of some political prisoners."
Life 'at risk'
Jacomino told Al Jazeera the report is meant to bring to the public's attention that Farinas is taking his life in his own hands.
"It is letting people know that there is something going on with this person, whose life is at risk at the moment, and [that] he has been invited to resume his normal feeding."
Farinas has been undergoing treatment at a Santa Clara hospital since March 11, and is being fed nutrients intravenously. Doctors now say he has developed a blood clot in his jugular vein and is "in danger of potential death".
"We are pushing the limits [of Farinas' health], now more than ever," the Granma report quoted Armando Caballero, the head of intensive care at Arnaldo Milian Castro University Hospital, as saying.
Alicia Hernandez, Farinas' mother, confirmed that her son's health was delicate, but said he was "standing firm" and would continue his hunger strike.
Raul Castro, Cuba's president, has labelled Farinas a common criminal, and said the government will not yield to what it considers to be blackmail.
The Chilean president, Sebastian Pinera, however, has said his government would approach Cuba "to try to save the life of Guillermo Farinas".
Farinas began his protest after Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a leading Cuban political activist jailed since 2003, died on February 23 while hunger strikingagainst harsh prison conditions.
Jacomino said Cubans have reacted to the story in different ways.
"In terms of his political position ... to be honest, a lot of the people I've spoken with are more concerned with his personal situation than those in jail," he said.
Farinas is a veteran hunger striker, having held 22 such protests over the last 15 years.