Global Online Event Commemorates Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero

Young people in the act of homage to Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero this Wednesday in the Netherlands. (Facebook / Cuba Decides)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2020 — Activists of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) denounced on social media on Wednesday that they were harassed by the Police, in Havana, to prevent them from approaching the grave of Oswaldo Payá, in the Cristóbal Colón cemetery in the Cuban capital.

Wednesday marks eight years since the death of Payá and Harold Cepero, in a car crash whose circumstances have not yet been clarified and which the family has always considered to be murder.

In his memory, there is a world event organized by the Cuba Decides association and the Foundation for Pan American Democracy. The event comprising 12 hours of online transmission from different cities of the world and Cuba, addressed the different facets of the activists. continue reading

The day started in the Netherlands at nine in the morning, Cuba time, with a forum for politicians and young exiles in Europe. Later, other young people joined the tribute from Spain.

At one o’clock in the afternoon, a remote roundtable took place between different Latin American parliamentarians — Mexicans Ricardo Morales Kuhn and Cecilia Romero, Colombia’s Paola Holguín, and Guatemala’s Aníbal Samayoa — which analyzed the influence of Castroism on the continent and honored the dissidents with the sign of the “L” for “freedom” that Payá made famous.

Other tribute events include a ceremony at the Monument to the Victims of Communism in Washington DC; the presentation of the book written by Payá and published posthumously The night will not be eternal and a mass in the church of St. Raymond of Peñafort in Miami.

Oswaldo Payá, founder of the MCL, was the architect of the Varela Project, which, based on the 1992 Cuban Constitution, sought to collect the signatures of citizens to propose new laws. Payá managed to gather some 25,000 signatures to request a referendum in Cuba with the aim of establishing, among other changes, free elections and freedom of expression.


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14ymedio Faces of 2018: Eduardo Cardet, Political Prisoner

The opposition’s Eduardo Cardet is still in prison after the sentence of three years which was imposed on him. (Captura YouTube/MCL)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 December 2018 — In November Eduardo Cardet marked two years in prison. The leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) was arrested November 30, 2016 at the door of his home, in Holguín, and later was sentenced to three years of prison for the crime of attacking authority, in a trial that his family and other activists label “manipulated.”

Born in 1968 and with a degree in Medicine, the activist was chosen as the national coordinator of MCL after the death of Oswaldo Payá in 2012.

In October of this year the dissident was awarded the Patmos prize which has been granted by the institution of the same name for the past five years to committed Cuban Christians. A few weeks later he won the Pedro Luis Boitel 2018 Freedom Prize in a ceremony held in Miami. continue reading

In recent months Cardet has seen his conditions in prison worsen. In May his family members were informed by authorities that the opposition figure had been prohibited from receiving visitors for “spreading fake news” about his case.

At the end of July, MCL asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to intercede on behalf of Cardet during his visit to Havana, but so far, the petitions of human rights organizations, national and international, and political parties have fallen into a black hole.

The NGO UN Watch presented a complaint to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to demand that the island’s authorities free Cardet. The organization’s lawyers registered the case against the Cuban State on July 23 in front of this body of the UN made up of five jurists and experts in human rights.

See also: 14ymedio Faces of 2018

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

French Foreign Minister in Cuba Asked to Intercede for Release of Eduardo Cardet

Christian Liberation Movement national coordinator Eduardo Cardet was violently arrested on 30 November 2016 at the door of his home in Holguin. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 July 2018 — The Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) has asked French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to intercede for the release of activist Eduardo Cardet, during his visit to Cuba on Saturday, according to the Catholic news agency Aciprensa.

Le Drian is the first member of French President Emmanuel Macron’s government to visit the island and will meet with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez. His arrival coincides with the first hundred days of Miguel Díaz-Canel’s term as president of Cuba. 

In its letter, the MCL asks Le Drian “to intercede with the Cuban authorities for the freedom of our national coordinator, Eduardo Cardet (elected in 2014 as Oswaldo Payá’s successor), who is recognized as a prisoner of conscience.”  continue reading

The letter was delivered by the Cuban writer Zoé Valdés, resident in Paris, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the officials explained that they knew of the case of Cardet and the minister would have the letter in his hands “shortly.”

In the letter, the opposition movement details that Cardet “was violently arrested on November 30, 2016 at the door of his house” in Holguín, and was subsequently convicted of an alleged crime of assault on authority in a “manipulated trial.”

The three-year prison sentence aims to “prevent his peaceful activism for a democratic change in Cuba through legal means, especially by coordinating the ‘One Cuban, one vote’ campaign that calls for changing the current electoral law so that it will be democratic and inclusive,” says the letter. 

This week the NGO UN Watch filed a complaint with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions to demand that the island’s authorities release Cardet. UN Watch lawyers registered the case against the Cuban State last July 23 with this independent organ of the UN formed by five jurists and experts in human rights.

UN Watch denounces that since his arrest, Cardet has been beaten, he has been denied medical treatment, visits by a priest and in a “routine” way also those of his family members, in addition to being denied bail.

On May 26, authorities suspended family visits for a period of six months as “punishment for the family’s campaign for the release” of Cardet and agents of the State Security have “harassed” and are monitoring the family of the dissident.


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Interview with Rosa Maria, Oswaldo Paya’s Daughter / Iván García

Photo: EFE, taken from Diario de Cuba

Ivan Garcia and Leonardo Santos, 15 March 2018 — It is difficult, for the macho mentality that prevails among Cubans, to relate to a woman with bold attitudes that require determination and bravery. Regarding Rosa María Payá Acevedo, freelance journalist José Hugo Fernández said that “she has a graceful, elegant appearance, a candid look.”

This is the leader of the CubaDecides campaign and president of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, who received us at her family home in the Havana neighborhood of El Cerro to talk about the second annual Freedom and Life Oswaldo Payá Prize, on 8 March. continue reading

Ivan García/Leonardo Santos: Why is the ceremony for this award being held in Havana, knowing that the Cuban regime would deploy a campaign to discredit the event and prevent the participation of influential international political figures?

Rosa María Payá: We will never shape our actions based on the decisions and actions of the regime of Raúl Castro, but rather on what all Cubans can do for ourselves. The decision to deliver, for the second time, this award in Cuba is not only consistent with honoring the legacy of my father and honoring the winners of each year’s award, but also demonstrates to Cubans the support of the international community.

We must be able to generate actions, both inside and outside the Island, in favor of a peaceful change in our country, in favor of a change towards democracy, and as I expressed during the first prize ceremony, for this we must move the scene of our actions to Cuba.

What happened this week, where the Cuban regime for the second time has considered the participation of the international community in the delivery of theFreedom and Life Oswaldo Payá Prize as a political provocation, we can consider as a victory, because it made clear the tolerances that still exist, in the international community, with respect to the Castro dictatorship.

García/Santos: In the first installment of the award, in February 2017, the regime denied entry to Cuba to Luis Almagro, secretary general of the OAS, former Chilean minister Mariana Aylwin and former Mexican President Felipe Calderón. On this occasion, the regime denied entry to presidents Jorge Quiroga and Andrés Pastrana and Chilean deputy Jaime Bellolio, among others. How do these actions hurt the Cuban regime ahead of the VIII Summit of the Americas to be held on April 13 and 14, in Lima, Peru?

Rosa María Payá: It is incoherent that there is a dignified position in the face of the Venezuelan dictatorship perpetuated in the figure of the dictator Nicolás Maduro and that the same treatment should not be assumed before the Cuban dictatorship perpetuated in Raúl Castro. The position of the Peruvian government and the Lima Group, declaring Nicolás Maduro not welcome for the next Summit of the Americas, is truly worthy.

The Cuban regime, which describes its electoral farce as transparent, nevertheless refuses to allow entry into the country of two presidents who were democratically elected.

On the other hand, it is impossible to conceive the collapse of democracy in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua without the concrete and active interference of the Cuban regime. I think all these considerations should be addressed seriously during this summit. The Secretary General of the OAS said clearly that dictatorships are not welcome.

García/Santos: Sectors of the opposition on the island have described CubaDecides, and its call for a binding plebiscite, as a “fanciful, ineffective and electioneering” endeavor.

Rosa María Payá: CubaDecides is a campaign for all Cubans and for all non-Cubans who support the right of Cubans to decide. The right to decide about how a nation operates, and the citizens that compose it, to determine its present and its destiny. To be against this basic principle is to be against democracy itself. And that basic principle is what CubaDecides defends.

CubaDecides is a citizen mobilization campaign to change the system and begin a process of transition towards democracy. The conditions for this transition to occur are based on the fact that there must be freedom of expression, freedom of association, access to information, and a combating of repression. These things are demanded by CubaDecides, and if that is not what the Cuban opposition wants, then what does it want?

However, all are welcome to join a decisive struggle for freedom. A fight that will end the day there are free elections in Cuba. The change in Cuba will not come from whomever will be the next candidate, because the change has to be radical and for this all Cubans should have the opportunity to participate in that change.

The CubaDecides campaign does not propose to speak for the Cuban people because nobody else should speak for all Cubans. Let’s ask the people, in a plebiscite, what they want.

García/Santos: The doctor Eduardo Cardet, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement among whose founders was your father Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, has been imprisoned since November 30, 2016. His family has recently stated that his case “has not had all the desired repercussions.”

Both since the CubaDecides campaign and the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, we have been carrying out actions for the release of all political prisoners and specifically for the release of Eduardo Cardet, whom the regime has targeted so particularly.

We are not only worried about his freedom, but also about his physical integrity and that of his family. It is a priority for the Network to take the case of Eduardo Cardet to the Summit of the Americas.

Cuban Faces 2017: Rosa María Payá, Activist

Rosa María Payá, activist. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 December 2017 — The activist, who divides her time between Havana and Miami, directs the Cuba Decides initiative that proposes the holding of a plebiscite to initiate a transition to democracy on the Island. With a degree in Physics, Payá (b. 1989, Havana) has had an intense year in which she has appeared in a growing campaign against her in Cuba’s official media.

Last February the activist organized the “Oswaldo Payá: Freedom and Life” award ceremony in Havana, in honor of her late father, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement. The authorities blocked the event and prevented Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), one of the first honorees of the award, from entering the country.

Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Mariana Aylwin, daughter of the late Chilean president Patricio Aylwin and former Minister of Education in her country, were unable to board a plane to Cuba to attend the tribute.

During the People’s Power municipal elections, held last November, Payá called on voters to annul their ballots by writing the word “plebiscite” or the name of her organization in it. The opposition denounced the harassment against the promoters of the initiative and described the election process as a “farce.”


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Dozens of Opponents Attend Mass in Honor of Oswaldo Paya in Havana

Our apologies for not having subtitles for this video.

14ymedio, Havana, 21 July 2017 — At least 40 activists attended a mass in tribute to opponents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero on the fifth anniversary of their deaths, on Thursday evening. The ceremony took place in the church of Los Quemados in Marianao, Havana, and passed without incident.

The daughter of the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), Rosa María Payá, traveled from the city of Miami, where she lives, to participate in the memorial. About 60 people attended the mass, among whom were family, friends and opponents of the Castro government.

Among the activists who participated were former Black Spring prisoner Félix Navarro, the dissident Manuel Cuesta Morúa and the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler.

Speaking to 14ymedio Rosa María Payá said she found “the whole of civil society represented” to honor the memory and legacy of his father. “[All opponents] agree fundamentally: this system does not work and we have to change it.”

Berta Soler said that “the Cuban regime thought that killing Oswaldo Payá was going to do away with him” but that was not the case because “he lives among us.”

Oswaldo Payá founded the MCL in 1988 and died on 22 July 2012 with Harold Cepero, after the vehicle in which they were traveling, driven by the young Spanish politician Ángel Carromero was driving, went off the road and hit a tree.

Payá’s daughter is carrying out an intense international campaign to demand an independent investigation of the case and maintains that the death of her father was a murder orchestrated by the authorities of Havana, and that the car was purposefully run off the road.

A report by the international Human Rights Foundation (HRF) points to “solid indications” that the car in which Payá and his companions were traveling was hit by another vehicle before the crash.

Dissident Group Denounces At Least 9,940 Arbitrary Arrests In Cuba In 2016 / EFE,14ymedio

A member of the opposition movement Ladies in White is arrested during a demonstration on International Human Rights Day in December 2015. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 5 January 2017 — The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), a dissident group, denounced today that it had documented at least 9,940 arbitrary arrests for “political reasons” in 2016, the highest figure of the last six years.

With a monthly average of 827 arrests, the opposition organization said that Cuba is in “first place” in Latin America for this type of “repressive action.”

In its monthly report, the CCDHRN reports that in December there were 458 arbitrary arrests of “peaceful dissidents,” up from 359 in the previous month, but a much lower figure than in other months of last year; data from January to April showed more than 1,000 arrests a month. continue reading

According to this organization, in December there were also 14 physical assaults by political repression groups against peaceful opponents, 37 acts of harassment and intimidation, and two acts of repudiation, “true civil lynchings without the loss of human lives until now.”

The CCDHRN documented, in December, 14 physical attacks by the political repression groups against peaceful opponents

The commission notes that the opposition groups most punished by this harassment are the Ladies in White, who march every Sunday to demand respect for human rights on the island, and the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), which has suffered “vandalism and robbery by the police” at its headquarters in Santiago de Cuba and at the homes of some of its activists.

The CCDHRN also expressed concern over the situation of two political prisoners imprisoned since November: Eduado Cardet, coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, and Danilo Maldonado, the graffiti artist known as “El Sexto,” who is considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

“El Sexto” has been detained since the early hours of November 26 for painting “He’s gone” in a central place in Havana on the occasion of the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. He is being held in a maximum security prison without trial.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, led by the well-known dissident Elizardo Sánchez, is the only group to record and report the numbers of these incidents in Cuba.

The Cuban government considers dissidents “counterrevolutionaries” and “mercenaries.”

Cuba’s Christian Liberation Movement Leader Gets a Lawyer / 14ymedio

Eduardo Cardet, national coordinator of Cuba’s Christian Liberation Movement. (Flickr)

14ymedio biggerEduardo Cardet, national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) who has been under arrest since the night of 30 November, as of Thursday has found a lawyer to represent him. His relatives have denounced in several media that no lawyer wanted to take on the activist’s defense. Although the lawyer has not had access to his file, the family is optimistic and affirms that the attorney “fight for his right to bail.”

Yaimaris Vecino, the activist’s wife, told this newspaper in a phone conversation that she was able to see Cardet just after they moved him to the so-called “provisional prison” of Holguin, located on the Bayamo highway very close to the airport. continue reading

Yaimaris said that the regime opponent still has notable injuries on his face that he suffered during his arrest, and she clarified that ultimately the accusations have focused on the crime of attack, for which the prosecution would ask for a sentence of between one and three years, as stipulated in the Criminal Code.

Under the law, it is a crime when the use of “violence or intimidation against a public authority or official or its agents or assistants impede them from realizing an act appropriate to their duties.”

However, according to the testimony of numerous witnesses consulted and the family, it was the agents of authority, represented by two members of the State Security in plainclothes and two in uniform, who pounced on Eduardo Cardet when he arrived on a bicycle at his mother’s house.

“It was they who knocked him off his bike and exercised unnecessary violence to arrest him,” his wife explained. No one has officially explained why they went to arrest him at this time. “The first answer when I asked the reason for his arrest was from a State Security official, who told me everything was for his counterrevolutionary activism and they there were not going to allow any actions of this time,” his wife said.

Yaimaris Vecino explains that the attack occurred at the door of her house in front of their children, one age 11 and another 13 years old. “The only police officer who suffered something like an injury was one who injured his hand when he threw my husband against a fence with spikes to try to injure him,” she adds.

The Christian Liberation (MCL) Movement was founded in 1988 by the dissident Oswaldo Payá (who was killed in 2012); the MCL promotes a peaceful change towards democracy and seeks respect for human dignity.

Activists Deliver 10,000 Varela Project Signatures to Cuba’s National Assembly / 14ymedio

The delivery of the more than 10,000 signatures for the Varela Project, on Thursday, to Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power. (Facebook)
The delivery of the more than 10,000 signatures for the Varela Project, on Thursday, to Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 24 March 2016 – On Thursday morning several activists delivered 10,000 signatures on the Varela Project, which are in addition to the 25,404 signatures previously provided to this legislative body. Participating in the delivery were Rosa Maria Rodriguez from the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), Saily Navarro and Rosa Maria Paya, members of the Cuba Decides campaign, along with former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring, Felix Navarro.

The dissidents transported the signatures to the headquarters of the National Assembly on 42nd Street in Havana’s Playa district, in a box on which was written “Proyecto Varela” with the logo of Cubadecide. This afternoon Rosa Maria Paya will hold a press conference in the municipality of Cerro, about the current status of the initiative, which was promoted by her father Oswaldo Paya, leader of the MCL.

The activists commented that initially the National Assembly officials seemed “confused” at the delivery of the signatures. However, after making several call, they accepted the signatures in the Assembly’s Department of Correspondence.

The Varela Project seeks to promote political reforms on the Island aimed at “greater individual freedoms,” according the press release from its organizers. The text reaffirms the “constitutional right” of Cubans to push for a change to “democratic pluralism.” To achieve this, “more than 35,000 Cubans, with residence in the country, signed their names,” along with their identity card numbers “as a way of supporting the Varela Project.”

After delivery the of the signatures, Rosa María Payá, president of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy, said that “we are advocating for them to respond to thousands of signatories of the Varela Project and to the rest of the Cuban people, with the holding of a binding plebiscite for citizens to decide their future in freedom.”

The National Assembly of People’s Power of Cuba’s Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs did not respond to more than 25,000 signatures presented initially by the Varela Project and instead amended the constitution to make socialist character of the Cuban state irreversible.

Oswaldo Payá Remembered On The Anniversary Of His Birth / 14ymedio

Rosa María Payá in the parish El Salvador del Mundo in the Havana neighborhood of Cerro. (Twitter)
Rosa María Payá in the parish El Salvador del Mundo in the Havana neighborhood of Cerro. The photos are of Harold Cepero and Rosa María’s father Oswaldo Payá. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 February 2016 – A Mass in memory of the 64th anniversary of Oswaldo Payá’s birth was held Monday afternoon in the parish of El Salvador del Mundo in the Havana neighborhood of Cerro. Celebrating the Mass was the Auxiliary Bishop of Havana, Monsignor Alfredo Petit Vergel.

The ceremony was attended by the daughter of the deceased opponent of the Castro regime, Rosa María Payá, who is now the president of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy and who traveled to the island for the occasion. She was accompanied by numerous friends and activists from Cuba’s independent civil society, and the Mexican Congresswoman Cecilia Romero. continue reading

Rosa María Payá told 14ymedio that her presence on the island is also intended to promote the initiative of the citizen platform, Cuba Decides, demanding a plebiscite so that “Cuban citizens will have the opportunity to choose their leaders, through free and multi-party elections.”

This is the second trip that Rosa María Payá has made to Cuba after settling in Miami with her family in 2013.

After the liturgy Rosa María Payá addressed the attendees and read a text of Oswaldo Payá’s where he said, “God puts you in a place and at a time with a neighbor who is around you. Who is my neighbor? It is not an abstract being: my neighbor is the Cuba of today, here and now.”

Oswaldo Payá, founding leader of the Christian Liberation Movement died on 22 July 2012, along with the young activist Harold Cepero, on the road leading to the city of Bayamo. The incident has been described by the family as a deliberate crime organized by the political police, but the authorities have refused to review the case and maintain the version of it having been a car accident.


Cuba’s Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) at 25

… We must announce to Cubans that their lives, their dignity and their freedom belong to them and that no one, not Caesar, can take these things from them if they don’t give in because of fear or other reasons.

Oswaldo Paya Sardinas

[Post from 8 September 2013] Inspired by these ideas, our Christian Liberation Movement was founded 25 years ago. Born to defend the rights of all Cubans and to promote the full liberation of the person leading to the development of society. continue reading

We want to serve, we are convinced that in Cuba the changes that the people want will only occur if the majority of Cubans, freeing themselves from the culture of fear, take a liberating step to reclaim their lives. The law should guarantee the right to do away with the simulation generated by an oppressive system, like the totalitarian regime that prevails in our country. We are part of the same people, those who live inside and outside the archipelago;we are not trying to speak for a people, we are working for citizens to have a voice.

Liberation demands its right and the right of Cubans to know the truth; an independent investigation is required to make public the circumstances under which died our leaders Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero died, after an attack on 22 July 2012.

The dialogue that we are proposing is inclusive, where we are all represented, and in an atmosphere of trust that only respect for the law and the practice of fundamental rights can guarantee. We condemn the “Fraud Change” and the false dialogue that excludes and discriminates against those who do not submit, tools that the regime seeks to impose to preserve absolute power and control of the resources belonging to all Cubans. We demand transparency for Cuba and call on Cubans one and all to claim and build this path of changes.

Liberation with the opposition diverse and united in the Camino del Pueblo (the Way of the People), promotes a plebiscite for the sovereign people to decide the changes. Only when citizens can choose their government in free and multiparty elections, can we talk about Cuba having inexorably begun real democratic changes. So today we demand, within the history of thousands of Cubans who propose legal initiatives through a referendum, a referendum to restore the sovereignty of the people

All Cubans, all brothers, and now freedom.

Coordinating Council, Christian Liberation Movement

From MCL

September 8, 2013

Open Letter From the MCL to Pablo Iglesias and His Hatred of Cubans / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

MCL (Movimiento Cristiano Liberación / Christian Liberation Movement) in La Razón: “Mr. Pablo Iglesias, There is Poverty in Cuba and Leftist People are Repressed”

How can you deem it a campaign against “Cuba” that family, friends and colleagues of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero demand that these deaths are clarified, deaths that even the Cuban regime has not been able to explain?

The Cuban regime repeatedly blames its problems on “lags of the past” and on the former “bourgeois regime.”

Well then, they are now the past and the new bourgeoisie.

Dear Euro-Deputy, Mr. Pablo Iglesias:

I have had the chance to read—living in a democratic country where both you and I can (yes, we can) say whatever we please—some statements of yours through which you defend the Cuban regime.

In 2002 and 2003, more than 25,000 Cubans signed a citizens lawsuit—legally and constitutionally sound, according to Cuban Law, and known as the “Varela Project”—in which they demanded the basic rights and liberties enjoyed by citizens in democratic countries.

Specifically, the demands of the Varela Project are as follow: freedom of association, freedom of enterprise (for the citizens), amnesty for prisoners of conscience, and the call for a referendum to pass a fair and just electoral law, given that, at present, there can only be one candidate per position, and one who is logically endorsed by the regime. continue reading

Many of the undersigned and promoters of this project encountered retaliation and were fired from their jobs and teaching positions. 42 of these promoters were imprisoned and subjected to exile in 2010. This repression was the trigger to the well-known Cuban Spring (“Primavera cubana”).

Their demands continue to be ignored in Cuba. The slightest dissidence against the regime is severely punished. Dissidents continue to be oppressed, their neighbors  forced to participate in the so-called Acts of Repudiation or Pogroms, which often end in physical violence. Even people who await permits to work abroad are forced to participate in these repugnant acts to prove their loyalty to the regime.

It is not possible to form associations, it is not possible to publish anything that is not in agreement with the regime, and, least of all, to organize a political party.

The regime, in a more successorial than transitory eagerness, engages itself, today, in bogus economic reforms (which Oswaldo Payá used to call CAMBIO-FRAUDE, or FRAUDULENT-CHANGE) to perpetuate privileges by those known as Cuban economic-military junta, who attempt to switch from the wildest of Communisms to the wildest of Capitalisms, where the poor will be poorer (yes, there are poor people in Cuba; so poor, that they don’t even have the right to say they are poor), and the rich (the members of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP)) will continue to be the only rich.

It is shameless, as shameless as the rebelling pigs in Animal Farm, to move away from what were their mottoes (suffice to remember the emphasis that Fidel would place on the word Capitalism; today, one of his children exhibits his wins on golf, that Capitalist-par-excellence sport according to Castro) and to become allies of any foreign interest that seeks to invest, looking for easy opportunities by enlisting an enslaved work force—there are no free syndicates in Cuba—whose salary is paid for by the State, which, in turn, retains most of it.

To top it off, Cubans cannot shop, with their own currency, in the vast majority of stores (where, only with a bit of luck they may be able to acquire some basic product) because the regime uses an absurd currency duality via the so-called CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso), whose value is set arbitrarily; suffice to give the example of an SUV vehicle, which will cost 66,000 euros while the median salary in Cuba is equivalent to 20 euros per month.

Needless to say, these poor attempts of opening of the economy are also off-limits for anyone perceived as a dissident, and there are several small-business owners who, in their utter fear of losing their scanty properties, reject any kind of opposition to the regime, hence becoming part of the repressive machine.

Long-gone is also the notion of Cuba as a Medical and Health Superpower that the regime so proudly hoisted; today, Cuba is a more-than Third World country where diseases such as cholera—eradicated since colonial times—have reappeared, thanks to the inefficacy of a regime only efficient, nowadays, in repression. For the benefit of the leading caste, the regime exports thousands of health professionals (while retaining most of their salaries), leaving several regions of the island deprived of professional assistance and resources in health services, in sheer contrast with health facilities that cater exclusively to foreigners which enjoy the benefits and resources of First World nations.

Education in Cuba is nothing more than a doctrine and control-producing process since the earliest of childhood. I remember how we were forced to shout “We will be like Ché!” and many of us wondered why on Earth would they want any of us to become assassins. The process of selection of regime followers becomes more and more severe as the schooling level increases (college is for revolutionaries, as they say), with many study topics being forbidden if they are perceived to lead to disloyalty to the regime.

Anyone can claim this is part of the nation’s past, but repression continues to expand, and the question is how can the same people who created this mess back in 1959, and continue to be in power, can solve the problem? Again, they repeatedly blame their problems on “lags of the past” and on the former “bourgeois regime”. Well then, they are now the past and the new bourgeoisie.

The comparison with other disadvantaged world zones stems from a false argument. One only needs to review the official indexes put forward by the UN regarding human development in Cuba in 1958, which were, in fact, superior to those in Spain itself at the time. It must become clear, however, that dictatorship in Cuba did not begin in 1959, but in 1952, which explains why so many Cubans fought in that revolution that was immediately betrayed by those who continue to be in power today.

The trite insistence of calling the USA the foreign enemy is no longer credible. Today, it is precisely the USA that is Cuba’s main commercial partner in food and other products. The embargo is not the problem nor is it the solution. The rest of the world has no embargo against Cuba, and yet Cuba cannot engage freely in commercial exchanges with anybody else. The real embargo is the embargo of freedom to which the people are subjected by the regime itself.

The MCL does not seek revenge, nor does hatred nor ill-feeling move us. We work for the reconciliation of a country in which all Cubans, from within or from abroad, can live, because we are one nation; for a country where all political options are welcomed (I remind you that even leftists in Cuba are repressed) and where what has positively served us can be preserved; where no foreign intervention exists; where thousands of Cubans never again have to serve as fodder in post-colonial wars in Africa; where, within the diversity of ideas and initiatives, mistrust is no longer; where those who think differently are not referred to as “gusanos” (worms). And so on.

In other words, for a country where we can enjoy democracy (even if an imperfect one) just like the one we enjoy here. This is about democracy versus dictatorship, not an ideological matter.

It is not the intention of this letter to provoke controversy, but to clarify certain issues for you, as you seem to be rather ill-informed about them.

I remember some years ago, during a televised debate with your friend Juan Carlos Monedero, some of these (and other) topics were tackled, and just like I said then, the real proof that democracy will have arrived in Cuba will be the day when we Cubans are able to debate freely in Cuban television.

To finish, dear Mr. Iglesias, I must add that there’s an article of yours in which you claim that the Christian Liberation Movement is “campaigning against Cuba”.

In first place, it seems you are confusing Cuba with the Cuban dictatorship. Cuba is much more than that and the majority of Cubans do not want it.

Secondly, how can you deem it a campaign against “Cuba” that family, friends and colleagues of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero demand that these deaths are clarified, deaths that even the Cuban regime has not been able to explain? (see

On the other hand, you resort to a macabre exercise (due to its analysis and its origin: you place yourself in the place of the supposed executioner) when you allege that “had they been intended murders, the regime would have also eliminated their witnesses”. It is a dangerous exercise to use the reasoning of the executioner, and tyrannies have no presumption of innocence.

Like Oswaldo Payá said, in his acceptance speech for his 2002 Sakharov Human Rights Award from the European Parliament, where you now serve, “Dictatorships do not belong to the left nor to the right. They are only dictatorships.”

Last year, the European Union’s parliament voted to include an amendment, in its report of human rights, requesting an independent investigation on the death of Oswaldo Payá.

This year, we will once again petition support towards that investigation.

In the event that petition was indeed taken to the voting table, what would your vote be?

Sincerely, and wishing you the best in your exercise as Euro-Deputy,

Carlos Payá Sardiñas

Representative, Christian Liberation Movement, Spain

Translated by: T

29 June 2014

Letter to Pope Francis from the Christian Liberation Movement Youth

“But Cubans are tired, Cubans want changes. More than ten years ago more than 25,000 Cubans supported a legal reform project. Called the Varela Project, it called for a plebiscite to ask the people, yes or no, did they want free elections. The Cuban Constitution establishes that if more than 10,000 people support a legal proposal than the government is constitutionally required to respond.” Rosa Maria Paya. Poster by Rolando Pulido.

Havana, May 5th 2014

“Fear is ridiculous and it provides ammunition to the enemies of liberty.”- The Venerable Father Felix Varela

Your Holiness, Pope Francis:

We would like to thank you with utmost respect and kindness for taking time to read this letter.

We are Cuban Catholic youth who everyday are intent to fortify ourselves to the clamors that burst forth and splatter our conscience from the brutal reality of our beloved Cuba. From the dawn of our youth we have occupied the rows of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), a pacifist-civic movement which, inspired  by Christian humanism and the principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church, has yearned for the freedom that Cuba has wanted and needed for more than 25 years.

We love the church, and we have grown under her auspices with the influence of her Ignatian spirituality. Because of this, we turn to you to voice our pain and concern with several Cuban Bishops who, surrounded by pro-government Cuban laity and other figures of privilege, pronounce and act in the name of the Church before the unfolding drama that we Cubans have lived in for more than half a century.

Increasingly, ecclesial offices are shunted into a caricature of the masses, to be only the bottom substrate in the background and a common denominator legitimizing the government, asking for more votes of confidence for the politico-military junta who govern as dictators and awaiting a new “leader” to succeed the dynasty of the Castro Brothers and amend the “justified errors” of 55 years of governmental mismanagement that devastated a country whilst omitting the daily violations of human rights and the repressive despotic and unpunished actions of State Security personnel against nonviolent opposition and begging for weak reforms which lack transparency and in so doing be able to navigate comfortably in all waters through the use of ambiguous and confusing language that decorate and embellish the harsh realities, foregoing calling them by name, and thus presenting themselves as authentic rhetoricians and builders of bridges. continue reading

Perhaps we should remind our pastors how both dialogue and mediation necessitate a clear sense of identity and an indispensable autonomy to be able to express it, without circumlocution, in the collegial search for truth amongst peers and the commencement and recognition of all the parts, with an adequate dose of moderation, but while maintaining transparency, rigor, and respect for the truth. And this, in a cystic dictatorship with more than five decades of authoritarianism, carries a price and only those who have overcome, from a detachment of having nothing to protect and nothing to aspire,the fears that have impeded their inner liberty strive for progress.

Those of us who know from within the realities of the Church of Cuba understand that the courts of Havana’s Apostolic Palace is an interplay of political factors and that the exclusionary practices of the Church, whose byzantine politics are without morals and constancy, stretching and pulling, consisting of ambiguities and flatteries, and, in the worst form of diplomacy, sacrificing the integrity of the simple and naked truth expressed with the sole presupposition of due respect to substitute it in favor of strained praise, finally allowing itself a shallow criticism and in doing so maintaining the status quo, has the seal of the illustrious cardinal that occupies its halls. This shackle to the same apprehensions, pressures, blackmail, compromises, limitations, protection of self-interest and tacit or explicit agreements, that mark it’s actual relation to the State, and who for decades has been its helmsman, is Cardinal Ortega.

Subjugated to the fluctuations of this complex relationship, the precarious autonomy of Catholic publications and centers for the formation of laity and the devoted, has exceeded the bounds and good-willed intentions of its founders and has shifted into the propaganda of, no longer the Archbishop, but whomever holds the upper hand in said relationships; those who allow them to continue to exist and in circulation so long as they don’t overstep the threshold of tolerance or who ultimately fail to serve their vile purposes. The choice is clear: either they alienate themselves from reality marking socio-political themes as taboo, in a country where nothing is apolitical, on the contrary everything is profoundly politicized and ideologized, or claim the input of a fraud-exchange thrusted by the government.

What do they try to convince us of now? It was Raul Castro himself who speaks of his own reforms claiming that they are for more Socialism; we Cubans know all too well what that means. Regardless, has someone asked us, like citizens, if what we want in today’s age is more Socialism? And what Socialism? How do they want to convince us, the Cubans who live both here and abroad suffering exclusions and disadvantages,that they are advancing towards the implementation of laws that will permit us to reencounter ourselves with how we wish to be? That this framework of oppression, without rights or transparency, is the path of transition? What does this transition consist of?

Graduality only makes sense if there is a transparent perspective for our liberties and rights. Don’t continue to speak on our behalf; we would have our own voice raised and heard. It’s not enough for Cuba to open herself to the world and the world unto Cuba: first Cuba must open herself to Cubans. To come to accords with our own officials, like several democratic governments and institutions have done without caring that they don’t represent the Cuban people, is to perpetuate oppression.

Enough of deciding and thinking on my behalf and imposing an ideology of the State that doesn’t represent me. Enough of obligating me to collaborate in a political farce that overshadows my principles and the conditions of a free man, under the threat of losing it all: education, job, sometimes family and friends, liberty also and even life itself. That is why fear is the guiding principle of this society, fear and lies, sustaining a society of masks and simulations during decades of weak men, evasive, possessing only half-truths, incapable of facing and naming that evil which corrodes us within. That is how we Cubans live.

We wish that the Church, a pilgrim in Cuba, would dare to throw out the merchants from the temple, those who in the virtue of secret pacts do away with the worth of a human before the importance of abstract numbers. We yearn for a church who would not accept as privilege that which is her rightly due in exchange for her silence.

A church, with whose prophetic voice and testimony of life in truth in a society rotting with fear and lies, can share the cross of the ineffable, solitude, humility, deprivation, calumny and persecution that we suffer, we who have broken with the vice of self-deception that has become our collective dementia.

A church that does not please itself with having its pew saturated with comfortable mediocrity, dragging the multitudes behind images that don’t save and only awaken shallow devotions while the most precious component of her identity is diluted and watered down in a pseudo-religion of the masses, recovering spaces and buildings for the mission, and then relying heavily on human means to, with God and the splendor of His message being considered too subversive against the established order, advertise a private pseudo-gospel of moral and social content more “enlightening” for our people.

A church that stirs those consciences paralyzed by fear and custom before the face of irrationality, disfunctionality, and the absurd demands of a long-lived absolute and arbitrary regime by inviting each man and woman to contemplate themselves in the reflection of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. A church, who once again noting the worth of the poor, the few, the small, the gradual, the weak, the anonymous, offers in her small but Christian and arduous communities something incredibly different and powerfully captivating, and no longer the swarms of vitiated environments.

That church, incarnated and undivided, has been present for years in the figures of brave and exceptional bishops, innumerable priest, religious and missionaries many of whom we have seen depart in pain: banished, dismissed by bishops and superiors, or voluntarily resigning before submitting to perverted or perverting regulations.

It is that diminishing church constantly in danger of becoming extinct, that has produced genuine miracles thanks to the those youth and families who everyday make the conscious decision to remain, assuming upon themselves the dangers and hardships, every day resisting the temptation to join the mass exodus of a people who stampedes fleeing to whichever place where they can construct a more dignified life, hold an honorable job, know the taste of liberty, fight for their dreams, aspire to prosperity and happiness.

That church revealed with her very life and not only through discourse, the profound realities of our faith: the Incarnation, Calvary, Easter, the Resurrection. In her, we cautiously aimed to really be priests, prophets and kings. Because it is in that church that we learned to search and wish for the will of God as our most precious treasure, today we still dare to swim upstream, muting the warnings of close friends occasionally whispered in the temples and sacristy from those who speak in the name of God, and even the anguished cries of our mothers who implore us to renounce, run, escape and forever occupy ourselves with our own well-being and our families with thousands of unanswerable arguments from plain pragmatism of calculated deeds and force or consisting of acrobatic tricks with alleged reasons of faith that end fading away at the feet of the Crucified.

Because that church has taught us to believe against all the evidence and to hope against all hope, our lives today continue to be an answer to the questions and call of God: Where are those responsible? Strengthening us to continue being a voice in the desert, a light in the darkness and an omen of hope in the midst of the apparent sterility in spite of the burdens and fatigue.  Because Cubans need the help of Jesus on the Cross to be able to look with love upon these last 50 years that has oppressed physically and psychologically and to dare to shout NO MORE!

We Cubans need a church that will aid us in overcoming fear. Fear is the origin of lethargy and hopelessness that overwhelms youths and society as a whole. We need a church that will help us in these first steps toward Liberation, the first steps that always start with an individual and en as a roaring shout, stronger than oneself and that must be shared.

An advocate church must be a place of liberty, where reconciliation does not convert itself to historic amnesia disguised as the goodness of the righteous. It has to be a place of freedom of expression, not in attempts politicizing the temple, but instead to create the language which will be able to articulate our story from the bottom up, omitting the “victorious” figures who attempt to reconstruct history. We need a Mother Church, who works for the truth without ambiguities, who doesn’t confuse love for one’s neighbor with political opportunism. A church that will help us name this unnameable pain so that we may offer it up and act, without our voice being silenced.

Count on us Holy Father! God bless you and keep you!

A big hug from the Caribbean,

Erick Alvarez Gil, age 28, Telecommunications and Electrical Engineer, San Francisco de Paula Parish.

Anabel Alpizar Ravelo, age 29, Bachelor’s in Social Communication, dismissed from her job, Chapel Jesus Maria

Luis Alberto Mariño Fernández, age 27, Bachelor’s in Music Composition, Salvador del Mundo Parish.

Maria de Lourdes Mariño Fernández, age 29, Bachelor’s in Art History, Salvador del Mundo Parish.

Manuel Robles Villamarin, age 24, Information Tech, expelled from University, Siervas de Maria Parish.

 Translated by: Joel Olguin

3 August 2014

“We want to contribute to personal and community reflection of pastoral agents” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Erick Alvarez
Erick Alvarez

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 4 August 2014 – To mark the publication of a letter sent by five young Cubans to Pope Francisco, 14ymedio interviewed Erick Álvarez Gil, coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) in Havana. At just 28, this young man joined the organization in 2009, and holds a degree in Electronics and Telecommunications.

Question: What are the antecedents of this document?

Answer: This letter was sent on the second anniversary of the death of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero, and also two years from the time Oswaldo handed a letter to the Cuban bishops in 2012, which reflected some of these concerns and also touched on the issues of relations between Church and State, and Church and Society. These ideas are still dormant and still a source of concern to us, so we went back to the idea of a letter and put it in the hands of the Pope and also sent it to the Cuban bishops, priests, religious, missionaries, and the most committed laypeople in the Cuban Church.

Q: As I understand it the letter is dated May 5 and was delivered to Pope Francisco on the 14th of that month, but only now has been disclosed to the public. Why the wait time between sending the letter and publication?

A: We didn’t send the letter to any media, the aim was not that the letter would be published openly. Our objective was to send it to the main actors of the Church in Cuba and the more committed lay people. We did that late last week and, as happens in these cases, it is already public. continue reading

Q: Have you received any response from anyone about this letter?

A: We have received no official response, but we have received feedback from other young Catholics who have had access to it. An official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba has contacted us to meet and discuss some of the issues in the letter. That conversation should be this week. Also Monsignor Alfredo Petit Vergel, who is my pastor at the Church of San Francisco de Paula, and one of the two auxiliary bishops of Havana, saw me on Sunday and told me of his desire to sit down and talk about it.

Q: What are your expectations from this letter that has begun to spread?

A: Our expectations were never based on the public and mass distribution of the letter, even though we knew that it could happen when we sent out a lot of emails.
We want to contribute to the personal and community reflection of the pastoral agents with the greatest responsibility within the Church, those who can influence the pastoral action of the Church, especially in the political positions taken by the higher-ups in the Church hierarchy. This is the issue that most concerns us, in addition to all the general issues there may be at an ecclesiastical level.

We write from a political movement, we present ourselves this way from the beginning of the letter, which is eminently political. It deals with political issues and how the Church projects itself toward society.

Q: The letter also comes at a possible turning point, for renewal, for the Cuban Church.

A: The Church is now in the process of designing a new plan to guide pastoral action in the coming years and a dialog is imminent and necessary, with the laity as well, where these elements can be considered. There are also some Cuban bishops, such as Cardinal Jaime Ortega and Monsignor Alfredo Petit Vergel and perhaps others, who are finishing their time in episcopal government, and there are imminent handovers in the upper Catholic hierarchy and in the bishopric. The reflections arising from the opinions we offered in the letter might have some influence on the appointments made.