The Political Legacy of Oswaldo Paya / 14ymedio

Oswaldo Payá's Funeral (Luz Escobar)

Oswaldo Payá’s Funeral (Luz Escobar)

14YMEDIO, 22 July 2014 – On 22 July 2014, the opposition leader Oswaldo Payá and the activist Harld Cepero died. Payá led the Christian Liberation Movement and promoted the Varela Project, which managed to collect some 25,000 signatures to demand a national referendum. Freedom of expression, of association, freedom of the press and of business, as well as free elections, were some of the demands of that document signed by thousands of Cubans.

Nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize, Payá was one of the most visible and respected figures of the Cuban opposition. In 2002  the European Parliament awarded him the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights by and he was able to tour several countries to offer information about the situation on the island. He was also an official candidate for the Prince of Asturias Award and received honorary degrees from Columbia University and the University of Miami.

Paya’s death occurred in the vicinity of the city of Bayamo, while he was traveling accompanied by the Spaniard Angel Carromero, the Swede Aron Modig, and his colleague Harold Cepero. The Cuban government explained the death as the result of a car accident, but his family and many Cuban activists have maintained their doubts about that version. An independent investigation into the events of that tragic July 22 has been requested in various international forums, but Cuban authorities have not responded to those requests.

On the second anniversary of the death of Oswaldo Payá, we asked activists who shared his democratic ideals, “What is the greatest legacy of the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement?”

Guillermo Fariñas, a psychologist and the winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize

The main legacy left by Oswaldo Payá Sardinas for the Cuban nation, beyond its geographical boundaries, was that he showed his people and the world that the Cuban government breaks its own laws. When the Varela Project submitted almost 25,000 signatures to the People’s Assembly on a citizens’ petition for a plebiscite, the Cuban government refused to hold one and in a crude way changed the Constitution. That in my opinion was his main contribution: demonstrating that the Cuban government is beyond anything that could be construed as the Rule of Law and that it does not even respect its own draconian laws that support Castro’s totalitarian state. Continue reading

Jose Conrado: “I ask Pope Francisco to be firm with the rulers.” / Ramiro Pellet Lastra

An interview with Father José Conrado, from Cuba, by La Nacion newspaper.

Photo: The Pope, yesterday, leaving the Mass he gave on the day of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Photo: AFP

By Ramiro Pellet Lastra  | LA NACION  

José Conrado describes himself as a “small-town priest.” But from his parish in Santiago de Cuba, or in the colonial city of Trinidad, to where he was transferred, he throws verbal darts with a “language of the barricade” against corruption, repression, and other hallmarks of the Cuban government. Close to the dissident movements, Conrado has suffered pressure, aggression and even exile.  But he has continued denouncing the leadership of his country, as in this dialogue with LA NATION newspaper, during a visit to Buenos Aires, after attending the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.

Conrado only set aside denunciation in favor of enthusiastic praise when he analyzes Francisco‘s performance at the head of the Church, a man he trusts, and whom he hopes that “when Dilma, Cristina, or whoever goes to kiss his hand, he tells them the truth.”

How do you see the Cuba of today?

- Cuba is a bankrupt country, economically and morally bankrupt. From a family point of view, it’s an eroded country. There is not a single Cuban who doesn’t have relatives abroad, including Fidel Castro, who has several grandchildren and a daughter outside of Cuba as political exiles. It is a country where everyone, for one reason or another, has suffered the imprisonment of a family member, the death of a family member, in front of a firing squad or in the Straits of Florida. It’s a country with a history of political imprisonment.

-Why in Latin America there are those who still have a good image of the Castro regime?

-I think there is a certain complicity of the Left that wants to see Cuba as paradisiacal paradigm of what Revolution is and what social accomplishments are. There is also an ongoing press campaign on the part of the Cuban government. And there are the visitors to Cuba, because tourists see Cuba from air-conditioned buses and from five-star hotels.

-People came out into the streets to protest in many countries, democratic and non-democratic, but they did not do it in Cuba.

-People in other countries saw a space for freedom that made them decide to forget the spaces of their fear. We haven’t yet gotten to that point. I believe we have a point where this will happen, but we aren’t there yet. In Cuba, a popular saying goes: There’s not one to turn the government over to, but nor is there anyone who can fix it. Everyone in Cuba knows we must have change. It is a silent and unanimous agreement among all Cubans.

Will perhaps a minor incident light the fuse like in the “Arab Spring”?

-Yes, that could happen. I think the government stays away from large crowds.  They don’t have as many large demonstrations as before. I think the government has been very astute to not permit acts of unchecked violence on the part of the police. I think that people would throw themselves into the street [if such acts happened].

-And in this context, what prospects does the government have?

-The seriousness of the situation is forcing the government to think of another way out. Today they are proposing that those whom they always considered their eternal and bitter enemies, Cubans in exile, invest in Cuba..

As a Latin American priest, how did you experience the election of Pope Francisco?

-Francisco is a gift from God for a time of crisis. He is man who is above the conventions of the left and the right, because he goes for the essential, and the essential is God and the people who are suffering. Pope Francisco knows that he is a servant.

-Could he influence not only for Cuba, but for democracies in trouble?

 -I think that he is going to have great influence, because the Church needs a reform from within. How is he going to preach to the politicians not to steal otherwise? A Church renewed from within is an example for these men who have great responsibilities.

-In addition to being an example, could Francisco influence through his discourse, through direct denunciation?

-Yes, of course. I don’t ask the Holy Father to speak the language of the barricade, like I, a small town priest, do, but I do ask him to be very firm with the rulers. That when Dilma, Cristina, or whoever goes to kiss his hand, he tells them the truth.

Translated by: Ernesto Ariel Suarez

1 August 2013

The Pope’s Resignation / Father Jose Conrado

benedicto160213Pope Benedict XVI never ceases to amaze us. His recent resignation is another of those surprises on this fragile seeming pope made of sturdy fiber. He has surprised us since his rise to the papacy, with his marked difference from his predecessor, with whom he was such a close collaborator. Who could follow in the footsteps of this telluric man, a true force of nature, with an inexhaustible and overwhelming pace. Benedict found his own way, his own style of being Pope.

A phrase coined by a Spanish theologian — “With John Paul II one goes to Rome to see the Pope. With Benedict XVI one goes to Rome to hear the Pope” — speaks to us this of the difference. The encyclicals, speeches and homilies of the Pope fill several volumes in which the depth is not at odds with the elegance and clarity: is a continuous call for coherence of faith with life. They are a continuous call to meet with Jesus and the renewal of faith. If it is true that the number of pastoral visits, and their duration, declined compared to those of John Paul II, it is also true that a careful scheduling has allowed the Pope to be present throughout the length and breadth of our vast world. Continue reading