Paya Denouces the ‘Theater’ of Constitutional Reform on Sixth Anniversary of Her Father’s Death

A Mass for Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero was celebrated this Sunday at the Copper Hermitage in Miami. (RosaMariaPaya)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Miami, 23 July 2018 — Cuban Dissident Rosa María Payá stressed to EFE that the legacy of her father, Oswaldo Payá, is still alive six years since his death and the constitutional reform under way in Cuba is, in her opinion, both “theater” and a “trap.”

“My father’s words are especially relevant today, as they denounce the attempt of the Castro family and the group of the dictatorship’s generals to perpetuate their power through what my father calls ’fraud change,’ which is exactly what they are seeking with this theater of constitutional reform,” said Payá.

Payá, who leads the Cuba Decides movement, spoke some hours before the celebration of a thanksgiving mass in Miami, held in honor of the sixth anniversary of the “double state crime” whose victims were Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012) and Harold Cepero (1980-2012). continue reading

The Payá-Acevedo family and the Foundation for Pan American Democracy invited the community to attend this Mass that took place in the chapel of La Caridad in Miami, a place of devotion and gatherings for Cuban exiles.

Payá and Cepero died on July 22, 2012 in Bayamo (Cuba), when the car in which they were traveling left the highway. The car was being driven by a Spanish politician, Angel Carromero, who survived and was convicted in Cuba of reckless homicide.

Rosa María and her mother, Ofelia Acevedo, affirm that it was not an accident, but that Cuban State Security agents hit the car with another vehicle from behind, causing the car to crash.

The daughter of the opposition politician said that the goal of the mass was to “honor” the lives of her father and Cepero and to “thank them for their legacy.”

The family, she added, is encouraged by the recent publication of the first book by the creator of the Christian Liberation Movement, La noche no será eterna (The Night Will Not Be Eternal)(Editorial Hypermedia, 2018), and by the fact that the United States Senate has taken up an initiative “to change the name of the street in front of the Cuban embassy in Washington to Oswaldo Payá Way.”

This initiative dates back to 2015 and is supported by senators such as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, she said.

With regards to the constitutional reform announced by the Cuban government, she affirmed that “the dictatorship desperately needs to legitimize itself before the great discontent of the people” and the “imminent physical disappearance of the so-called ’historical leaders’.”

It has also influenced, she says, “the support won by the citizen demand for a plebiscite to change the system,” which the Cuban movement she leads proposes.

The government’s constitutional reform will be submitted to a referendum but, according to Payá, the whole process is a “fraud” and “lacks guarantees.”

She emphasizes, in this regard that, the “drafters of the preliminary draft,” members of the National Assembly, “have not been elected by Cuba’s citizens,” and that “(political) campaigning is not possible (because it is outlawed), nor are independent observers (allowed to be) present), nor is parallel counting (i.e. citizen oversight of the vote count),” nor is there  freedom to not vote without being coerced” in the  announced popular consultation.

But in addition, she added, “Whether YES wins or NO wins, the result is the same: the Communist Party in perpetuity,” because “the dictatorship” has already made clear the irrevocability of socialism and the continuation of the communist party as “governing force of society and the state.”

Oswaldo Payá, winner of the 2002 European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, will also be remembered this week at a ceremony in Miami with the the official presentation of his book La noche no será eterna, which has been available on Amazon since July 5.

The book is subtitled Peligros y esperanzas para Cuba (Dangers and Hope for Cuba), with a prologue written by Payá’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, and its purpose is none other than, as the author explains, “to help discover that we can live the process of liberation and reconciliation and walk to the future in peace.”

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"The Night Will Not Be Eternal" by Oswaldo Paya is Published

Cover page of the book “The Night Will Not Be Eternal”, by Oswaldo Paya.  (@rosamariapaya)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Miami, 3 July 2018 — With the title “The Night Will Not Be Eternal,” an unpublished book by the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, with proposals for Cubans to emerge from their situation, will go on sale on Amazon this July 5 before its presentation in Miami.

Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of the dissident who died in 2012, said that on July 25 the book will be presented in the Varela room of Ermita de la Caridad, where the Cuban exile received her father in 2002, after he received the Sakharov prize.

The book, subtitled “Dangers and Hopes for Cuba,” has a preface by Paya’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, and its purpose, as explained by its author, is none other than “to help to discover that we can, indeed, live through the process of liberation and reconciliation and move into the future in peace.” continue reading

“In this book my father reflects on how and why we Cubans have come to this point in history and how we can emerge from it,” says Rosa Maria Paya, director of the Cuba Decides movement which promotes holding a plebiscite so that the Cuban people can decide what political system they want for their country.  “A process of liberation is possible,” says the dissident about what her father left in writing before being “assasinated,” in her words.

The family of Paya, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement in 1988, asserts that the car crash in which he and dissident Harold Cepero also died on July 22, 2012, was caused by agents of the Castro regime.

Rosa Maria Paya says that that same year her father asked her mother and her to remind him that he had to make time for the book that now is going on the market at 282 pages. After the epilogue, the book includes the most important political documents of his organization Proyecto Varela (The Varela Project).

The message of “The Night Will Not Be Eternal” is now even more current than when when it was written, says the author’s daugther, for whom reading this book is like listening to her father speak.

Paya begins by explaining his “intention” in writing this book, in which he reflects on, among other things, “de-Christianization,” “the culture of fear” and the “assault on the family,” but also on education, economics, corruptions, social classes and the “hour of change” in Cuba.

The last part is dedicated to reconciliation.  The epilogue significantly is entitled “We Must Dream.”

In the prologue, Ofelia Acevedo says that Oswaldo Paya enjoyed his work as an electrical engineer, but his “true vocation” was the “unending search for peaceful paths that will permit Cubans to win the fundamental rights that have been denied us by the Castro dictatorship.”

“Hence, the strength of his leadership, which conveyed confidence, security and optimism to those who listened to him, giving us a new hope,” says his widow.

Acevedo emphasizes that in this book Oswaldo Paya invites us to “look to the future with confidence, to keep hope alive, to realize that by ourselves we can leave the apathy where the Cuban dictatorship wants to see us sunk.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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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.

Oswaldo Payá’s Widow: “The Cuban State did not want to tell me why I can’t enter my own country.”

Our apologies for the lack of subtitles on this video.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 28 October 2017 – On Thursday, after four years of exile, Ofelia Acevedo, widow of Oswaldo Payá, the deceased opponent of the Cuban regime, was not allowed to enter her own country. Acevedo, an activist in her own right, had decided to travel to Havana to clarify the circumstances of her husband’s death in 2012, after a traffic crash that the family believes was an attack planned by the authorities.

Although the Cuban government provided her with a new passport, stamped with the special authorization that citizens who have been out of the country more than two years must have to enter Cuba, when she arrived in Havana she was refused entry to the country and forced to return to Miami from Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. continue reading

“The Cuban State will not let me enter my country. Despite having my papers in order and meeting the legal terms, I was forced to return [to the United States] on Thursday without even an explanation of why I can not return,” says Acevedo, who spoke with 14ymedio at her home in Miami.

“I wanted to get the autopsy reports for Oswaldo [Payá] and Harold [Cepero, who died in the same crash], because when I was in Cuba I filled out endless paperwork and they never gave them to me,” she explained.

“Upon arriving at the immigration barriers, an officer told me that the system showed a restriction order, so that I could not enter the country. I told him that I would not move from there until they explained to me why I could not return to my own land,” she says.

Acevedo tells how a nervous Customs official asked her to follow his directions. “I’m just doing my job. You must have a job and surely you do it,” he repeated.

In the face her demands, Major Ángel Hernández Báez, the person in charge of immigration, appeared and informed her that his function was “to execute the action” of not letting her enter. “My sole function is to keep you from entering the country,” he stressed to Acevedo.

The widow of the Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá shows the authorization on her passport, granted by the same authorities that later did not let her enter Cuba. (14ymedio)

For hours, Payá’s widow, in the company of her daughter Rosa María Payá, leader of the CubaDecides citizens’ initiative, debated with the official until finally Hernández Báez explained that the return flight was about to leave and that she would definitely not enter the national territory. The officer gave the airline a withdrawal order, but Acevedo was never given an explanation of the refusal.

After the crash that cost her husband and the young activist Harold Cepero their lives, the widow reports that she tried to obtain the report of the autoposy, but that the authorities never allowed it.

“After having taken so many steps and going to so many places the hospital director told me that he would send it to me in the mail, which he never did. I complained several times to the hospital but they never answered me,” she says.

The family has a right to the autopsy report, she asserts. From letters to the Minister of Public Health, Roberto Morales Ojeda, to an accusation presented to the Ministry of Justice, she took every possible action to seek to shed light on the fateful event.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (1952-2012) was a charismatic leader, president of the Catholic-inspired Christian Liberation Movement, which organized the Varela Project in 1998, collecting more than 20,000 signatures to demand political reforms from the government then presided over by Fidel Castro.

The Constitution allows the organization of a national referendum for any proposal signed by a minimum of 10,000 citizens. However, the National Assembly of Peoples Power, under the absolute control of the Communist Party, dismissed the initiative and Fidel Castro promoted the declaration of the “irrevocable” character of socialism, eliminating any attempt at political change through laws.

Payá’s widow says she will not rest until she gets all the information she deserves about her husband’s death and makes “the truth” known.

“I still demand an investigation so that we really know what happened, even with all the limitations that I have, like this one of not entering my own country,” she says.

“I fear for the life of my daughter because their [the Cuban government’s] logic is not our logic, it is evil. They have not changed anything. Rosa María has not abandoned the path traced by her father and they can’t forgive this. They hate my family a lot.”

“When we achieve justice we can build a new society” / 14ymedio, Ofelia Acevedo, Mario Penton, Luz Escobar


Note: The video is a brief excerpt from the interview and is not subtitled in English.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Luz Escobar, Miami, 22 July 2016 – His name is tattooed on the skin of a Cuban graffiti artist (Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto) or is suggested by the letter L, standing for Liberty, formed by the angle between the index finger and the thumb, increasingly displayed by those asking for democracy. The legacy of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (1952-2012) and Harold Cepero (1980-2012) lives on in the nation for which they worked their hearts out and ultimately sacrificed their lives. Four years after the tragic crash that claimed their lives, and that their families and international organizations have classified as a settling of accounts by the repressive Cuban apparatus, 14ymedio speaks with Ofelia Acevedo, widow of Payá, former president of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL).

14ymedio: A few days ago the one year anniversary of the reopening of the embassies between the United States and Cuba was celebrated. Could we be closer to justice in the case of Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá? continue reading

Acevedo: The restoration of diplomatic relations has been good. It is clear that it is the Cuban government that does not continue the normal process that this rapprochement should take. On the other hand, justice is the most important step to achieve real change in the Cuban nation. To look forward in our country we need justice. The Christian tradition makes it very clear: if there is a recognition of the truth, there will be justice and forgiveness.

Once we have achieved justice we can talk about reconciliation between Cubans. We Cubans must seek it, starting by reclaiming our rights. This is a key step for the future. The greatest injustice is to deprive the Cuban people of our rights, because of this there has been so much misery and we have not progressed. Human rights are natural and inherent in the person. When we achieve justice we can build a new society, and for this it is important that this crime does not go unpunished.

14ymedio: How has the family faced the loss of your husband?

Acevedo: We are a very close family. We love each other very much and miss him so much. We live in our faith that sustains us. Our faith makes us believe that truth, justice and democracy are possible for our people. All of Oswaldo’s work is imbued with a great deal of hope, of Christian hope. That is what helps us go on in the midst of the adverse environment in which we sometimes live. Oswaldo believed greatly in the betterment of humanity and in the individual, as José Martí said. He looked for ways to give Cubans the tools to decide their future. He understood that change begins with the ability to decide. He affirmed that dialog is the only way to change Cuba, an unconditional dialog, one without exclusions and among all Cubans.

14ymedio: How do you perceive the Cuban opposition four years after the death of its most prestigious leader?

Acevedo: In Cuba there are probably more opponents than there were in Central Europe in 1989. The Cuban opposition has done a great job. We know that the government and intelligence services create moles, “construct” figures, infiltrate groups, defame and blackmail their opponents. This has existed and does exist, they are intransigents with those who don’t think like they do and who have the courage to raise their voice to express it. We Cubans who want changes have to think for ourselves and think about others, think about the Cuban people. We have to forget about egos and go where the people are to explain what are the steps for them to begin to demand their own rights, because they are the ones who should decide. We have to be with the people in this.

14ymedio: What happened to the Christian Liberation Movement after the death of Oswaldo Payá?

Acevedo: The movement received a very strong blow with the death of Oswaldo and Harold. Even before, the persecutions against them were very strong. It was the movement that had the most political prisoners and they were all exiled to Spain without the option to stay. At this time, within Cuba, the MCL is decimated, is my impression. The repression against them is very strong.

14ymedio: How was the experience of exile for your family? Will you return to Cuba?

Acevedo: My family never thought of going into exile. After Oswaldo’s murder I made the decision to go into exile for my children, because State Security was focused on my oldest son. They prevented my daughter Rosa María from starting work at a research center where she already had a place. I panicked and decided to leave because of “them” (State Security). Friends, neighbors, everyone was terrorized, because the whole world knew what had happened and that they enjoy total impunity.

I am working as a teacher and wondering when I can return to my country. I want to return to Cuba, but I hope that things improve because it costs me a lot to have to face them. My rejection of them is huge. I know I have to deal with them but it’s very difficult, because of what they are doing, what they did, how they have made my family and our people suffer.

The car in which Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá were killed four years ago
The car in which Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá were killed four years ago

Acevedo: The only meeting I had with them was a week after Oswaldo’s funeral. They called me in to ask if I was going to ask from compensation from Angel Carromero [the leader of the youth organization New Generations of the Popular Party of Madrid, who was driving the car in which Payá died and who was convicted of manslaughter). I told them I would not accept their version and I wanted to talk with the survivors. They never granted me that. The Cuban penal code does not give the victims a chance. My children were not allowed to attend the trial, which the regime had announced would be public. There was an immense repression in Bayamo [where the trial was held]. We could not carry out any legal action because a lawyer friend of the family said there was no chance to demand anything because of the criminal code.

I asked the government and the hospital for the autopsy report. They have never given it to me. I spoke to State Security, with Legal Medicine. Everyone told me that the hospital had to give me the report. The hospital administration, at six in the evening, after I did whatever paperwork was possible, told me to send it to them by mail and gave me a telephone number. The number didn’t work and we are still waiting on the autopsy. I wrote to the minister of Public Health. Rosa María tried to deliver a letter to the Cuban embassy, but they wouldn’t even let her enter the diplomatic site. Then we sent the letter in Cuba and we we had a receipt for it, but they have never answered.

14ymedio: What did Aron Modig (former leader of the Swedish Christian Democrat Party youth organization who was also in the car at the time of the crash) say about the day he Payá and Harold died?

Acevedo: Modig maintains his position. He doesn’t remember anything until reaching the hospital. It is a selective loss of memory. To me there are things that bother me sometimes in the media, because they talk about an accident, when we all know that it was a murder. A report by the international organization The Human Rights Foundation and another by physics professors at Florida International University demonstrated that it is impossible for [the crash] to have happened in the way the Cuban State says it did.

14ymedio: What legacy have Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá left?

Acevedo: The blood of freedom fighters is the seed of free men. This applies to Harold, Oswaldo, to all who have given their lives for human rights. The blood of innocent people, those who give their lives for others, is not spilled in vain. They crashed Oswaldo’s cars* when he was in the street. We keep fighting to give the Cuban people the possibility of deciding, which was Oswaldo’s fight as well. The Cuban government, in exchange, fights to destroy Cubans’ hopes.

*Translator’s note: There was a similar incident with another vehicle Oswaldo Payá was traveling in prior to the fatal crash.

See also:

Rosa Maria Paya’s Press Conference on the Crash That Killed Her Father and Harold Cepero

Angel Carromero Details Car Crash That Killed Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero

Interview with Rosa Maria Paya / Lilianne Ruiz, Rosa Maria Paya

The Political Legacy of Oswaldo Paya / 14ymedio

Human Rights Foundation suggests “Direct Responsibility of the Cuban Regime” in the death of Paya / 14ymedio

Carromero’s Courage / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Surprising Sentence for Angel Carromero for the Deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero in a Car Crash / Yoani Sanchez

Roberta Jacobson Queries the Castros’ Crime / Rosa Maria Paya

Carromero’s Flesh / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo #Cuba

The phase of foul play against the exterminating Angel of the youth wing of Spain’s Ruling People’s Party will be tomorrow, October 5th, 2012

It’s rumored that his interrogators, in imitation of King Juan Carlos facing some babbling idiocy from Chavez, have forced him to remain silent and not make a fuss: “Angel, why don’t you shut up already?!”

We will see each other on the 12th in the cafe at the Spanish embassy in Havana

Before Carromero and After Carromero

Anything he says will be used against him. His biography itself accuses him: speeder with dozens of fines, entangled in matters of finance, twitterer in favor of the cuts of the Spanish government while dancing drunkenly in Seville.

Angel Carromero, in addition to being a member of a party considered fascist in Cuba (in imitation of Comandante Hugo Chavez), had his 15 minutes of infamy this first Friday of October, when he was condemned in a brief trial (according to the dictates of our Foreign Minister), where no Cuban demands anything at all from this Iberian.

It doesn’t stop drizzling in Havana lately. After the flood of more than a hundred thousand hours with Fidel, the Socialist State is mired in its transition to a Chinese-esque capitalism light, where the only thing that won’t fit well are the rights of the Cuban people, on the Island as well as in the Exile. And Angel Carromero will be a key piece in this unlikely vaudeville against all and for the evil of all. Although the coquettish prisoner from Spain’s People’s Party doesn’t imagine it on his Cuban Communist scaffold.

Only a foreign “enemy” fully immersed in “subversive activity” within the Island could be a pretext for the violent death of Oswaldo Paya Sardinas. A death announced for years by paramilitaries, even in front of his own family (and foreigners, to openly disseminate the terror of such an exemplary punishment). Well then, promise kept. There are things that the Castro regime doesn’t play with. Things about which the Castro regime never lied. Those who lack the revolutionary genes to assimilate this sinister sincerity, we don’t want them, we don’t need them…

That fateful Sunday of July 22, hours after the impact and the text message in Swedish heatedly typed after the harassment, in a hospital in the provinces and without evidence of urgent intensive care, another pillar of the Christian Liberation Movement also died, Harold Cepero Escalante, who survived the crash conscious but it didn’t occur to anyone to take a declaration from him (or to allow his family to see him before he died).

Much less do we know the testimony of the ambulance attendants, forensic doctors, and the security personnel who, within minutes, seized this stretch of highway and the city of Bayamo (who alerted them that the ID card of the dead-on-impact read: Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, putative president of post-Castro Cuba?). Only some half-literate peasants declared with precision on Cuban TV that the death car was traveling at a rate of speed of more than 60 mph: “a tin can…”

That dawn, as Oswaldo Paya Sardinas left home without saying goodbye to his wife Ofelia Acevedo Maura, the apocryphal Twitterer @Yoahandry8787 had already revealed in real time his trip to the interior of the country, misrepresenting that it was an excursion to the beach in Varadero. Indeed, nearly a decade before, in the official book “The Dissidents,” we could enjoy some photos violating the privacy of the vacationing Paya-Acevedo family.

There, a teenager of 14 appears to look into an empty future while her father dives and disappears under the grayness of the sea. It was Rosa Maria. It is Rosa Maria, suddenly become, today, the new leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MLC), the principal moral voice of recrimination against all the violence of the State that corralled her citizen father from the time she was born. Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo, accused before she opened her mouth of meeting false foreign tourists at the edge of the sea for a handful of euros, to fund the youth wing of the MLC.

Not one of the loved ones of Oswaldo Paya Sardinas or Harold Cepero Escalante is accusing the exterminating angel of the New Generations of the People’s Party. The State enterprise that owns the Hyundai Accent with license plate T311402 has not publicly demanded compensation for a single screw of its vehicle. Nor has any rice or forest cooperative spoken out in defense of the crops mowed down by the scars of the homicidal tree. It is a case, then, where legally no one is affected, except governmental innocence.

After the videoclip presented to the press, where a young Spanish politician asks the world not to politicize his case (filmed by the political police, but that’s a circumstantial detail), we already know Angel Carromero’s worst enemy will not be the Cuban State, but the drugged panic of Angel Carromero himself.

At the right hand of his steering wheel, like a perverse character of Perrault or the Brothers Grimm, a Social Democratic Swede snored through the nightmare under the midday sun on a pavement under repairs and a slamming on of the brakes at top speed. According to his testimony and with “European soil under his feet,” and despite his dreamlike innocence, Jens Aron Modig was also taken prisoner and held incommunicado in a windowless room, where his interrogators offended him with impunity, until they coerced him to testify against himself on camera.

From Kafka we know that justice in totalitarian systems is never interested in the Truth, this bourgeois prejudice of the Gospels. Much less in Life, this bizarre statistic. Angel Carromero, the talking cadaver, like the American Alan Gross, and countless Cubans who have been through the experience, declared like a ventriloquist that he still holds out a certain hope that he will come out safely. It’s called self-preservation and is a symptom of the mediocrity with which the old Europe of the 21st Century throws a tantrum.

In extreme situations, democracy is only for oneself. Western Christianity, then, has no neighbors. Angel Carromero wants to be Angel Carromero, even though he’s sunk in a concentration camp or humiliated in the cemetery where two human beings were plunged and disappeared under the grayness of the Sea.

The drizzle will not stop these days in Havana, before Castro and after Carromero. When this Friday the 5th what we all know and don’t know how to pronounce is finally verified, a new Cuban era in the history of the Revolution will commence. We will all be more alone, more desolate, more exposed to the paparazzi lenses that pornographically exposed his family and later expired Oswaldo Paya Sardinas.

As in the foundational good times of a cynical more than civic war, we will go quietly to survive under the obscene downpour. The free exile will be a million euros farther away than now. The pro-human rights solidarity activists will prefer to operate in any other corner of the world. The Chinese scribbles and the squeal of this collectivist language will make a little more sense to our individualistic sensibilities. The unethical etymology of the word “disappeared” will suffer a terrible updating. In a small air-conditioned room in eastern Cuba, the year zero of the Carromero cosmology is about to begin. Praise be.

Translated from the original in Diario de Cuba

October 4 2012

Statement from the Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas Family / Ofelia Acevedo

Source: Heraldoes
It has been ten days since the event which took the life of my husband, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, National Coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, and the life of the young man Harold Cepero Escalante, a member of the same movement.

The event has been covered by Cuba’s National Television, which is unusual since fatal traffic accidents occur daily in Cuba and never receive this level of media coverage.

I will not get into details regarding the technical analysis presented by the official version of the event; I am not an expert, although one does not need to be an expert to question their version. I want to clarify that I learned about how the event occurred through the television since only a brief verbal version was given to me by Major Sanchez when I received my husband’s body. I told him that I did not believe what he was saying and that I needed to talk to the surviving witnesses. I was not informed by the authorities about the death of my husband. Yesterday, July 31th at 8:45pm, 10 days after the death of Oswaldo and Harold, I was visited by two officers from the Center for Criminal Investigations and Operations carrying a subpoena that required my presence today at 11:00am, with the purpose to “clarify issues of civil liability and responsibility regarding the accident.”

As Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas’ wife and on behalf of my family living inside and outside Cuba I declare:

1.     We do not accept the explanation of the events as presented in national television because:It has been presented by the same governmental organization that under the Security of the State has sent agents threatening to kill Oswaldo multiple times over the years; they have discredited, defamed, spied, and insulted us through media campaigns inside and outside Cuba; the same individuals who have placed microphones on our bed, in our phones; the same individuals who, knowing that Oswaldo’s mother had cancer, proceeded to cowardly visit and intimidate her, who did not allow her children living outside Cuba to visit her; the same individuals who forbade my oldest son, a 24-year-old student, from visiting his aunt in Spain during his vacations last year, who do not allow any of our family members to leave or enter Cuba.

They are the same individuals who intimidate our neighbors, my husband’s co-workers, my brothers and sisters from the Christian community, and even people that we hire to make repairs in our house; they go to the institutions where my sons and daughter study or work and alert their peers to avoid relating to them; they are the same individuals who break into hospitals and intimidate doctors every time my children have any type of health problems; the same individuals who have attacked my house with mobs brought from other places and who have painted my house facade with offensive signs, who have stained my door with red paint simulating blood, who have filled the walls of the neighborhood with threatening signs and phrases packed with hate.

They are the same individuals who on several occasions have loosened the screws on the wheels of our car knowing that we were traveling with family and friends. Last June 2nd, Oswaldo and I were traveling in our car (a 1964 VW station wagon) towards my mother’s house in La Lisa. Driving through La Calzada del Cerro and having just driven across the intersection with Rancho Boyeros Avenue, we were hit by an old American car in the right rear wheel of our vehicle with such a force that it made our car rock. My husband could not control it and after sliding on the two left wheels, already on the opposite lane the car flipped, we were trapped inside and covered with broken windshield glass. Oswaldo was hurt in his left elbow and I was unhurt.

These are the same individuals who have threatened to kill members of the Movement and their families, who have imprisoned Yosvany Melchior, a young man, son of Rosa Maria Rodriguez, a member of the Movement. He is serving twelve years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Their goal is to make people abandon the Christian Liberation Movement.

…I do not believe the official version because:

2.     My husband, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas was notable for his limitless sense of responsibility towards all people, especially those who associated with him. He would never have allowed the driver of the car to speed. His friends and those who know him know that I speak the truth when I say this. He knew his life was at risk every day in Cuba.

3.     Because I received the news of the alleged accident from Madrid at 3:18pm on Sunday July 22 and was told “four people were traveling but only three are in the hospital, there is no available information regarding the forth one. Two friends, one of them is unconscious. They were hit and pushed away from the road. Do you know who the other two were? One of them has disappeared.”

4.     Because I was not allowed to meet with the Swedish man and have not yet been allowed to visit the Spaniard, survivors of the event.

Because of these records and information that have reached us about what happened in the newspaper Granma, my family calls on international institutions for help demanding an independent investigation of the facts.

I’m very proud to have shared 26 years of my life with an extraordinary man, I am proud of the family we have founded. He had the sorrow of not being able to devote to his family all the time he wished, but his passion to serve always led him to work for the common good with all his intelligence and intellectual ability.

He constantly fought and searched for ways for the people to ascend to their rights, he said: “Neither the state nor the market can dominate society, or be above the people’s decisions, freedom and dignity.”

Now we must try to direct our life without the physical presence of Oswaldo, it will be very hard, but those of us who live by faith know that he will continue to protect us, and will always be in our midst.

Thank you for listening.

Havana, August 1, 2012

Translated by Cleonte

Cuban Opposition Leader Oswaldo Payá Dies in Car Crash / Yoani Sánchez

Oswaldo Paya, head of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba

At five in the afternoon on July 22, the death of opposition leader and founder of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) Oswaldo Payá was confirmed. The news started as a rumor that spread during the early hours of Sunday afternoon.

Known nationally and internationally for organizing and carrying out the Varela Project, his death at the age of 60 is a hard blow to the pro-democracy forces in Cuba. Social networks quickly did their utmost to spread the news and the hashtag #OswaldoPaya trended globally. The renowned dissident lost his life in a car accident — the facts of which are still unclear — which occurred around 1:50 pm local time.

The incident took place a few miles from the city of Bayamo in the eastern province of Granma, which is about 500 miles from Havana. Near the small town of La Gabina the car left the road and rolled until it hit a tree. It remains to be confirmed if, before the impact, it was hit by another vehicle, as claimed by several sources, or if the driver lost control, as claimed in the official version.

Payá was in the car with the dissident activist Harold Cepero who also died some hours after the accident. The two Cubans were traveling accompanied by two foreigners, the Spaniard Angel Carromero, 27, and the Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig, 27. Carromero is a lawyer and advisor to the City of Madrid, and secretary of the New Generations of the People’s Party in the Spanish capital. Modig chairs the Christian Democrat Youth League.

All were taken to the Professor Carlos Manuel Clinical Surgery Hospital in Bayamo, where hospital officials said that Oswaldo Payá was already dead when he arrived. After hours of incomplete reports, his wife Ofelia Acevedo was notified of his death through a Catholic Church source.

The two injured have been hospitalized in the same facility and, according to confirmations from El Pais newspaper, only suffered minor injuries. The entire hospital is surrounded by a heavy police operation, and it is impossible to communicate by telephone with the room where both Angel Carromero and Jens Aron Modig are being treated.

Rosa María Payá, the daughter of the deceased dissident, told several media that “they wanted to hurt” her father, “and ended up killing him.” Similar suspicions are growing among opposition figures as well, but will have to wait for the testimony of the two survivors and for the results of police investigations.

The Varela Project

In 2002 Oswaldo Payá received the European Parliament’s Sakharov prize, which was specially awarded for his work on the Varela Project. This initiative proposed a constitutional amendment under a process supported by legislation then in force on the Island. Through the Varela Project, he proposed the holding of a national referendum to allow free association, freedom of expression and of the press, called for free elections, promoted freedom to engage in business, and called for an amnesty for political prisoners.

Together with other members of the Christian Liberation Movement and activists of the banned opposition, Payá managed to present the National Assembly of People’s Power some 11,000 signatures on March 10, 2002. Two years later another 14,000 signatures were added, but the Cuban government rejected the demand for a popular referendum.

Instead, the official response was to declare the socialist character of the country’s prevailing system irrevocable, in a gesture that was popularly called the “constitutional mummification.” Surveillance and repression around Payá increased from that date, including arrests, threats and repudiation rallies in front of his house.

In March 2003, when the Black Spring occurred, about 40 members of the MLC were among the 75 defendants. Their sentences ranged from 6 to 28 years in prison on charges of violating national sovereignty. The vast majority of them had to wait to be released until 2010, when an unprecedented dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Cuban government ended with the freeing of these dissidents. Although Payá was not arrested or prosecuted, during all this time he did not cease to denounce the situation of the convicted activists.

Secularism and civility

Born in 1952 and raised in a family with a strong Catholic tradition, Oswaldo Payá had a religious upbringing. He attended a Marist Brothers school until 1961, at which time it was taken over by Fidel Castro’s government. When he was just 16 he did his military service and during that stage of his life was punished for refusing to transport a group of political prisoners. That refusal caused him to be sent to serve three years hard labor on the Isle of Pines.

On finishing this sentence he joined a parish youth group in his neighborhood of Cerro. Indeed his outstanding labor as a layperson led him to work on the process of Cuban Ecclesiastic Reflection (REC) and he served as delegate to the Cuban National Ecclesiastic Meeting (ENEC) in 1986. In parallel to his opposition activities he continued to work as a specialist in electrical equipment for a State agency. He had graduated as a telecommunications engineer.

In 1988 Payá founded the Christian Liberation Movement that quickly became one of the most important organizations of the nascent Cuban civil society. He also participated in drafting the Transitional Program to promote political change in the largest of the Antilles. From his status as a prominent leader he signed the Todos Unidos [Altogether] manifesto and served as coordinator for its rapporteur commission.

In 2009 he developed a Call for the National Dialogue and at the time of his death was championing an initiative to allow Cubans to freely enter and leave their own country. But his breakthrough as an opponent had come with the creation and dissemination of the Varela Project, an initiative that began to be developed by the MCL in 1998.

For his work he was awarded the W. Averell Harriman Prize, awarded annually by the National Democratic Institute in Washington and the Homo Homini Award of the Czech foundation People in Need. New York’s Columbia University named him an honorary Doctor of Laws and he was nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize. He was received in Rome by Pope John Paul II during the same trip that took him to the European parliament ceremony for the Sakharov Prize.

On his death he left three children, Oswaldo José, Rosa María, and Reinaldo Isaías, and also his widow Ofelia Acevedo.

With the death of Oswaldo Payá the Cuban opposition loses one of its most outstanding figures in both the national and international arenas. Gone, physically, is a politician of great importance for the political transition in the island, a prominent layman in the Catholic Church, and a man who was a bridge between the Cuban diaspora and the nation.

The body of Oswaldo Payá will be transferred to Havana where there will be a wake in the parish of Cerro, the neighborhood where he lived.

23 July 2012