Paya Prize Awarded Without Honorees, In An Event Cuban Government Calls a "Provocation"

About twelve people were able to attend the Payá Award, among whom were diplomats from the US Embassy in Havana and also from the Czech Republic. (Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 8 March 2017 — The Oswaldo Payá prize was presented this Thursday, in a symbolic way, to the IDEA initiative, after Cuba refused entrance on Wednesday to the presidents of Colombia, Andres Pastrana, and of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, who came to receive the award in an act seen by the Government of the Island as a “provocation.”

Pastrana and Quiroga were to receive, on behalf of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) — an organization made up of 37 former heads of State and Government — the prize that bears the name of the late dissident Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012), which was first  awarded last year by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, directed by Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late opponent. continue reading

In the absence of a reaction from the government, the official press, which frequently serves as a state platform to publicize its position, emphasized on Thursday that the presidents knew in advance that they were not welcome in Cuba, and they were intending to participate in what the press called a “failed anti-Cuban provocation forged from Washington.”

“Only a dictatorship feels provoked by the fact that two democratically elected ex-presidents would come to receive an award for their work in favor of democracy, invited by free citizens of that country,” said Rosa María Payá in the symbolic award ceremony at his family home, where none of the international invited guests were able to be present.

According to Payá, at least six guests — among them IDEA legislators and former presidents, as well as the secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro — tried to travel to Cuba, but were not able to enter the country, or to board their planes or even to obtain a visa.

Within the Island there were also people who were not able to attend the event. The artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, told 14ymedio that he woke up this Thursday with police surrounding his house to prevent him from attending the award ceremony. A text message from his mobile phone had previously been sent inviting several people to the ceremony.

About twelve people were able to attend the event, among whom were diplomats from the US Embassy in Havana and also from the Czech Republic. The activist Iliana Hernández, the opposition Librado Linares, former prisoner of the so-called Black Spring, the blogger Lía Villares and Sayli Navarro, an activist of the CubaDecides initiative, also attended despite the measures taken by State Security.

Agents were also stationed outside the home of Iliana Hernandez but the activist was able to deceive them to get to the event by car.

Rosa María Payá (right), promoter of the dissident group Cuba Decides, explained that the award to IDEA award is for their “direct action” for the rights of the Venezuelan people. (Facebook)

Payá, promoter of the dissident group CubaDecides — which is part of the Latin American Network — explained that the award to IDEA is for its to its “direct action” for the rights of the Venezuelan people and to spread democracy in Latin America, which has seen a “setback” in recent years due to the “interference of the Cuban regime, especially in Venezuela.”

“Ending the threat that the Cuban intelligence system and Castroism represents for democracy throughout the continent is an urgent task that begins with supporting democracy in Cuba,” said Payá, speaking about CubaDecides, which demands a binding plebiscite on the Island to change the political system and achieve “free, fair and plural elections.”

Despite not being able to attend the award ceremony in Havana, Pastrana sent a message of thanks in which he expressed the commitment of the former presidents who are members of IDEA to join with the Latin American youth of the Network to “continue fighting to defend and promote the democracy.”

In this second edition of the “Oswaldo Payá: Freedom and Life Award,” the Venezuelan opposition leader Antonio Ledezma — exiled in Madrid for months — received a special mention and also sent a message of gratitude that was read this Thursday at the event.

The former mayor of Caracas explained the reasons for his absence in Havana: “In my case, the guardians of the Venezuelan regime would have turned me over to their cronies to submit me again to the torture of a rigged judicial process.”

Luis Almagro, who was recognized with the Payá Prize last year in his first edition, was also unable to attend that year’s event, when the Cuban authorities denied him permission to enter the Island.

This year he again asked for a visa, but as of Wednesday he had not received a response, so he chose not to travel to Cuba, although he also sent a message to the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, in which he praised its work for freedom and human rights.

“The worst form of interventionism that exists in the international community is to give impunity to a dictatorship, to silence the voice of the people, to prevent them from deciding their future, and  revolutionaries or leftists do not do this,” said Almagro.

In his opinion, “the left that is a reference is the one that faced dictatorships demanding the rights of the people,” while accusing the Government of having “stripped its citizens” of the fundamental principles of freedom and independence that their independence heroes defended.

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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.

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.

Cuba Denies Entry to Two Former Presidents Arriving to Attend the Paya Prize Ceremony

The former presidents of Colombia, Andres Pastrana, and of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, during their detention at Havana’s international airport. (@AndresPastrana_)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio (with information from agencies), Havana/Miami, 7 March 2018 — The Cuban government blocked the entry to the island of the former presidents of Colombia, Andrés Pastrana, and of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, who were sent back to Bogata on Wednesday, after they traveled to Havana to accept the prize that bears the name of the late dissident Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012).

“It shows arbitrariness and a great lack of respect,” said Rosa María Payá, daughter of Oswaldo Payá and the director of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy that awards the prize. Payá confirmed to EFE that Cuba would send the former leaders back on the next Aviance flight, scheduled for 3:50 PM local time. continue reading

Payá said that they are still awaiting the arrival of “other legislators and former presidents,” who are expected to attend tomorrow’s award ceremony in Havana. This year to prize has been awarded to the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA), a group of 37 ex-presidents and former heads of government.

It was Quiroga and Pastrana themselves who denounced in their Twitter accounts that they were being held in the immigration offices of the José Martí International Airport in Havana, where the dissident leader Rosa Maria Payá was waiting to receive them. Payá coordinates the Cuba Decides projects, which promotes “free” elections on the island.

On March 5, President Raúl Castro asked that the “Summit of the Americas not exclude” his Venezuelan colleague, Nicolás Maduro, “and today, March 7, his regime detains us at the airport and deports us along with Andrés Pastrana, preventing our participating in the name of IDEA in the Cuba Decides event with Rosa María Payá. We demand guarantees for her [safety],” tweeted the former president of Bolivia.

Along with a photograph in which they are both seen on board the plane that will take them to Bogotá, Quiroga later published: “Held for two hours in a small immigration office with two cameras filming everything. Honored to be deported by the Cuban dictatorship as inadmissible.”

Payá said in statements to the press from the airport that the government has banned the entry of “two legitimately elected former presidents” within three days of what “according to them are the most democratic elections in the Americas,” to be held this coming Sunday, 11 March.

“It is another example of the despotic nature of this regime and of this government,” emphasized Payá, who as a promoter of the citizen platform Cuba Decides is calling for a binding plebiscite on the island to choose the Island’s system of government.

The president of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, demanded that the Cuban authorities respect the rights of Bolivian presidents Jorge Quiroga and Colombian Andrés Pastrana

“We demand that the rights of former Presidents @AndresPastrana  and @tutoquiroga be respected and that they be allowed to travel to and enter #Cuba, and collect the #PremioPaya,” Almagro wrote in his account on the social network Twitter.

Almagro also intends to attend the award ceremony and has applied for a visa to travel to Cuba, although he is “still waiting for an answer” in Washington, according to an adviser to the high official.

Cuba’s official newspaper Granma published an article which made clear that Almagro is not welcome in Cuba, and denounced his visit as a “provocation” that seeks to “generate instability and damage the country’s international image.”

Last year, in the first edition of the Payá prize which had been awarded to him), Almagro also intended to travel to Havana to collect the award in person, but the Cuban authorities denied him entry.

On that occasion, entry was also denied to former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and former Chilean Minister Mariana Aylwin, who had been invited to the award ceremony.

Cuba’s decision to prevent Calderón and Aylwin from traveling to the country motivated official protest notes from the foreign ministries of Mexico and Chile.

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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.

Paya Award Winners: Former Presidents in Support of Democracy

Rosa María Payá took advantage of the ceremony in memory of her father to promote the public mobilization campaign ‘Cuba Decides’. (@RosaMariaPaya)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Miami, 1 March 2018 — The Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA), a forum in defense of democracy made up of former presidents and heads of state created in 2015 by two Venezuelans, won the Oswaldo Payá Freedom and Life Prize this Friday.

The second annual award of this prize, instituted by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy in memory of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, was proclaimed at a ceremony in Miami to mark the 66th anniversary of his birth on 29 February 1952. continue reading

In addition to the IDEA award, the Latin American Network awarded an honorable mention to former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma in recognition of his career; in 2017 Ledezma escaped from the home confinement he’d been sentenced to in the Venezuelan capital and is now in exile.

Aurora Espina, a Mexican member of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, was engaged to announce the honorable mention to Ledezma and the Payá Award to IDEA.

The formal delivery date of both awards, in Cuba, will be announced shortly, said Rosa Maria Payá, daughter of Oswaldo Payá and current president of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy.

In its first edition, the Oswaldo Payá Prize was awarded to Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), who was not able to receive it in Havana as planned because Raúl Castro’s government prohibited him from entering Cuba.

Rosa María Payá attended the ceremony in memory of her father to promote the public mobilization campaign Cuba Decides, in support of a binding plebiscite for Cubans to decide “their destiny” and the political system they want to live under.

The young activist urged Cubans to annul their votes in the March 11 election by writing “Cuba decides” or “plebiscite” on their ballots and asked the international community not to recognize whoever is elected as Raul Castro’s successor in those “fraudulent” and undemocratic elections that will consecrate “a dynastic succession,” she said.

Payá, who was accompanied by her mother Ofelia Acevedo and other relatives, said her father’s struggle is alive even though his life was “snatched away” by a “toxic” and “dictatorial” regime, and stressed that Castroism is a danger for the stability of the entire continent. If people do not believe this, she invited them to “ask the Venezuelans.”

IDEA identified the six award finalists as: Ledezma and three other Venezuelan opponents, Lester Javier Toledo Soto, Wilmer José Azuaje Cordero and José Vicente García, as well as the Humanist Network for Latin America, along with Camilo Ernesto Romero Galeano, governor of the department of Nariño, Colombia.

The winner is an international non-governmental forum composed of more than thirty former heads of state and government, “democrats respectful of the principle of alternation” in power, according to its website.

IDEA was started in 2015 by the creators of the IDEA-Democratic Foundation, Nelson J. Mezerhane Gosen, its president and owner of Diario Las Americas in Miami, and Asdrúbal Aguiar, its director and former minister of internal relations in Venezuela

In addition to designing programs and activities that support or strengthen democracy, the former presidents issue statements on important and topical issues.

Venezuela and Cuba are two of the countries of greatest concern to the IDEA forum participants.

This was demonstrated in a February 2 statement where they stressed that they remain “vigilant” in the face of the “agonizing struggle” carried out by Venezuelans and Cubans “in their legitimate demand for clean, free and competitive electoral systems and processes, subject to international observation, that will permit their early return to the family of democracies.”

More than thirty former governors have subscribed to or supported these statements, including José María Aznar and Felipe González, former heads of the Government of Spain, and the presidents Nicolás Ardito Barletta and Mireya Moscoso (Panama), Belisario Betancur, Andrés Pastrana, César Gaviria and Álvaro Uribe (Colombia), and Felipe Calderón and Vicente Fox (Mexico).

Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, Rafael Ángel Calderón and Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica), Alfredo Cristiani (El Salvador), Fernando de la Rúa (Argentina), Osvaldo Hurtado (Ecuador), Luis Alberto Lacalle and Julio María Sanguinetti (Uruguay) and Jorge Quiroga ( Bolivia) are also among the winners.

At the same ceremony, a mini-documentary on Oswaldo Payá, made by Adam Hawk Jensen, was premiered as part of The Witness Project, an initiative of the Memorial Foundation of the Victims of Communism.

The mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, and city commissioner Joe Carollo delivered a proclamation of Oswaldo Payá Day in Miami at the ceremony.

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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.

Trump, UN and OAS Asked To Not Recognize Transfer of Power In Cuba Without Free Elections

Activist Rosa María Payá in front of the new Cuban Embassy in Washington. (Twitter)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Miami, 7 February 2018 — On Tuesday, February 6, the Miami-Dade County Commission requested that the United States Government, the Organization of American States and the United Nations not recognize a possible transfer of power in Cuba if it is not the result of free elections.

The petition was contained in a resolution supported by Commissioner José Díaz on the occasion of tribute paid by the Miami-Dade Commission to the Cuban dissident, Rosa Maria Payá, for her work as the founder and coordinator of the Cuba Decide campaign. continue reading

The campaign is aimed at mobilizing the Cuban people to organize a binding plebiscite in which citizens can decide on the political system they want, according to an official of the Miami-Dade Commission.

In the resolution, which was unanimously approved, the Commission adopted Rosa Maria Payá’s call for the United States Government, the United Nations and the Organization of American States to “not recognize any succession of power in Cuba without free and multiparty elections that restore the self-determination of the Cuban people.”

Since Raúl Castro announced his intention to step down from the presidency, it is expected that his successor will be elected in a vote without opposition candidates on the electoral ballot.

“The Cuban people deserve the right to decide their own future in free, open and multiparty elections, not by a simulated vote orchestrated by the Communist regime,” said Commissioner Díaz.

Payá, the daughter of the dissident, Oswaldo Payá, who died in an automobile crash that his family believes was provoked by Castro agents in 2012, said that Cubans “need” the international community to support them in order to prevent a “dynastic succession” in Cuba.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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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.

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.”

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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.”

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.

Cubans Want to Vote in Free and Open Elections: Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero Are Two of the Many Who Have Died For It

5 years since the death of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero

On NOT Waiting for the King to Die / Rosa María Payá

Cuba Decides: Continuing Oswaldo Paya’s Work for a Plebiscite

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

Rosa María Payá: “Totalitarianism is not broken in Cuba, we can not pretend it is” / EFE (14ymedio), María Tejero Martín

Je Suis Cuba / Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo

“The Cuban people must get their voice back to begin the transition” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Rosa Maria Paya

Oswaldo Payá Award Ceremony Is Absent The Winners / 14ymedio, EFE

The empty chair with the Oswaldo Payá “Freedom and Life” Prize that the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro could not collect. (Networks)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 22 February 2017 — The presentation of the Oswaldo Payá “Freedom and Life” Prize has led to a diplomatic conflict, after the Cuban government vetoed the entry into the country of three of the guests: OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and Mariana Aylwin.

Almagro, Calderón and Chilean delegate Mariana Aylwin were unable to travel to the Caribbean country on Tuesday to participate in the event called by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, chaired by Rosa Maria Payá, daughter of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, which the Cuban government Cuban has labeled a “provocation.” continue reading

Around Payá’s house, in the Havana municipality of Cerro, a police operation deployed in the early hours of the day prevented activists from reaching the home. From Manila Park, near the house, State Security agents dressed in civilian clothes demanded documentation from any dissident or independent journalists who approached.

Payá told this newspaper that her phone had been “out of service” in the afternoon although “in the morning it worked.” The ceremony was attended by seven activists who had spent the night in the house “plus another 20 people who where able to reach it,” said the dissident. Among them was the head of the political-economic section of the US Embassy in Cuba, Dana Brown, as well as diplomatic representatives from Sweden and the Czech Republic.

Payá told this newspaper that her phone had been “out of service” in the afternoon although “in the morning it worked”

Payá said that the award ceremony had been surrounded by a lot of repression on the part of the regime, Cuban State Security and the Foreign Ministry.” She condemned the reprisals “suffered by civil society members who wanted to participate in the ceremony, resulting in many of them being arrested and others prevented from leaving their homes.”

All of the leaders of the opposition groups on the island “were invited,” Payá told this newspaper. “There are some with whom we have lost communication over the last few days because of everything that is happening, and others who are not in the country and others who couldn’t get here.”

“We hope that this aggression, this rudeness, will find a response and a reaction in all the governments belonging to the Organization of American States (OAS), in all the governments of our region and also in the European Union,” said Rosa María Payá.

Luis Almargo tweeted: Our interest: To facilitate #Cuba’s approach to Interamerican values/principles and to expand the country’s achievements in science, health and education.

The Chilean and Mexican Chancelleries regretted the decision of Cuba, and Chile announced that it will call its ambassador on the island for consultations.

Meanwhile, the only official response from Cuba has come from the Cuban embassy in Chile, which issued a communication referring to the matter as “a grave international provocation against the Cuban government,” with the aim of “generating internal instability” and affecting Cuba’s diplomatic relations with other countries.

According to this note, the act was created “by an illegal anti-Cuban group that acts against constitutional order and that arouses the repudiation of the people, with the collusion and financing of politicians and foreign institutions.”

The only official response from Cuba has come from its embassy in Chile, which issued a communication referring to the matter as “a grave international provocation against the Cuban government”

The ceremony finally took place without the presence of the international guests. “The chairs will remain empty” until the awardees “can land in Havana” to pick them up in person, assured Rosa María Payá. Other Cuban guests were prevented from leaving their homes or arrested on the road.

Independent journalists Henry Constantin Ferreiro and Sol García Basulto were detained in the airport of Camagüey at the moment that they tried to board a flight towards the capital.

Constantín Ferreiro is vice-president of the Inter-American Press Association for Cuba and remains in custody without his parents being able to see him or provide him with personal hygiene supplies, according to his father.

Havana’s decision not to authorize the arrival of the head of the OAS was known after a night of uncertainty in which it was not clear whether Almagro had traveled to the Cuban capital, where he initially planned to fly from Paris, where he had participated in institutional activities yesterday. Rosa María Paya today called on the OAS to support the right of the Cuban people to decide on their destiny.

“To the point that Cuba is democratizing, all democracies in Latin America will also gain stability,” said the opposition leader, who hoped that “today is the beginning of an OAS commitment to the cause of rights and freedom in Cuba.”

She pointed out that they do not expect the OAS to “speak out against anyone,” but instead to put itself “on the side of all Cuban citizens in their right to begin a transition process.”

Cuba Refuses OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro Entry To The Island / 14ymedio

The Secretary of the OAS was also unable to enter the country using his Cuban passport, which does not require an entry visa (@ agro_OEA2015)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2017 — The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, has published a letter explaining why he can not attend the Oswaldo Payá “Freedom and Life” Award ceremony. In the letter, addressed to Rosa Maria Paya, Almagro states that he will not come after the refusal of the Havana authorities to grant him an entry visa to Cuba.

The Cuban consulate also denied Almagro entrance to the country using his Uruguayan passport, with which it would not need entrance visa.

According to the Secretary General of the OAS, an official of the Organization, Chris Hernández-Roy, was summoned to a meeting last Thursday by the Consul of Cuba in Washington and the First Secretary of the Consulate in which he expressed, also, the Cuban authorities’ surprise over the reason for the visit and its astonishment at the “involvement” of Almagro in anti-Cuban activities. continue reading

The award is not recognized by the Cuban State and the activities of Cuba Decide, an organization led by Rosa Maria Payá, “undermines the Cuban electoral system,” according to what they told the OAS.

For all these reasons, the authorities refused to grant Almagro a visa and warned him that he would not be admitted to the country if he attempted to board a flight bound for the island.

Almagro laments in his missive the “analysis as superficial as it is alarmist,” that has led to his visit being interpreted as a problem for relations with the United States

“We have responded to these arguments by pointing out that the only interest on our part has been, is and will be to facilitate Cuba’s rapprochement with the values ​​and principles of the inter-American system, both as regards the defense of democracy and the promotion and respect for human rights, while expanding Cuba’s achievements in science, health and education to our region,” said Almagro.

Almagro laments in his missive the “analysis as superficial as it is alarmist,” that has led to his visit being interpreted as a problem for relations with the United States. He considers it “rather ridiculous” that bilateral relations between the two countries depend simply on the holding of the award ceremony.

He emphasizes, furthermore, that his presence on the island scheduled for Tuesday has nothing to do with a desire to evaluate the internal situation of Cuba or its political or ideological trends, issues on which he says he does not consider himself competent to give an opinion.

As Almagro writes in the letter, this is not the first time an act of this kind has been carried out in other countries of the region, and so, he says, he has made it known to the Cuban authorities. According to the secretary general of the OAS, these acts in other countries “are carried out without the government necessarily supporting them, but without censoring them, because they are part of the tolerance of democratic systems and values,” he argues.

His only concern, he says, is that he hopes that as a result of the Cuban government’s boycott of the Oswaldo Payá Award, there will be no repression of those who organized the event. “This would be absolutely unfair and undesirable,” he warns.

The Secretary General of the OAS also rejects the “criminalization” of Cuba Decides and notes that his intention was to honor the memory of Oswaldo Payá

Almagro argued that his presence and activities are not anti-Cuban “in any case” and, on the contrary, his interest is that the country develops at all levels, not forgetting the guarantee of all the rights of its citizens.

For that reason, the Secretary General of the OAS also rejects the “criminalization” of Cuba Decides and notes that his intention was to honor the memory of Oswaldo Payá, so he asked that the authorities reconsider their decision and allow him to enter the Island. “But that was not possible,” he laments.

Almagro closes his letter by reiterating to Rosa Maria Payá the high regard he has for her, in addition to his desire to “continue working within the framework of cooperation established between the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy,” of which she is the current president, “and the OAS.”

The relationship of the Secretary General of the OAS with the Cuban Government has gone through distinct phases. In November of 2014 Almagro visited the Island for fourth time, in his role foreign minister of the Republic of Uruguay. On that occasion he was interviewed by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez. However, on assuming his current position in the OAS he became a frequent target of criticism in the official press.

In 2009 the OAS lifted the suspension that weighed on the Island and supported its eventual rejoining

The OAS and the Government of the Island have had tense encounters for decades, since the country was excluded from the regional organization in January 1962, after defining its Marxist-Leninist course. In 2009 the OAS lifted the suspension that weighed on the Island and supported its eventual rejoining of the organization.

Almagro reiterated the invitation to Havana in early 2016 when he stated that his heart felt that Cuba “should be back” in the body, although his brain indicated that the process “will not go that fast.”

During a meeting of the Association of Caribbean States held in Havana, President Raúl Castro reiterated that “the OAS from its foundation was, is and will be an instrument of imperialist domination and that no reform could change its nature or its history. Cuba will never return to the OAS. ”

 

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.