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

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

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

Rosa Maria Paya (Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo)
Rosa Maria Paya (Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), María Tejero Martín, Oslo, 23 May 2016 — Cuban opposition member Rosa María Payá said Monday ,in an interview with EFE, that the “totalitarianism” of the government led by Raul Castro “has not broken” despite the open contact with the United States and the European Union (EU), and so she asked that these approaches be used to achieve “concrete progress.”

“Rapprochement with Cuba is very good, but it depends on how and how it is sold. It also has negative consequences, such as the rest of the world perceiving an internal process of openings toward democracy, and this has not occurred,” said Payá in the Norwegian capital, where she has come to participate in the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF). Continue reading “Rosa María Payá: “Totalitarianism is not broken in Cuba, we can not pretend it is” / EFE (14ymedio), María Tejero Martín”

The dissident said that “totalitarianism has not been broken” despite the “legitimacy” with which it might have re-clothed itself after the visits of personalities such as US President Barack Obama, the high representative of the EU for Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini, Pope Francis or the Rolling Stones.

Payá, daughter of the prominent opposition leader Oswaldo Payá, who died in 2012 in a car crash which his daughter blames on the Cuban regime, believes that the international community has an “opportunity to pressure the regime for this change toward freedom.”

Payá criticized the “excuses that can be cynical, but are invoked as pragmatic” which are used as an argument to initiate dialogue with Cuba placing special attention on economic relations and relegating to the background demands for human rights and freedom.

“People say things like if we negotiated with China, why not with the Cuban regime. Under this line of thinking, why not with North Korea?” she said.

We regards to negotiations between Brussels and Havana, she considers it “worrying” that no light has been shined on the text that serves as a basis for contacts between the two parties and warned that it is not enough to simply include “a mention of human rights, because tyrannies have already learned to deal with these mentions.”

“The support has to be concrete, specific and on measurable issues. Not only speeches in support of democracy, of human rights,” she said, calling for support for the holding of a plebiscite on the island, access to communications media and information, and the release of political prisoners.

“Totalitarianism, which has not been broken, is broken when the ability to decide does not reside in the same group of generals. At that moment the transition will have begun, which won’t happen in a single day. We cannot pretend this is happening,” she said, in a message she directed to “the international community,” from whom she asked for “support.”

” Cubans are human beings just like everyone else, like Spaniards or Belgians. We did not endure five decades in order to have Airbnb, but rather all out rights (…), having more Americans to travel to the island is not enough, it is a racist approach to think so,” she claimed.

To Payá, inaction may also affect the international community itself and democratic countries.

In this regard she pointed to how the situation in Venezuela has been evolving under the leadership of Hugo Chavez and president Nicolas maduro, but also the ideas that have come from “political parties in Spain.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming Spanish elections, Payá stressed that “the Spanish people are sovereign, so it is up to them to decide,” although she expressed her concern for “the influence of the totalitarian regime in Havana and the Chavista regime which is concerned with undermining Latin America and exporting its ideas to Europe.”

About the rise of anti-democratic positions, the Cuban opponent once again called on democratic countries to act.

In terms of rights, “Cubans were already in the worst situation ten years ago, but now the rest of the world is worse off as well,” she warned.

Danilo Maldonado, known as "El Sexto," is also speaking at the Oslo Freedom Forum this week.
Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto,” is also speaking at the Oslo Freedom Forum this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ceremony was attended by the daughter of the deceased opponent of the Castro regime, Rosa María Payá, who is now the president of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy and who traveled to the island for the occasion. She was accompanied by numerous friends and activists from Cuba’s independent civil society, and the Mexican Congresswoman Cecilia Romero. Continue reading “Oswaldo Payá Remembered On The Anniversary Of His Birth / 14ymedio”

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

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

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

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


People In Need Award Goes To Former Cuban Prisoners Of The Black Spring / 14ymedio

Martha Beatriz Roque believes that work to defend human rights "is becoming more difficult for the internal opposition," in Cuba. (14ymedio)
Martha Beatriz Roque believes that work to defend human rights “is becoming more difficult for the internal opposition,” in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Havana, 3 February 2016 — The Czech organization People in Need has given its Homo Homini Award for this year to the 11 former prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring who continue to live in Cuba, as confirmed to this newspaper by several of the laureates. The entity, focused on the defense of human rights, has recognized the work of those who have continued to exercise their peaceful activist for decades, despite the rigors of prison and political repression.

Last year the award celebrated two decades since its founding. The award is intended to honor individuals for their “dedication to the promotion of human rights, democracy and non-violent solutions to political conflicts.” Continue reading “People In Need Award Goes To Former Cuban Prisoners Of The Black Spring / 14ymedio”

Among the honorees with distinction, is Cuban opposition member Felix Navarro who told 14ymedio that he was “very pleasantly surprised with the news” and dedicated the honor to all those who struggle “peacefully inside Cuba to produce the changes that will make Cubans free.” The activist went on to ask whether the Cuban government will allow the winners to travel to receive the award, given the travel restrictions they have endured since their release from prison.

The only woman in the so-called Group of 75, Martha Beatriz Roque, welcomed the recognition for her work “within the country to defend the cause of human rights.” The activist points out that this task “is becoming ever more difficult for the internal opposition” and agrees that it is likely that none of the 11 will be allowed to leave the country, so that “there will be an empty chair, with everything that’s going to mean.”

“Moral and political backing and support,” is how the dissident Angel Moya described the Homo Homini Award, adding that this is a recognition that extends “to all those within Cuba struggling to establish the rule of law”.

For the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, Jose Daniel Ferrer, this is a good time to remember that “the first Cuban to receive it was Oswaldo Paya Sardinas in 1999.” At the time, Ferrer was an activist in the Christian Liberation Movement, who spread ” the news throughout the eastern part of the country.” He added, referring to Payá’s death, “It is now up to us and this award makes us very happy.”

Among the winners from previous years, as well as Oswaldo Paya, are Sapiyat Magomedova (Russia, 2013), Intigam Aliyev (Azerbaijan, 2012), Azimžan Askarov (Kyrgyzstan, 2010), Liu Xiaobo (China, 2008), Su Su Nway, Phyu Phyu Thin and Nilar Thein (Myanmar, 2007), Ales Bialiatski (Belarus, 2005) and Sergej Kovaljov (Russia, 1994), among others.

The NGO People in Need was founded in 1992 and is defined as a non-profit organization ” based on the ideas of humanism, freedom, equality and solidarity.” It has employees and volunteers both in the Czech Republic and in a dozen countries seeking to “provide assistance in regions of conflict and support the commitment to human rights throughout the world.”

Dozens of Activists Detained in Havana Following the Ladies in White March / Diario de Cuba, Angel Moya

Ladies in White marching this past Sunday, 26 July*, in Havana (Ángel Moya)
Ladies in White marching this past Sunday, 26 July*, in Havana (Ángel Moya)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Angel Moya, Havana, 26 July 2015 – Some 60 activists were arrested this past Sunday in Havana following the customary Sunday march of the Ladies in White, reported government opponents on social media. The arrests took place within the context of an act of repudiation described by the opponents as “violent,” and were carried out by “civilian mobs,” tweeted Ailer María González Mena.

The Ladies’ Sunday march was preceded by the arrests of several of the women, along with independent journalists, dissident sources were reporting as of midday. Continue reading “Dozens of Activists Detained in Havana Following the Ladies in White March / Diario de Cuba, Angel Moya”

The women, as usual, attended mass at St. Rita’s Church, and later met at Mahatma Gandhi Park, from where they began their march along Fifth Avenue.

During the meeting they paid homage to the deceased opponents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, who died under mysterious circumstances three years ago last week.

Former political prisoner Ángel Moya posted on his Twitter account that the Ladies Oilyn Hernández and María R. Rodríguez were arrested, as well as blogger Agustín López. Other activists had their residences surrounded by State Security agents.

Activists had predicted there would be a major police presence in the area.*

*Translator’s Notes: *26 July is the date commemorated by the Cuban government as the start of the Revolution

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

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

Presentation of the HRF about the death of Oswaldo Payá. (@RosaMariaPaya)
Presentation of the HRF about the death of Oswaldo Payá. (@RosaMariaPaya)

14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2015 – The human rights defense organization Human Rights Foundation (HRF) thinks that the Cuban government has “direct responsibility” in the deaths of dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, according to the conclusion of an 88-page report presented this Wednesday at the University of Georgetown (Washington), on the third anniversary of the death of the opponents.

“The accident (…) is the result of an automobile incident deliberately caused by agents of the State,” assert the authors of the report, lawyers Javier El-Hage and Roberto C. Gonzalez, both of HRF. According to the lawyers, there was “intention to assassinate Oswaldo Payá and the passengers who were travelling with him.” The authors of the report also think there was the intention of “causing them serious bodily injury” or that the event “was carried out with negligence and/or extreme indifference – and an unjustified high risk – for the life of the activist.”

The foundation highlights the “errors” and the “contradictions” of the official investigation into the events of 22 July 2012, documenting numerous violations, such as a faulty autopsy of the “most prominent pro-democracy activist in Latin America in the last 25 years,” according to the president of the HRF, Thor Halvorssen.

The report maintains that the evidence, deliberately overlooked by the official investigation, suggests that it was not a traffic accident and implicates the government in the crash between the vehicles.

The organization believes that the Spaniard Angel Carromero, who was driving the car in which Payá was travelling and who is now on probation in his country, was ”obliged” to confess himself to be responsible, and that Cuban Justice paid no attention to the complaints of the dissident’s relatives, excluding them from the trials. Carromero himself, who was then a leader of the youth branch of Spain’s Popular Party (PP), has asserted on several occasions that the accident was an “attack” orchestrated by the Island’s regime. Those responsible for the report insist that Carromero had no access to a lawyer for weeks and that, later, he was forced to be represented by lawyers with close ties to the Government.

“The State of Cuba is responsible internationally for having violated Angel Carromero’s right to an effective legal defense,” says the report, since the authorities refused his defense access to the case file and the opportunity to present new evidence.

“Cuba is not a democratic State in which individual rights are respected or in which there exists independence among the powers of the State,” warns the report, which labels trials that involve dissidents as “a mere formality” in which “all the actors (prosecutor, judge and defense attorney) direct their work towards legitimizing the Government’s decision and not towards the search for the historical truth of events and the punishment of the responsible parties.” The investigation and the later trial in the death of Payá and Cepero were not exceptions, having been carried out in a “context of complete authoritarianism.”

Cuban authorities also did not permit the family of the deceased to speak with the two survivors of the crash (Angel Carromero and the Swede Jens Aron Modig), and three years after the event, they have still not communicated the result of the autopsy. The dissident’s relatives received the clothes that he was wearing the day of the incident already washed which kept them from opting for an independent examination.

“Havana’s authorities believed that it was necessary to destroy my father,” said the daughter of the opponent, Rosa Maria Payá, present at the University of Georgetown. “This report will be an important tool against the impunity of those authorities,” she added. According to the activist, the document “is the end of the first part” of her efforts, and the process to clarify what happened to her father “is only beginning” with “the analysis of the evidence” in the hands of the family.

“We plan to use this report as a tool in front of all the international bodies,” said Payá, who calls on Cuban authorities to release her father’s and Cepero’s autopsy reports.

The authors of the report accuse Havana of having violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

MCl Leader for the Freedom of a Cuba without Castros / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Interview with Rosa Maria Paya

Leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and Cuba Decides

From El Pais

 “The United States is negotiating with the Cuban caste.”

Cuban regime opponent, daughter of Oswaldo Para, speaks of the shortcomings of the thaw.

Alba Casas

Madrid, 3 July 2015, 23:03 CEST

To Rosa Maria Paya (b. January 1989, Havana), daughter of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya and a member of the Christian Liberation Movement — founded by her father — is not afraid to say the thaw will not end “the embargo on freedoms” that the Cuban Executive imposes on its inhabitants. “The United States is talking with the Government and those surrounding it. But civil society is left outside. It is a privilege reserved for the Cuban caste. For the rest, it is a situation of exclusion,” she says. Continue reading “MCl Leader for the Freedom of a Cuba without Castros / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo”

Although she looks favorably on the advance in relations between both countries — in her own words: “And attempt to include Cuba as part of the international community is good, provided the inclusion is of all of Cuba, not just the government.” Paya believes that the reestablishment of the talks offers a “halo of legitimacy to a Government that every day violates the rights of its citizens.”

And she defends, over and over again, the need for this process to come with a change for society. “The confrontation with the United States is the excise the government has used to justify some of its repressive measures. Now the excuse has fallen but the situation continues the same, which shows that it was not the United States that was oppressing Cubans, but rather the government itself.”

Among the North American giant’s motives, according to Paya, should be to defend “the opening of Cuba to Cubans themselves,” to offer legal security to entrepreneurs who want to embark on new commercial activities on the island.

“Totalitarianism is a tacit threat to them, like negotiating with the mafia. I don’t expect an altruism from foreign investors, but to negotiate without the guarantees of democracy is to accept the rules of the Cuban government,” says this young woman of 26, with some political ideas of her own who spend this same time leading rallies in front of the cameras.

In drawing a parallel between this “game that follows the rules of the Cuban government,” with the current situation of the thaw in which the United States, despite its initial demand to ensure the rights of Cubans, has finalized the embargo and removed Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism, without a real advance in freedoms for society.

Paya says, “It is terrible when talking becomes more important than the objectives of the talks. When this happens, the impunity is total and the government feels free to assassinate a Sakharov Prize winner and nothing happens.” She is referring to her father, Oswaldo Paya, who died in 2012 in strange circumstances in a traffic accident. “To call it an accident is to use the government’s words,” she says.

Paya’s criticism against the executives who prefer “to ignore the violations of human rights” is not directed solely at the North American giant. The young woman even links to “the 15 years of recession experienced by the democracies in the region,” with the Cuban dictatorship.

“I’m not saying it’s the only reason, but it is a common denominator. And you can observe the complicit silence of the senior Latin American politicians with all the crimes of the region, not only those of Cuba,” she says.

The instrument that the Cuban Christian Liberation Movement proposed to achieve that advance in rights and initiate a process of the democratic transition is to hold a plebiscite to ask the citizens of the island if they want to participate in free elections, in which any citizen can stand as a candidate of the opposition, with full media coverage and, above all, “with guarantees for the voters that there will be no consequences from the powers-that-be.”

Looking at this utopian scenario cannot, however, ensure that Cubans taking to the polls is going to translate into the end of the Castro mandate. “I believe that if Cubans could vote, they would vote for freedom. But if they do not do it, all we can do is to give them the tool. Cubans will be free when they want to be so.”

Homage to Oswaldo Paya / Angel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 17 May 2015 — Any good Cuban should visit the tomb of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, one of the greatest defenders of liberty and justice in the history of Cuba. His name is inscribed, in its own right, in the pantheon of Cuban heroes. I even heard the national intellectuals mention his name with respect, sometimes with fear. They always accepted, even though they were “official,” his intelligence, valor and honesty in his political demands for Cuban citizens. Continue reading “Homage to Oswaldo Paya / Angel Santiesteban”

Even today my hands can feel the clapping when they received his remains in the little church in Cerro, which Payá used to attend. The injustice of his assassination and that of Harold Cepero summoned all the dissident factions. The grief was generalized. I spoke with men and women, citizens of the people, who had no contact with the dissident movement, nor with officialdom, and who in some way felt the need to express their repulsion at the government, and their solidarity with his family.

We all remember that we were monitored and persecuted in those ill-fated hours, as well as beaten and captured at the exit of the burial. We traveled to the cemetery together with the great poet and exalted Cuban, Rafael Alcides.

I will not forget the pain of his widow, his daughter and sons. We shall never be able to explain to them how that vile assassination could happen. But the people who crowded against the walls of the church joined the family in their sorrow.

Although the dictatorship took his body away from us, it returned him larger, with the ability to remain in our minds and hearts eternally. His death made us stronger and, above all, deepened our need for freedom.

May my voice and moral support accompany his family.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

May 17, 2015, Border Prison Unit, Havana

Translated by Regina Anavy

Mass in Cuba for Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero / Cubanet, Ignacio Gonzalez and Osmel Almaguer

cubanet square logoCubanet, Ignacio Gonzalez and Osmel Almaguer, Havana, 13 May 2015 – A Mass for the deceased Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, opposition leader, and Harold Cepero, activist, was held this afternoon at the Church of Los Pasionistas in Havana, with Rosa María Payá in attendance. Rosa María, daughter of the Cuban human rights activist and recipient of the European Union’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, arrived from the Miami Airport to Cuba on the morning of May 11, to reunite with her family and friends and to honor the memory of her father.

The Mass was attended by activists of the Estado de Sats project, Antonio Rodiles and Ailer González, and by Manuel Cuesta Morua, leader of Progressive Arc, among others.

Rosa Maria Returns to the Revolution of Death / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Click on image for link to video in Spanish
Click on image for link to video in Spanish


Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, 11 May 2015

Since she was a little girl, death was a guest in her home. A guest no one invited in the midst of the family happiness, rather an intruder imposed by a fascist State called Revolution. A totalitarian state that began killing before the assault on power, killing that prevailed for decades, and that will end up killing more, sooner than later. It is the only logic of a governance in which the Castros are effective, a dynasty of several generations that were never elected in Cuba. Since she was a little girl, death peeked through the blinds and revealed the probable terror: she always knew that the Cuban wanted to kill her papá. Continue reading “Rosa Maria Returns to the Revolution of Death / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo”

Rosa María Payá, after a year and a half living outside Cuba, returns today to the Island where lie the remains of Harold Cepero — her soulmate — and those of Oswaldo Payá. She brings them a flower. A little flower of the most commercial and cowardly Miami. Where thousands of “mules” travel daily as accomplices of the Castro regime. Where all the entrepreneurs are Castros with Cubanologist ties, but ultimately they are simply thirst for dollars and power. A caste that, with the story of the economic empowerment of civil society, aspires to enslave Cuba based on their earnings and their corruption. They are not another shitty mafia, but they are the same and of the same ideological sign as the shitty mafiosos of the Plaza of the Revolution.

Cepero and Payá were assassinated in Cuba by order of the high command of the Ministry of the Interior on Sunday, 22 July 2012. It was a personal vengeance on the part of the homicidal brothers. A crime against humanity whose atrocious guilt will never expire, and for which they will be held accountable before justice, including the descendants of the tyrants: in particular Alejandro Castro Espín, who was already in office when they killed Cepero and Paya.

This crime would never have been undertaken blindly. Before executing it, the Castro regime consulted on the double homicide with the highest spheres of power in the European Union and in the United States. And also with the insulting insular Catholic hierarchy, and it is possible with the Vatican (Ratzinger’s resignation will eventually be totally explained). The Cuban-American tycoons, of course, did their part, with the perverse promise they would soon be allowed to return.

Such a plot is not launched directly, but with hallway inquiries and social destabilization blackmail. With hostages and promises of appeasement. The diplomacy of disgust. And everyone was in agreement that there would be no penalty for the Castros for the death of a man in his sixties who to the majority felt too weighty, whose moral superiority is intolerable in Cuba and in our ex-exile. He had to be sacrificed to the sanctimoniousness of democracy. It had to sink Cuba even deeper into despair. Harold Cepero, on that summer afternoon, was just collateral damage. And if Rosa María had been traveling in that Hyundai rental car, as she thought she might hours beforehand, Rosa María  would have been buried three years ago along with her papá.

But today Rosa María Payá returns as a Cuban of Cuba to Cuba. The whole world, and especially the Casto agents of the Miami press, sneeringly called her on zero day a “refugee” and the last of the “exiled.” As if all of us Cubans, wherever we live, weren’t refugees and exiles under the boot of our olive-green barbarity. Now they will tell Rosa María  whatever other vile things, as soon as the officials of El Habana Herald sends them by email the ongoing strategy of stigmatization of her.

But Rosa María will face the executioners whom she has known since childhood to be hunting her papá to behead him. The family has not even been given the autopsy showing how Oswaldo Payá died. Only Fernando Ravsberg, a Uruguayan terrorist turned privileged journalist on the Island, wrote with demonic detail of the destruction of Payá’s body: head split into five pieces, almost decapitated, heart pierced and kidneys turned to “mush.”

Rosa María Payá faces Monday May 11, 2015 in Cuba with that “mush” of a nation. The detritus of a country without citizens. Without values. Without a vision of the future. Aberration in time. Constitutional ugliness. Hatred on the surface and language as a hobby in perpetuity. Culture of simulation and a vocation to kill or be killed. De-anthropological damage, inhumane humanity. A double lack of State and of God.

From the Castro regime we can expect anything against that girl visited by death in her dreams in El Cerro in the midst of the Special Period. Because today the assassins no longer need to consult on their crimes ahead of time. The hands of President Obama and those of Pope Francis have exquisitely stretched out to the Cuban dictator, the octogenarian who has been stained and stained again with the innocent blood of Cubans.

Pray for Rosa María, please, at least those who still retain a remnant of what it is to pray after half a century of strictly observed Revolution.

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

"The plebiscite is the path by which the people of Cuba move to the truth and rights in solidarity and realize their hopes." Plebiscite for your rights: Freedom of expression, free elections, freedom of association
Click on image to open Cuba Decides site

For over half a century Cubans have been excluded from the political, economic and social decisions made in our nation. The group in power in Cuba has never been legitimized by democratic elections. The government is responsible for the repression and violence against those with opinions and alternative initiatives.

The absence of an environment of law and self-determination, has plunged the people into poverty and has led our country to economic and social failure, accompanied by constant mass exodus of its citizens.

We are aware that only Cubans corresponds us to define and decide on the changes needed in our society and so do our national project. But for citizens to design, approve and build their future, must be guaranteed by law rights and an atmosphere of trust and respect for all achieved. Continue reading “Cuba Decides: Continuing Oswaldo Paya’s Work for a Plebiscite”

In this way we can make a genuine national dialogue and begin the process of legal changes, without exception, for the people to retain or sovereignly change that decision. So proclaim and work for the people to be consulted in a plebiscite. There will be no transition to democracy in Cuba if Cubans are again excluded.

Our proposal continues the citizen petition the Varela Project. Bill that 25,404 Cubans with voting rights submitted to the National Assembly of People’s Power, supported by article 63 of the Constitution of the Republic. The National Assembly has yet to respond to these citizens.

Our demand considers Articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Cuban state as one of its signatories committed themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the effective universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Cubans are one people. All, without classify and divide them by their ideas, beliefs, race, political positions or country of residence, are called to promote and participate in this plebiscite.

No one should question the changes that the people want is freedom, reconciliation and all rights. For these goals and work peacefully fight the opposition inside and outside Cuba. But the great lack of Cubans is that we have no voice, no democratic means to express ourselves as the government and some in the world claim to speak for our people. Hence our demand to the government of Cuba, is to conduct a plebiscite for the people to express itself supremely 1 and decide on the following proposal:

Are you in agreement with that free elections held shall exercise the freedom of expression and Press and organizing freely in political parties and social organizations with full plurality? Yes or No?  

Urging all Cubans wherever they are to join this lawsuit. We invite governments, the democratic institutions and the men and women of good will in the world to support the sovereignty and self-determination of our people, which is to support the right to decide for Cubans, through a plebiscite.

Roberta Jacobson Queries the Castros’ Crime / Rosa Maria Paya

Screen shot from the Twitter account of one of the regime’s aliases

A subject we always include

Rosa María Payá

I have only been in Washington DC 12 hours. Time enough to take up Senator Marco Rubio’s kind invitation to go to President Obama’s State of the Union Address.

It’s winter in DC, but as it gets late, the monumental silhouettes are turned on, giving the capital a warm appearance. In the Capitol I was able to talk to various Democrat and Republican senators, all of them wanting to hear about Cuba. The points in question continue to be fundamental ones:

1) The United States is having high level conversations with a government which has never been chosen by its citizens. And therefore we hope they will put on the table some support for the constitutional petition put up by thousands of Cubans in favour of a referendum for free and multi-party elections. Continue reading “Roberta Jacobson Queries the Castros’ Crime / Rosa Maria Paya”

2) The United States authorities have, on various occasions supported the need for an independent investigation into the violent deaths on 22 July 2012 of my father Oswaldo Payá, European Union Andrei Sakharov prize-winner, and Harold Cepero, young leader of the Christian Liberation Movement. To be consistent, this matter should be discussed now with the Cuban government, as there is the opportunity to address it directly via the new official channels.

Flying back, I bumped into Roberta Jacobson, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere. I went up to her immediately and she got up to greet me. I was pleased she did that.

“Going back home or just to Miami?” she asked me in an innocent way. “I’m going to Miami,” I told her and it struck me that I had not gone back to my home in Havana for more than a year. The last time I was there, State Security chased my brothers in the street, by Parque Manila in El Cerro, and phoned them to say, “Bastards, we’re going to kill you.”

Mrs. Jacobson was going to Havana to some meetings with Cuban government officials. One of them is the well-known State Security functionary Gustavo Machín. Not by coincidence, it was he who had the responsibility for the press conference circus given by the Swede Aron Modig in Cuba, while he was kept in solitary confinement without charges, just before he was deported from the country without being allowed to meet my family, as we had requested as he was a friend and we would be the ones most affected.

Aron was in the car with my father the day of the long-expected attack on our family (nearly always with witnesses, to terrorize them, like an exemplary measure) and was captured by the State Security immediately after the car was run off the road.

I asked the Assistant Secretary whether the independent investigation we have been demanding into the death of Oswaldo Payá and  Harold Cepero would form a part of the dialogue with the Cuban government. “This is always a point that we raise,” she answered in agreement.

She also explained that they were planning to discuss human rights, without saying when. She was speaking in the normal way officials do, as if they weren’t travelling to the heart of the longest-running dictatorship on the planet to meet criminal functionaries, some of whom worked as spies in her own United States.

The Cuban government has lied to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial Crimes, when he had asked them for information about my father’s death. More than two years later, the Cuban authorities continue to deny us the autopsy report, which the family has the right to see under current laws in the island.

This Friday January 21st, I am going to meet Ricardo Zúñiga in the White House. I hope that by then he will have news about the Cuban government’s response to Roberta Jacobson, about the investigation into the attack against Harold and my father that cruel day which my family feared but never were able to understand.

The United States and every other country in the world ought to know that, unless all the truth comes out about this and so many other atrocities that have been mythified  as a “Revolution”, there will be no real democracy or stability in Cuba. It is possible that before Friday the accredited international press in the island will already have a reply to both parts of this inescapable question in such a high-level dialogue.

 Translated by GH

22 January 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Euro-Deputy, Mr. Pablo Iglesias:

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

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

Specifically, the demands of the Varela Project are as follow: freedom of association, freedom of enterprise (for the citizens), amnesty for prisoners of conscience, and the call for a referendum to pass a fair and just electoral law, given that, at present, there can only be one candidate per position, and one who is logically endorsed by the regime. Continue reading “Open Letter From the MCL to Pablo Iglesias and His Hatred of Cubans / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secondly, how can you deem it a campaign against “Cuba” that family, friends and colleagues of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero demand that these deaths are clarified, deaths that even the Cuban regime has not been able to explain? (see http://www.oswaldopaya.org/es/2013/12/15/una-secuencia-incoherente/).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlos Payá Sardiñas

Representative, Christian Liberation Movement, Spain

Translated by: T

29 June 2014