Note: The video is a brief excerpt from the interview and is not subtitled in English.
14ymedio, 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”
EFE (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”
14ymedio, 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.
14ymedio, 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”
Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy
Tuesday February 23rd, 2016
Rosa María Payá, Christian Liberation Movement of Cuba and Latin American Youth Network for Democracy
Thank you for this opportunity to spread the voice of the Cuban people. Cubans have lived for nearly 60 years without the freedom to express our own voice. The Revolution of 1959, immediately suppressed freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of movement, as their totalitarian tools to remain in power forever. These suppressions came with the repression and the violence, as illustrated by the long list of extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the Cuban authorities.
In this moment, I would like to remember and honor the memory of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, dead exactly 5 years ago, during a hunger strike in a Cuban prison. My prayers are also for the 4 innocent pilots from Brothers to the Rescue, shot down in international waters by the Cuban military, on February 24, 20 years ago. Continue reading “Rosa Maria Paya at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy”
Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of legendary Cuban democracy dissident Oswaldo Paya, calling for an international inquiry into her father’s suspicious killing by car accident. Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, Feb. 19, 2013
Diario Las Americas, Leonel Luis Leon, 5 December 2015 — Rosa María Payá, daughter of the deceased Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá – who received the Andrei Sakharov Human Rights Prize from the European Parliament and founded the Varela Project for a citizen plebiscite in Cuba – received a major recognition of her civic activism on being elected as the new president of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy, whose congress was just held in Costa Rica.
In that Central American country, the young woman met with emigrating Cubans stranded there, and from there she went to Venezuela, two days before key parliamentary elections not only for Venezuela but also for Latin Americans. She spoke with Diario Las Americas about Cuba, Venezuela and the present and future of the region.
“I came to Venezuela as an independent Cuban citizen and to raise the voice of those in Cuba who also want to choose. I am also representing the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy, whose most recent conference was just held in Costa Rica. The president of the Chilean Senate, Patricio Walker, honored me with a personal invitation to accompany him during his work in the Venezuelan parliamentary elections. I have dear friends here, many of them are young politicians and social activists working for the democratization of their country. Continue reading “Rosa María Paya: Totalitarianism Does Not Tolerate Participation / Leonel Luis Leon”
14ymedio, Havana, 4 December 2015 — A delegation from the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy has traveled to Venezuela to observe the legislative elections on Sunday. The delegation, led by Rosa María Payá, new president of the organization, wants to send a “signal of solidarity” to Venezuelan democrats.
In a statement, the Youth for Democracy Network states that “elections in Venezuela will influence the immediate future of the region, which has been marked by the anti-democratic thinking of the Cuban government powered with Venezuelan money.” The text denounces that “for ten years political models that have many points in common with the Venezuelan and Cuban system have flourished.”
Payá said in comments reported in the statement: “What we are doing is not just an exercise in solidarity with our Venezuelan brothers and sisters, it also is for the well being of all Latin America.”
This Friday, the activist posted on her Twitter account a photo of her with the President of the Senate of Chile, Patricio Walker, and a message announcing her trip to Caracas, where she arrived at noon on Friday.
The Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy met from 28 November to 3 December in the city of San Jose, Costa Rica, and Rosa María Payá was elected to the presidency to succeed Micaela Hierro.
Diario de Cuba, Caracas, 4 December 2015 – The Cuban human rights activist Rosa María Payá Acevedo is in Caracas to accompany the Venezuelan youth in legislative elections on Sunday, December 6, the blogger and writer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo reported Friday.
Payá, president of the Network of Latin American Youth for Democracy – a position she was elected to during the recent congress of the organization held in Costa Rica – is a representative of Cuban civil society and is in Caracas in solidarity with the youth of the country.
According to a note sent to the to Diario de Cuba’s newsroom by Pardo Lazo, Rosa María Payá Acevedo, promoter of the democratic project Cuba Decides, will observe the Venezuelan legislative elections as a guest of honor of the Chilean Senator Patricio Walker, with whom she flew to Caracas.
Diario de Cuba, Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo, 15 November 2015 — Two years ago in Paris, at exactly this time, I had the satisfaction of meeting in person a renowned Cuban writer who lives there. I was there only a few days and travelled little around the city. They were days of work, meetings and interviews before flying to Strasbourg, to attend the Sakharov Prize ceremony for the child activist Malala Yousafzai, who had suffered an assassination attempt at the hands of the Pakistani Taliban in an attack that shocked the world.
I remember that at the foot of the most famous tour in the world all the languages I could hear echoing. I imagine that this is the sound of freedom of movement. Something thousands of Cubans have not had, Cubans who escape the island on rafts, ready to die and in many cases dying in the sea. The same freedom of movement that made possible the terror in the City of Light this Friday, when eight boys started shooting dozens of other boys. Continue reading “Je Suis Cuba / Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo”
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
14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2015 — Three years after the death of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, 14ymedio has collected the opinions of some Cuban activists who knew the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement. They is people who shared with him projects and risks, who admired or were inspired by his civic labor. Let these seven testimonies serve to approach the legacy of a man who devoted his best years to achieving greater rights and freedoms for the citizenry.
He has left us a testimony of life, a consistent life in service to his people, a courageous life that knew how to respond to the difficulties and the circumstances of the times. A life true to his convictions of faith and his love for his country until his last moment. It is a testimony that we will never forget and at the same time something to be deeply grateful for, because men like him are the ones who are needed, men like him are those who build a people from within.
It is very difficult to summarize in a few lines his life and the legacy he left us. First of all we have to note his actions as a father, a husband and a member of the Catholic Church. He knew how to pass on an excellent education for his children and to sow love in his family. Now we have Rosa María [his daughter], who is continuing his struggle and also persevering in seeing that justice is done for those who murdered him. His life’s companion, Ofelita, is doing the same thing.
Payá witnessed in favor of democracy and his legacy is reflected in the continuity of his work. These men who have acted with dignity in life, in times as difficult as those we Cubans have had to live through, one can say they have not died, they continue with us.
I always had great respect and great affection for him, and joined in with the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) for many years, especially on Project Varela. I would like to highlight one way he is remembered in the eastern region, especially in the province of Santiago de Cuba. The term that we are referred to by, whether we are members of UNPACU, of CID, of the Republican Party, the Citizens for Democracy, or any other organization, is “Varelistas” [“supporters of Project Varela”], and not because of a direct relation to Felix Verala, who well deserves it for his contribution to Cuban nationality, but precisely because of Project Varela, which not only collected thousands of signatures at that time, but also left a lasting impact.
So that is what people call us there and, on occasion, even our worst enemies do. So every time they call us Varelistas, they are remembering Payá.
The first thing I want to point out about the legacy Oswaldo left us is the integrity of one person who throughout his life remained consistent with what he thought and believed. Secondly, he left us what in my view is the most important civic exercise of the last decades: the Varela Project. Third, he left us the perseverance of a man who believed in the cause of freedom and democracy for Cuba and who dedicated his entire life to it.
Pastor Mario Felix Lleonart
His legacy goes far beyond even the Christian Liberation Movement he founded. His precious heritage belongs to Cuba and is found in the shared yearning for democracy and respect for human rights, for all individuals who think as he thought. For this he will always be respected. When Cuba can enjoy democracy, he will not be with is, but his teachings will be.
He was a great leader in the peaceful Cuban opposition because he accomplished what no one had been able to accomplish, which was to collect those thousands of signatures supporting Project Varela and doing it within the very laws of Cuba.
Still today I feel I see him, with the enthusiasm that characterized him, seeking unity among Cubans so that we can manage the change in a peaceful way, so that the people would be the owners of their own opinions and be able to put their rights into practice. It fills us with great satisfaction to have been able to be at the side of a man like him at those moments before the Black Spring of 2003, and to continue working with his daughter Rosa María today.
He was a very self-sacrificing person who was characterized by believing in what he was doing. He was convinced that he could fight for a better life for Cubans to achieve progress and democracy for Cuba. He was a practicing Catholic and also a tireless worker. In his specialty, medical equipment repair, he was acknowledged and respected, not only in his workplace but in all public health facilities where he went to provide services.
Payá was an example of self-sacrifice and above all persistence, so his legacy extends beyond the MCL and Project Varela; an example as a human being, as a Cuban. That is what remains in my memory and I appreciate all the years I knew him in the midst of such difficult situations.
14ymedio, Havana, 21 July 2015 — The activist Rosa María Payá tried to deliver a letter to the newly inaugurated Cuban embassy in Washington on Tuesday. The daughter of the late Oswaldo Payá, however, denounced through her Twitter account that the officials would not open the door and sent a police car.
The letter, from her mother Ofelia Acevedo, was addressed to the Cuban Minister of Health, Roberto Morales, to request the autopsy reports for Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero.
“The Cuban embassy has not opened, it continues to be closed for Cubans. I try to deliver a letter and nobody answers,” she writes. “Despotism is called diplomacy,” she adds in another message.
The activist also reports that some officials were watching her through the glass.
Rosa María Payá said that vice consul Armando Bencomo refused to receive the letter, although he said he would “communicate with the embassy” [so that they would open the door, but it never happened].
Monday, the activist demonstrated in front of the new Cuban embassy. “This is only the beginning of diplomatic relations that up to now have meant conversations between two elites, people who weren’t there and who don’t represent the Cuban people because the Cuban people never elected them,” she said.