Ivan Hernandez And Felix Navarro Prevented From Leaving Cuba “A Second Time” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Ivan Hernandez Carrillo. (Twitter / @ivanlibre)
Ivan Hernandez Carrillo. (Twitter / @ivanlibre)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 11 August 2016 – Cuba’s immigration authorities prevented activists Ivan Hernandez and Felix Navarro from traveling outside Cuba this Thursday. The former prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring were invited to participate in the 2nd Cuban National Conference that be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from 12 to 14 August, but were unable to board their flight at Havana’s José Martí International Airport, where they ran into Reinaldo Escobar, 14ymedio’s editor

The answer that each of the dissidents received on presenting their documents to the Immigration and Nationality official was: “You cannot leave a second time.” Continue reading “Ivan Hernandez And Felix Navarro Prevented From Leaving Cuba “A Second Time” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

Both Hernandez and Navarro had received, in March of this year, special permission to go abroad “one-time” after being placed on parole, a condition the authorities continue to maintain since release from prison in 2011. All those released from the Black Spring “Group of 75” who continue to reside in Cuba benefited from a similar authorization.

The opponent Librado Linares, also a former prisoner of the Black Spring and general secretary of the Cuban Reflection Movement (MCR), did manage to board his flight on Thursday to participate in the meeting of Puerto Rico, since it was the first time he made use permit leave the Island.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) recently sent a letter to Raul Castro expressing “deep concern” about the “violent treatment” received by the trade unionist Ivan Hernandez on his return to Cuba after his first trip abroad.  He traveled on the same flight as the opponent Vladimir Roca and attorney Wilfredo Vallin, of the Law Association of Cuba.

Hernandez was arrested on July 31 and reported that he received a “savage beating” when he refused to be subjected to a search at the time of arrival. During his trip abroad he met with organizations and activists from Europe and the United States.

Both Hernandez and Navarro cataloged the “injustices” and said they will continue trying to assert their right to travel freely.

The Cuban National Conference is a continuation of one held last year, which involved 23 organizations in Cuba and 32 from exile. It has been convened by the Coordinating Liaison Committee composed of Ana Carbonell, Rosa María Payá, Sylvia Iriondo, Guillermo Farinas, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leyva, Rene Gomez Manzano, Mario Félix Lleonart and
 Saylí Navarro

Among the participants in the conference traveling from Cuba are also Eliecer Avila, leader of Somos+ (We Are More) and Boris Gonzalez, a member of the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD). The great absence the meeting will be Guillermo Fariñas, who remains on hunger strike in Santa Clara.

In the early hours of Thursday, Lady in White Leticia Ramos Herrería was arrested while traveling from Matanzas to Havana to take the flight that would also have taken her to the conference in Puerto Rico, according to the leader of the Ladies in White movement, Berta Soler, speaking to this newspaper. The activist was returned to her home where she is under police surveillance.

Event organizers want to use this 2nd Conference to create a “structure of unity of action in diversity,” whose purpose is to “operate inside and outside Cuba, coordinating the efforts of both shores.” In addition, they discussed “the general principles of the new Cuba” desired, an issue that was left pending at the previous meeting.

“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.

 

Rosa Maria Paya at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy

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”

In February 2016, the same violators of human rights are still ruling on the Island. Even more dangerous, this corporative and military elite is involved in a fake transition not to democracy, but to legitimize their total control upon Cuban society, with a renewed image for the international public opinion, in order to attract foreign investors and financial credits.

This combination of the worst of communism and the worst of consumerism is leading my country to dynastic State capitalism, a “Castro-capitalism”, like my father Oswaldo Paya, warned in a book that is going to be published very soon.

It´s a system where the “historical generation” and their descendants, have monopolized all the economic resources of Cuba, while they keep sequestered the political sovereignty of our nation, condemning an entire people to the economic and social scarcity, because the absence of Human rights prevents Cubans from managing themselves.

Is this the Cuba where the European Union and the United States expect to make profits, with the justification that at some point there will be an empowerment of the civil society? This empowerment hasn’t happened, not because of a foreign policy, but because of a totalitarian state that does not recognize legal personality to any Cuban citizen, and, therefore, no one can belong to a business company or civil association or political party.

We do not believe that, what hasn´t happened in China or in Uzbekistan, is now going to happen in dictatorial Cuba.

My father, Oswaldo Payá —founding leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, and winner of the Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament—, denounced this operation of the regime as the Fraudulent Change. He paid with his life for his peaceful activism to achieve the real rights that belong to the Cuban people. On July 22, 2012, my father was extrajudicially executed by agents of the political police, together with my dear friend Harold Cepero, staging a car crash that never took place, in a location of Cuba that remains to be determined. Not satisfied with this double crime, my family was threatened to death and forced to exile, in order to carry on with more safety our lives and our struggle for a free Cuba.

But we do not belong to exile, and I refuse to remain in exile, treated as a stranger by the Cuban government and their despotic bureaucracy, including the new embassy in Washington DC, where they didn’t open the door to me.

Next Monday February 29 my father would be 64 years old. Our friends and I, in person, will be there, back in Havana in a thanksgiving mass for his life.

Death is not more powerful than Love. And the legacy of my father Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero is full of love for life in a free Cuba. Many Cuban lives are still in risk today. This is why we are now trying to open an independent investigation, to stop the impunity, to find out how Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero were murdered in Cuba.

In the summer of 2015 a special report was released by Human Rights Foundation, where all evidences indicate that this was a crime against humanity, with the involvement of Cuban authorities.

We’ll never give up on justice, because there can be no reconciliation without the recognition of the whole truth. A nation that pretends to forget the violence against its innocent people will remain a captive nation. And It will be a nation condemned to suffer such violence over and over again.

Cuba is now the country that many Cubans DO NOT want to experience. My people are selling their houses to escape through Central America, or boarding a raft to reach the United States.

But I’m not here just to tell you about our tragic history, I’m here to ask you to support the Cuban people in our struggle to change our history.

Today it is my honor to be part of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy. We coordinate efforts in 20 countries to preserve and to rescue the democratic values that have been compromised in many parts of our continent, because of corruption, authoritarianism, and the interference of the Havana regime, as in the Venezuelan case.

So, it is time for Cubans to decide our own destiny, and to stop being the subjects of official agendas and secret pacts between governments.

It is time to put an end to the impunity of the Cuban government, which has never been chosen by Cubans in free, fair and pluralistic elections. It is time for the younger generations to assume our responsibility to build together a better Cuba.

This why more and more Cubans are now saying YES to a citizen initiative that claims for a plebiscite in Cuba, through a national and international campaign called Cuba Decide. Totalitarian and post-totalitarian systems cannot coexist with the people deciding by themselves. And this is precisely what Cuba Decide stands for, in order to initiate a true transition on the Island. Cuba must open to our own citizens, who have the right to decide the system we want to live in, after almost 60 years of unconsented government.

Cubans have the right to be asked if we want to vote, in free elections: in a safe frame for peaceful and plural political organization, with international institutions and personalities supervising the process, to avoid fraud. In this, we need all of your solidarity to spread the liberation message of Cuba Decide, and for all Cubans finally to decide our own future.

By democratizing our country we do not need to become another corrupt nation. This fatalism is another fallacy of the regime, a lie repeated by many academics from the free world.

Let me tell you that, as a young Cuban woman, me and many like me, are now struggling to live and love in a decent, inclusive, prosperous and modern 21st century society. Please, join us, in this effort to return sovereignty to the people, to give power to the people and not to the powerful. The last Iron Curtain must fall, and it must fall now!

“Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all men are not free”, said President John F. Kennedy in his speech at the Berlin Wall. “Dictatorships do not have political colors: they are just dictatorships”, said my father until his life was taken.

Dear friends: the Cuban people are not a monolith, to the image and likeness of the Communist Party, the only one legal according to the Constitution. In this new era of “normalization with Cuba”, the table of negotiations should contribute to a true transition and not to the interests of a General in power. We, Cubans do not need that the European Union or the United Sates solve our problems, but we need them to be coherent and to support the right to decide of the Cuban people, using all the channels available.

We are Latin Americans, but we believe in the best principles of North America too. We are Caribbean, but we stand for the best values of Europe too. We are Cubans, but we are Asians and Africans struggling for a better life. Despite the rhetoric of a reactionary regime, let’s not forget that we Cubans are no less than human. And each and every one of the universal human rights applies to us, as much as to anyone in the world.

No man is an Island. No nation is an Island. As my father used to say: help us to globalize solidarity, or human rights in Cuba will always be in danger.

God bless you all, and all our families and countries.

Thank you very much.

Rosa María Paya: Totalitarianism Does Not Tolerate Participation / Leonel Luis Leon

Rosa Maria Payá
Rosa Maria Payá

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”

We have an event with Lilian Tintori, for the wrongful conviction against her husband Leopoldo Lopez and the right of our peoples to live in truth, without any government being able to hijack our freedoms with impunity. As my father said, ‘We can not, we do not know how and do not want to live without freedom.’ And young people in particular have to be supportive of this demand throughout the continent, or end up compromising our future under a sort of authoritarian alliance of the Americas,” said Payá.

This young Cuban woman is the main promoter of “Cuba Decides,” a citizen initiative for the holding of a binding plebiscite in favor of free, pluralistic and fair elections in Cuba. “Cuba Decides is not an organization, nor does it have a defined ideological perspective. For over half a century we Cubans, who are one people, have been excluded from the political, economic and social decisions made in our nation. After the violent takeover of 1 January 1959, authority in Cuba has never been legitimized by democratic elections.

“The Cuban people never chose to live without freedom. No people have ever chosen this, whenever they have been asked in a free, safe and competitive plebiscite, without state coercion or under a culture of fear imposed by the political police. Totalitarianism does not tolerate participation. The ability of such a caste to govern depends on repression at all levels against those whose opinions and initiatives differ from those of the official elite.

“Thus, the option of a referendum in Cuba that gives our voice back to Cubans – wherever we reside — is liberating, with due safeguards so that no fraud is committed: free access to debate in the national media, freedom of association, parallel counting of the vote, international observers throughout the preparatory process for the plebiscite,” she said.

Payá is convinced that only Cubans can rightfully decide on the changes needed in their society today: “And for them to be able to design a common future, they must first be guaranteed their rights by law, in an environment of trust, cordiality and inclusion respectful to all. The transition to democracy in Cuba will not start while Cubans continue to be excluded from the agenda agreed in secret between global powers, with or without the United States embargo, with or without the European Union Common Position.

“Yet to be put on the negotiating table is the key question of how we define ourselves, whether or not we are Cubans. And it is the question of showing ourselves in favor or against the right of Cubans to choose, which is the ‘right of rights’ of Cubans. ‘Changes are rights,’ my father said, ‘the people of Cuba never chose not to choose.’ Thus, it is time to ask the Cuban people, ‘Do you agree with convening free, fair and plural elections, organizing yourselves freely in political parties and social organizations with complete plurality, yes or no, at this key time?’”

The Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy is a space created by young political, social and student leaders who believe that the democratic situation in the region is so precarious that, “it requires organized action by the new generations to rescue the values of citizenship before the advance of totalitarianism, disgracefully, in most instances, instigated from Havana.

“The network has a president and now I have had the honor of being chosen, but there is also an Executive Committee and a culture of debate and participation of all members, far beyond hierarchies. From 2012 to date, the network has brought together some fifty organizations of Latin American civil society and includes young people from some twenty countries, all with the commitment to defend, strengthen and consolidate democratic institutions and the rule of law, promoting human rights and rejecting the distortion and subjugation to any group, whatever its ideological stripe.

“Being president is a commitment to all the democrats on the continent, and especially to so many generations of young Cubans who have suffered repression on the island or who have been forced into exile as a result of it.

“I think especially of my friend Harold Cepero, killed by the Cuban government when he was just 32, along with my father Oswaldo Payá, on Sunday July 22, 2012. To my dear Harold I dedicate this recognition, he could have played this role much better than I,” she said.

With regards to the evils that affect the societies of our hemisphere, Payá insisted that for many years there has been an exaggerated ‘presidentialism’, that recalls the call for ‘direct democracy’ initiated by the Castros, and this has produced an imbalance in the separation of powers appropriate to any modern democratic society. This, in turn, supports all kinds of abuses from the executive branch, such as the exceptional periods of government by decree and the lack of term limits in the top job. All this brings more corruption to the mismanagement of state resources and violations of all fundamental freedoms and human rights.

“In the Cuban case, the growing international acceptance of the norms of the repressive Cuban regime has not brought any significant change in the social and political conditions of our population. The tragedy of the Cuban people is not a problem between Cuba and the United States, and this is much more obvious since 17 December 2014, because Cubans continue in the same spiritual and material misery.

“The current immigration crisis of Cubans escaping through Central America sadly demonstrates that. Inside and outside the island we continue to be economic pariahs who are not invited to invest in and generate wealth in our own country, beyond the granting of some licenses to provide domestic services, which is the ‘consolation valve’ of ‘self-employment.’

“We lack a legal framework to behave as free and responsible citizens, and state paternalism persists unchanged, from decades back. Even those Cubans who live outside our country are subject to immigration blackmail, and those who have spent two or more consecutive years outside of Cuban have to comply with the humiliating paperwork of ‘repatriation,’ or they can never reside permanently in Cuba, something that is technically called apartheid.

“The cruelest embargo, and the one that depends only on Cubans to maintain or eliminate it, is the one maintained by the Havana regime against the rights of our citizens. Cuba has not opened in any way to its own citizens and there is no reason to trust that it will be the Cuban government that brings to pass such an opening.”

Youth For Democracy Travels To Caracas With Rosa Maria Paya / 14ymedio

Cuban activist Rosa María Payá and President of the Senate of Chile, Patricio Walker, in Caracas. (Twitter)
Cuban activist Rosa María Payá and President of the Senate of Chile, Patricio Walker, in Caracas. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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.

Rosa Maria Paya In Venezuela To Observe Sunday’s Legislative Elections / Diario de Cuba

Rosa María Payá Acevedo and Chilean Senator Patricio Walker before boarding their flight to Caracas, December 4, 2015. (ROSA MARÍA PAYÁ)
Rosa María Payá Acevedo and Chilean Senator Patricio Walker before boarding their flight to Caracas, December 4, 2015. (ROSA MARÍA PAYÁ)

diariodecubalogoDiario 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.

Je Suis Cuba / Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo

Image of solidarity with the victims of the attacks in Paris.
Image of solidarity with the victims of the attacks in Paris.

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”

I know what this is, I have lived it. The families of the more than 120 fatally wounded victims will never recover. This November it will not be easy for the French people to overcome this. Like the Christian refugees, who have been lucky enough to escape the ethnic cleansing occurring in the Middle East with less media coverage, will not return to their countries.

And again it is repeated: attacks on human dignity are no longer circumscribed by geographical boundaries, call it jihadism or the Castros’ totalitarianism. Terror has shown the power to cross the Mediterranean, like authoritarianism is reproducing in Latin America.

I fear that the crime that took the life of the young activist Harold Cepero on a Cuban highway should warn us of the deaths of teenagers on the streets of Caracas two years later.

Solidarity is no longer a question of altruism but of survival. We do not ask for whom the bell tolls. As in Paris and so in Havana, it tolls for all of us.

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

“Paya Was An Example Of Dedication And Persistence” / 14ymedio

Oswaldo Payá holding the Transitional Program for political change in Cuba. (EFE)
Oswaldo Payá holding the Transitional Program for political change in Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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.

Father José Conrado

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.

Martha Beatriz Roque

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.

Jose Daniel Ferrer

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.

Dagoberto Valdes

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.

Felix Navarro Rodriguez

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.

Miriam Leyva

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.