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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

‘El Sexto’s’ American Lawyer and Two Activists Arrested in Havana / 14ymedio

(L to R) Gorki Aguila, Luis Alberto Marino and Kimberly Motley in Havana (Source: Rosa Maria Paya’s Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, 16 December 2016 – Kimberly Motley, an American attorney, and the activists Gorki Aguila and Luis Alberto Marino were arrested this Friday as they prepared to hold a press conference outside the Provincial Court in from of the Capitol Building in Havana. The Cubans were taken to the Zanja police station, but there is no information about the whereabouts of the American lawyer.

“They were going to give a press conference about the situation of Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto,’ who the authorities accuse of damage to public property,” according to Rosa Maria Paya, president of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy, who spoke to 14tmedio by phone. Motley also intended to take on the defense of Eduardo Cardet, National Coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL).

Cardet his been under arrest since 30 November for “his political activity of leadership within the MCL” according to the Paya. He is accused of “assault,” a crime that carries a prison sentence from one to three years.

On 26 November, El Sexto was arrested after painting several graffiti on the walls of the Habana Libre Hotel, reading “se fue” (He’s gone), and loaded a video to his Facebook profile celebrating the death of Fidel Castro.

Recently he was transferred to Combinado del Este, a high security prison in Havana.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.