14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 11 April 2018 — Rosa María Payá is one of the few Cuban activists who have managed to reach the Summit of the Americas being held in Lima this week. While the majority of the opponents who reside on the island have been stopped by the police from leaving their homes, or picked up by State Security on the way to the airport or stopped by immigration authorities at the exit gates to prevent them from reaching Peru, Paya, who divides her time between Havana and Miami, was able to circumvent the siege.
At 28, Rosa María Payá has become one of the most visible faces of the Cuban opposition. Her international presence has raised the tone of the attacks on her launched by Plaza of the Revolution in the official media, particularly in recent weeks.
Her ancestry (she is the daughter of the late dissident Oswaldo Payá) and her good relations with US Senator Marco Rubio and the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, have been enough for officialdom to attack her.
The most recent attacks occurred on Tuesday, coinciding with her arrival in Peru to participate in the civil society forums that are being held at the same time as the Summit between the hemisphere’s leaders.
The official newspaper Cubadebate has published an attack titled Secret machinations against Venezuela and Cuba at the Lima Summit, which is based on a supposed letter claimed to be from the opposition to Luis Almagro that was originally published in the blog Discovering Truths. Payá flatly denied being the author of the letter and charged that the ruling party had used a photograph of her signature in a faked montage.
– Rosa María Payá A. (@RosaMariaPaya) April 11, 2018
In June of 2017, Cuban television presented a report trying to discredit Payá because of her links with some exile groups in Miami, “the international right” and a presumed relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Payá requested five minutes on national television to defend herself against such accusations but never received a response from the authorities.
This Tuesday, however, she was interviewed by Cuba’s official media. The Cuban News Agency (ACN) spoke with the activist about the alleged letter published in Cubadebate, and Payá took the opportunity to ask the journalist to ask State Security “who is it who defames and lies about the defenders of human rights in Cuba.”
“[In Cuba we have lived] for 60 years without rights, without the ability to prosper on the wages of our own work and the only party responsible for that is a totalitarian regime,” she answered when asked about her knowledge of the country, due to the short periods of time she has spent on the island since her father’s death in 2012.
In addition, she took advantage of the moment to talk about her initiative, Cuba Decides, intended to achieve democracy on the island through a binding referendum, in a model similar to the consultation that ended the Pinochet regime in Chile. “What I want is for Cubans to be able to represent themselves, that nobody else speaks for all Cubans, we are going to ask them in a plebiscite,” she told the official agency yesterday.
“We are at a point where the regime, the group of generals in power, is in an increasingly vulnerable position. Even though they seem immovable, they are not. There is no other general who has come down from the Sierra to take power in April. Cubans are increasingly unhappy,” the opposition leader told 14ymedio in a recent conversation.
“We do not have to convince Cubans of what is wrong in Cuba, everyone knows, we can not live better for an intrinsically political reason. We live in a system of terror, in a culture of fear,” Payá told 14ymedio.
“Cuba Decide does not want to influence the regime, but rather the Cuban citizenry. We know that we want to force the group that is in power to do what they do not want to do, so we seek to generate the conditions of external and internal pressure so that the changes occur in an orderly, peaceful way, but definitively,” she argues.
Payá believes that the situation in Cuba is not supportive of large groups of people marching in the streets, so she is committed to getting the minimum agreements with other opposition groups to allow them to join forces with her movement. “We are trying to simplify the message to reach more people. We look for points we agree on: Cuba needs a change and with that as a starting point we invite people to join the forces of the nation,” she says.
So far the Patriotic Union of Cuba, the Pedro Luis Boitel party, the independent trade unions, Opponents for a New Republic and several movements of independent churches have accepted the call of Cuba Decides, according to its promoter.
Rosa María Payá thanked the journalist for giving her the opportunity to speak to Cuban media yesterday. “I hope the Cuban government press accomplishes its mission of transmitting the truth instead of serving the oppressors in power and that it publishes our proposals to the countries attending the secretariat of the Summit of the Americas.”
A short distance away, representatives of Cuban officialdom lamented their alleged exclusion, which they described as “malicious,” from the Youth Forum that brings together representatives of civil society with high-level representatives of the governments.
“When we went to the San Isidro Business Center, where the accreditation process for the event took place, we got involved in the dialogue with the representatives of the States and they told us that we had not been selected. The meeting is expected to involve 50 young people, of the 150 that the organizers accepted for the 5th Youth Forum, and ‘coincidentally’ they did not choose any Cubans,” said Ronald Hidalgo Rivera.
In addition, the group publicly denounced the “intrusion of three elements [individuals] of the Cuban counterrevolution” as representatives of the island’s youth at the meeting. And they announced that they will not allow “the forum to be held with these three little people in the room, because we are not willing to dialogue with elements financed by counterrevolutionary and terrorist organizations.” The war is on.
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