After 9 Years, the Families of Paya and Cepera Await the IACHR’s Condemnation of Cuba

Rosa María Payá (second from left) and her mother Ofelia Acevedo (second from right), daughter and widow respectively of Cuban opposition Oswaldo Payá, flank father Juan Rumín Domínguez, accompanied by the director of the Hypermedia publishing house, Ladislao Aguado (left ), and journalist Juan Manuel Cao (right), in Hialeah, Florida. (EFE / Album Payá)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Ana Mengotti, Miami, 13 December 2021– Rosa María Payá, daughter of Cuban opposition figure Oswaldo Payá, will only say “mission accomplished” when justice is done for her father’s death, but she feels content because the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is close to ruling on whether he was the victim of a “State assassination.”

In an interview with Efe on the eve of the first hearing of “case 9,416” before the IACHR, Payá highlighted that an acknowledgment — and condemnation — by the body of the Cuban State’s responsibility in the apparent accident in which her father and Harold Cepero lost their lives in 2012 would be “very important” for the families.

But also for the people who continue to be victims of repression in Cuba, which, although it has not stopped for more than 60 years, has reached “stratospheric” levels as a result of the protests that broke out on July 11, she stresses.

The hearing will be held on Tuesday, December 14 in a virtual way, and testifying will be Ofelia Acevedo, widow of the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement and ideologist of the Varela Project, Rosa María Payá, daughter of both, Amílcar Cepero, Harold’s father, and the Spanish politician Ángel Carromero, among others.

On July 22, 2012, Carromero was driving a car at high speed, with Payá, Cepero and a Swedish politician, Jens Aron Modig, as passengers, when the car left the road and hit a tree, according to the version official of the events, with which the families of the deceased and one of the survivors disagree. continue reading

Modig made a “pact of silence” and claims not to remember anything, according to Rosa María Payá. Carromero, from the conservative People’s Party, was accused of reckless driving resulting in death and sentenced to 4 years in prison in Cuba, although most of his sentence was served in Spain thanks to an agreement between governments.

Payá’s family denounced from the first moment that it was an attack in which another vehicle was involved, and in 2013, together with Cepero’s family, they filed the complaint with the IACHR, which has taken nine years to convene the first public hearing, although it has had all the information on the case for a long time.

According to Payá, it will not take long to pronounce itself and tomorrow’s hearing will be the occasion for the presentation of the final arguments of the parties, or rather of one of the parties, since Cuba, which is subject to the IACHR despite being suspended of the Organization of American States (OAS) for decades, has not appeared.

“Unfortunately,” she added, if the IACHR accepts the claims of the complainants, as she hopes, the case will not go to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, since it does not have jurisdiction over Cuba, since that country is not a signatory to the constitutive agreement.

However, the complainants will insist once again before the UN and the Council of Permanent Representatives of the OAS with the ruling in hand with a view to “stopping the impunity of the regime,” said Payá, who is part of the leadership of the Cuba Decides initiative.

The Cuban opposition figure, who insists that the evidence presented is “clear” and conclusive “about the commission of an” attack “perpetrated by Cuban state security agents on orders that “could only come from Fidel or Raúl Castro,” referenced the result of an independent report published in 2015.

Prepared by lawyers from the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), the report maintains that the evidence in the case “suggests” a “direct responsibility” of the Government of Cuba in the death of Payá and Cepero, either with the express intention of assassinating them, or with a “wicked disregard” for their lives.

The document compiles testimonies and refers to physical evidence that was revealed “in the months after the event and that was not considered at all by the court that convicted Carromero.”

What happened on July 22, 2012 “was not an accident,” but “the result of a motor vehicle incident deliberately caused by state agents,” the HRF document maintains.

“There is a strong indication that the car was hit by another. We do not know if they died when the vehicle was hit or if they were later removed and beaten to death, which is also possible,” said Javier El-Hage, international legal director of HRF, when the result of the investigation was presented.

The families of the two deceased are represented before the IACHR by lawyers from the Robert Kennedy Center for Human Rights and, Payá added, the Cuban State has not been present despite having been repeatedly notified by the inter-American system body .

The opposition made “a call for attention in capital letters” to all the democracies of the world to act before a regime that represses its people — “with more than 600 political prisoners at present” — and is capable of “assassinating” those who oppose it.

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Twenty Years Since the Rescue of the "Miracle Boy" Turned Revolutionary Icon

The Elián Gonzalez during his time as a military student in Cuba. After the death of Fidel Castro he compared Fidel to a superhero. (Archive)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Ana Menghotti, Miami | November 24, 2019 — Twenty years ago the “little rafter” Elián González was saved from drowning, as his mother and other Cubans who were trying to reach Florida had, but was left in a tug-of-war between the Cuban government and the exiles in Miami. The tug-of-war was settled with an American court decision that made possible his return to the island.

“I would again defend a defenseless child against a dictatorship,” said Ramón Saúl Sánchez, one of the leaders of the protests in which Cubans in Miami fruitlessly tried to stop Elián, who was five when he crossed the Florida strait aboard a raft, from being returned to his father and to Cuba.

“It was an ethical duty, we didn’t do it out of politics or for any other reason. Whoever has gone through an experience like us (the exiles) knows that we were obligated to defend that boy,” adds the leader of the Democracy Movement. continue reading

In this iconic photo, Donato Dalrymple protects Elián in a closet from the federal agents who were searching the house of his family in Little Havana on April 22, 2000. (Archive)

In front of the house in Little Havana where the boy lived with a maternal aunt and other family members after his rescue by fishermen in waters near Florida on November 25, 1999, Sánchez recalls the blow that he received in that house on that day US federal agents burst in to take Elián.

It was April 22, 2000 and the warrant had been given by Janet Reno, then the attorney general of the US and for many exiles the “bad guy” in this “film.”

That day Sánchez found out that the slogan “Elián isn’t leaving,” which had been popularized in the protests, wasn’t going to be reality.

Considered in Miami a “miracle” boy not only for having been saved from the shipwreck but also because his rescue was on the day of Thanksgiving, Elián González, was turned into a symbol of the Revolution and its triumph over capitalism, and returned to Cuba on June 28, 2000 after many negotiations and to-ing and fro-ing in the courts and mass demonstrations in Miami and on the island.

Elián González with his cousin Marisleysis Gonzalez in Miami. (Miami Herald)

Fidel Castro personally became involved in what in other circumstances and countries would have been only a family dispute over the custody of a child whose mother took him from the country without the permission of the father, who wanted to get him back and raise him in Cuba.

Sánchez believes that Castro, knowing that in the United States the “law is respected,” took advantage of the Elián case to “project himself as a defender of childhood,” although “he wasn’t,” while at the same time “deal a blow of international dimensions to the exile community.”

The organizer of “human chains” and actions of “civil disobedience” for Elián says that he always thought that it was the maternal and paternal family members of the boy who should have come to an agreement about his future, not the governments.

However, he says, there was a fact that couldn’t be forgotten: Elián’s mother decided to leave a country in which “a dictatorship was suffocating, and is still suffocating, the people.”

The boy became the center of the dispute between the Cuban exile community in Miami and Fidel Castro’s regime. In this photo his father brings him back to Cuba.

If Cuba wasn’t “a dictatorship,” the people wouldn’t embark upon the sea, says Sánchez, who blames the “regime” for every one of the deaths of Cuban rafters whose “American dream” ended when the precarious boat on which they abandoned their country foundered.

The so-called “rafter crisis” was in 1994, but in 1999, the year in which Elián’s raft foundered, there was another massive departure of precarious boats toward the US without the Cuban government trying to stop them, according to information from the time.

Castro celebrated Elián González’s birthday. (Archive)

From January 1 until November 27 of 1999, 940 Cubans were intercepted on the high seas, according to data from the American Coast Guard gathered from the news at the time.

In the fiscal year of 2019 (concluded the last day of September), approximately 454 Cubans attempted to illegally enter the United States by sea, the Coast Guard reported. Sánchez has no doubt that the reason that fewer rafts were intercepted is that the so-called wet foot/dry foot policy is no longer in force. The policy allowed Cubans who managed to touch US ground to remain in the country and condemned those who were detained in the water to be repatriated.

That policy was eliminated by Barack Obama’s administration during the “thaw” with Cuba and is one of the few things that Donald Trump, his successor in the White House, has left in place from that attempt at normalizing relations.

González still appears at official events and hobnobs with Castro’s successors. In this archive image he can be seen with the ex-ruler Raúl Castro.

On the Elián raised in Cuba, Sánchez stresses that he was “brainwashed” by “those responsible for his mother’s death” and for that reason he seems “almost an automaton,” always “in a bad mood.”

The most remembered face of the “little rafter” is, however, that of the day on which he was taken from the house of his uncle in Little Havana in Miami by a group of US marshals. The famous photo, taken by the now deceased Alan Díaz, photographer for the American agency AP and winner of a Pulitzer, shows a small 6-year-old Elián in the arms of one of the fishermen who saved him, Donato Dalrymple, terrified in front of the uniformed and helmeted agent with enormous protective glasses pointing a gun at them.

The Elián case, which is seen as one of the many disagreements between the United States and its neighbor Cuba, is, for Sánchez, one chapter more in “the long fight of Cubans for their liberty.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.