Global Online Event Commemorates Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero

Young people in the act of homage to Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero this Wednesday in the Netherlands. (Facebook / Cuba Decides)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2020 — Activists of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) denounced on social media on Wednesday that they were harassed by the Police, in Havana, to prevent them from approaching the grave of Oswaldo Payá, in the Cristóbal Colón cemetery in the Cuban capital.

Wednesday marks eight years since the death of Payá and Harold Cepero, in a car crash whose circumstances have not yet been clarified and which the family has always considered to be murder.

In his memory, there is a world event organized by the Cuba Decides association and the Foundation for Pan American Democracy. The event comprising 12 hours of online transmission from different cities of the world and Cuba, addressed the different facets of the activists. continue reading

The day started in the Netherlands at nine in the morning, Cuba time, with a forum for politicians and young exiles in Europe. Later, other young people joined the tribute from Spain.

At one o’clock in the afternoon, a remote roundtable took place between different Latin American parliamentarians — Mexicans Ricardo Morales Kuhn and Cecilia Romero, Colombia’s Paola Holguín, and Guatemala’s Aníbal Samayoa — which analyzed the influence of Castroism on the continent and honored the dissidents with the sign of the “L” for “freedom” that Payá made famous.

Other tribute events include a ceremony at the Monument to the Victims of Communism in Washington DC; the presentation of the book written by Payá and published posthumously The night will not be eternal and a mass in the church of St. Raymond of Peñafort in Miami.

Oswaldo Payá, founder of the MCL, was the architect of the Varela Project, which, based on the 1992 Cuban Constitution, sought to collect the signatures of citizens to propose new laws. Payá managed to gather some 25,000 signatures to request a referendum in Cuba with the aim of establishing, among other changes, free elections and freedom of expression.


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Xiomara Cruz Miranda Left Havana To Get Medical Attention In Miami

Xiomara Cruz Miranda upon her arrival in Miami this Tuesday. (Courtesy of the New Herald)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 of January, 2020 – The Lady in White Xiomara Cruz Miranda arrived in Miami on an American Airlines flight from Havana on Tuesday, to be treated for a disease she contracted in prison in the middle of last year without receiving effective medical care. Her relatives have reported constant irregularities in her diagnosis and treatment.

Cruz Miranda received a humanitarian visa after months of efforts, initiated on August 14th, as Berta Soler — leader of the women’s group — told 14ymedio.  Ángel Moya (Berta’s husband), has been another major activist on the Island.

In addition, on the other side of the Florida Straits she has had help from other fellow activist: exiled María Elena Alpízar, as well as Iliana Curra and Mercedes Perdigón, both political ex-prisoners, and from others in exile who started a petition addressed to the US congressman of Cuban origin Mario Díaz-Balart. continue reading

“Thank God she must be landing already, everything went well on this side, now we are awaiting her arrival. There is a team of doctors there, focused on improving her well-being and on getting her a diagnosis. The Cuban American National Foundation invited her and will take care of all expenses. An ambulance is waiting there for her and everything is ready to assist her as soon as she arrives”, indicated Soler.

“With everything that happened with Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas any activist is at risk when they enter a hospital, because State Security has doctors at their disposal, doctors who will always follow their orders. We don’t trust them and thus of doctors who do not receive orders from the Cuban regime,” she added.

At the airport, she was received by the Cuban doctor Alfredo Melgar. “First, will get a comprehensive diagnosis of Xiomara and then we will put her under treatment,” Melgar told the New Herald, who accompanied her to the hospital. The doctor asked the community for help to welcome Cruz Miranda and her daughter, who accompanies her on this trip.

Martha Beatriz Roque had also announced the news on her social media yesterday (on Monday): “With God’s favor she arrives tomorrow in Miami,” she celebrated.

the Lady in White’s state of health has worsened in recent weeks, with a last relapse that began on December 26th and extended until January 10th, but it remains unclear what disease afflicts her.

From the beginning, Cruz Miranda has been diagnosed with tuberculosis, but her relatives and friends have expressed doubts to the point of accusing the Government of having inoculated her with a virus to make it difficult  — or worse — to prevent her from continuing to exercise her political opposition. That suspicion aligns with that expressed by Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, who has been denouncing, for months, that the regime has infected him with HIV.

Xiomara was sentenced in 2018 to one year and four months in jail for “threats” in a trial described as rigged by Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White. The first prison she went to, was El Guatao (West of Havana), and  subsequently she was transferred to a prison in Ciego de Ávila.

Last August, the Government granted her conditional release when health problems arose, and she was transferred to La Covadonga hospital in Havana, where she was admitted into intensive care.

Relatives have also considered that the Lady in White has cancer, as mentioned by the Cuban Alliance for Inclusion and the Cuban Women’s Network in a protest note condemning the situation in which the Government held the activist and asking international organizations to take action for her safety and her defense.

“Her muscular pains worsened, as well as the intermittent fever. Doctors have confusedly declared, everything from a disease caused by an unidentified bacteria, to even mentioning cancer. Which has baffled relatives, friends and fellow activists, who request her release to take her to another country in order for her to receive proper medical attention immediately,” both women’s organizations were asking for last fall.

Translated by: Rafael (Tampa, Florida)


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Cuban Regime Opponent Rosa Maria Paya Nominated for Vaclav Havel Prize

Payá gave continuity to the work of her late father Oswaldo Payá in the promotion of democracy and human rights in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Paris, 28 August 2018 — Cuban dissident Rosa María Payá was nominated this Tuesday as a candidate for the Council of Europe’s Václav Havel Human Rights Prize for her work for a democratic transition in Cuba.

Payá gave continuity to the work of her late father Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012) in the promotion of democracy and human rights as president of the Latin American network Youth for Democracy and launching the citizen initiative Cuba Decide.

The young activist, 29, has been nominated along with two other candidates, the Bahraini Nabeel Rajab and the Russian Oyub Titiev. continue reading

The winner will be announced on October 8 in Strasbourg, where the award will be presented, granted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Václav Havel Library and the Charter 77 Foundation.

Since 2013, the award has rewarded the “exceptional actions of civil society in the defense of human rights inside and outside Europe.”

In 2016 the award went to the young Iraqi woman, Nadia Murad, who with other women from her Yazidi community, was kidnapped and enslaved for three months by the Islamic State in northern Iraq.

The president of the jury, Liliane Maury Pasquier, stressed that in this edition of 2018 the inheritance of Václav Havel “resonates in a particular way.” Havel was president of the Czech Republic after having been one of the leaders of the dissidence during the Prague Spring in 1968, when his country was invaded by the Soviet Union.

The prize consists of a diploma, a trophy and a cash prize of 60,000 euros, a figure higher than that of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, which was awarded 16 years ago to Oswaldo Payá.


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Paya Denouces the ‘Theater’ of Constitutional Reform on Sixth Anniversary of Her Father’s Death

A Mass for Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero was celebrated this Sunday at the Copper Hermitage in Miami. (RosaMariaPaya)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Miami, 23 July 2018 — Cuban Dissident Rosa María Payá stressed to EFE that the legacy of her father, Oswaldo Payá, is still alive six years since his death and the constitutional reform under way in Cuba is, in her opinion, both “theater” and a “trap.”

“My father’s words are especially relevant today, as they denounce the attempt of the Castro family and the group of the dictatorship’s generals to perpetuate their power through what my father calls ’fraud change,’ which is exactly what they are seeking with this theater of constitutional reform,” said Payá.

Payá, who leads the Cuba Decides movement, spoke some hours before the celebration of a thanksgiving mass in Miami, held in honor of the sixth anniversary of the “double state crime” whose victims were Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012) and Harold Cepero (1980-2012). continue reading

The Payá-Acevedo family and the Foundation for Pan American Democracy invited the community to attend this Mass that took place in the chapel of La Caridad in Miami, a place of devotion and gatherings for Cuban exiles.

Payá and Cepero died on July 22, 2012 in Bayamo (Cuba), when the car in which they were traveling left the highway. The car was being driven by a Spanish politician, Angel Carromero, who survived and was convicted in Cuba of reckless homicide.

Rosa María and her mother, Ofelia Acevedo, affirm that it was not an accident, but that Cuban State Security agents hit the car with another vehicle from behind, causing the car to crash.

The daughter of the opposition politician said that the goal of the mass was to “honor” the lives of her father and Cepero and to “thank them for their legacy.”

The family, she added, is encouraged by the recent publication of the first book by the creator of the Christian Liberation Movement, La noche no será eterna (The Night Will Not Be Eternal)(Editorial Hypermedia, 2018), and by the fact that the United States Senate has taken up an initiative “to change the name of the street in front of the Cuban embassy in Washington to Oswaldo Payá Way.”

This initiative dates back to 2015 and is supported by senators such as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, she said.

With regards to the constitutional reform announced by the Cuban government, she affirmed that “the dictatorship desperately needs to legitimize itself before the great discontent of the people” and the “imminent physical disappearance of the so-called ’historical leaders’.”

It has also influenced, she says, “the support won by the citizen demand for a plebiscite to change the system,” which the Cuban movement she leads proposes.

The government’s constitutional reform will be submitted to a referendum but, according to Payá, the whole process is a “fraud” and “lacks guarantees.”

She emphasizes, in this regard that, the “drafters of the preliminary draft,” members of the National Assembly, “have not been elected by Cuba’s citizens,” and that “(political) campaigning is not possible (because it is outlawed), nor are independent observers (allowed to be) present), nor is parallel counting (i.e. citizen oversight of the vote count),” nor is there  freedom to not vote without being coerced” in the  announced popular consultation.

But in addition, she added, “Whether YES wins or NO wins, the result is the same: the Communist Party in perpetuity,” because “the dictatorship” has already made clear the irrevocability of socialism and the continuation of the communist party as “governing force of society and the state.”

Oswaldo Payá, winner of the 2002 European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, will also be remembered this week at a ceremony in Miami with the the official presentation of his book La noche no será eterna, which has been available on Amazon since July 5.

The book is subtitled Peligros y esperanzas para Cuba (Dangers and Hope for Cuba), with a prologue written by Payá’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, and its purpose is none other than, as the author explains, “to help discover that we can live the process of liberation and reconciliation and walk to the future in peace.”


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"The Night Will Not Be Eternal" by Oswaldo Paya is Published

Cover page of the book “The Night Will Not Be Eternal”, by Oswaldo Paya.  (@rosamariapaya)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Miami, 3 July 2018 — With the title “The Night Will Not Be Eternal,” an unpublished book by the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, with proposals for Cubans to emerge from their situation, will go on sale on Amazon this July 5 before its presentation in Miami.

Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of the dissident who died in 2012, said that on July 25 the book will be presented in the Varela room of Ermita de la Caridad, where the Cuban exile received her father in 2002, after he received the Sakharov prize.

The book, subtitled “Dangers and Hopes for Cuba,” has a preface by Paya’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, and its purpose, as explained by its author, is none other than “to help to discover that we can, indeed, live through the process of liberation and reconciliation and move into the future in peace.” continue reading

“In this book my father reflects on how and why we Cubans have come to this point in history and how we can emerge from it,” says Rosa Maria Paya, director of the Cuba Decides movement which promotes holding a plebiscite so that the Cuban people can decide what political system they want for their country.  “A process of liberation is possible,” says the dissident about what her father left in writing before being “assasinated,” in her words.

The family of Paya, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement in 1988, asserts that the car crash in which he and dissident Harold Cepero also died on July 22, 2012, was caused by agents of the Castro regime.

Rosa Maria Paya says that that same year her father asked her mother and her to remind him that he had to make time for the book that now is going on the market at 282 pages. After the epilogue, the book includes the most important political documents of his organization Proyecto Varela (The Varela Project).

The message of “The Night Will Not Be Eternal” is now even more current than when when it was written, says the author’s daugther, for whom reading this book is like listening to her father speak.

Paya begins by explaining his “intention” in writing this book, in which he reflects on, among other things, “de-Christianization,” “the culture of fear” and the “assault on the family,” but also on education, economics, corruptions, social classes and the “hour of change” in Cuba.

The last part is dedicated to reconciliation.  The epilogue significantly is entitled “We Must Dream.”

In the prologue, Ofelia Acevedo says that Oswaldo Paya enjoyed his work as an electrical engineer, but his “true vocation” was the “unending search for peaceful paths that will permit Cubans to win the fundamental rights that have been denied us by the Castro dictatorship.”

“Hence, the strength of his leadership, which conveyed confidence, security and optimism to those who listened to him, giving us a new hope,” says his widow.

Acevedo emphasizes that in this book Oswaldo Paya invites us to “look to the future with confidence, to keep hope alive, to realize that by ourselves we can leave the apathy where the Cuban dictatorship wants to see us sunk.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel


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Paya Prize Awarded Without Honorees, In An Event Cuban Government Calls a "Provocation"

About twelve people were able to attend the Payá Award, among whom were diplomats from the US Embassy in Havana and also from the Czech Republic. (Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 8 March 2017 — The Oswaldo Payá prize was presented this Thursday, in a symbolic way, to the IDEA initiative, after Cuba refused entrance on Wednesday to the presidents of Colombia, Andres Pastrana, and of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, who came to receive the award in an act seen by the Government of the Island as a “provocation.”

Pastrana and Quiroga were to receive, on behalf of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) — an organization made up of 37 former heads of State and Government — the prize that bears the name of the late dissident Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012), which was first  awarded last year by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, directed by Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late opponent. continue reading

In the absence of a reaction from the government, the official press, which frequently serves as a state platform to publicize its position, emphasized on Thursday that the presidents knew in advance that they were not welcome in Cuba, and they were intending to participate in what the press called a “failed anti-Cuban provocation forged from Washington.”

“Only a dictatorship feels provoked by the fact that two democratically elected ex-presidents would come to receive an award for their work in favor of democracy, invited by free citizens of that country,” said Rosa María Payá in the symbolic award ceremony at his family home, where none of the international invited guests were able to be present.

According to Payá, at least six guests — among them IDEA legislators and former presidents, as well as the secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro — tried to travel to Cuba, but were not able to enter the country, or to board their planes or even to obtain a visa.

Within the Island there were also people who were not able to attend the event. The artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, told 14ymedio that he woke up this Thursday with police surrounding his house to prevent him from attending the award ceremony. A text message from his mobile phone had previously been sent inviting several people to the ceremony.

About twelve people were able to attend the event, among whom were diplomats from the US Embassy in Havana and also from the Czech Republic. The activist Iliana Hernández, the opposition Librado Linares, former prisoner of the so-called Black Spring, the blogger Lía Villares and Sayli Navarro, an activist of the CubaDecides initiative, also attended despite the measures taken by State Security.

Agents were also stationed outside the home of Iliana Hernandez but the activist was able to deceive them to get to the event by car.

Rosa María Payá (right), promoter of the dissident group Cuba Decides, explained that the award to IDEA award is for their “direct action” for the rights of the Venezuelan people. (Facebook)

Payá, promoter of the dissident group CubaDecides — which is part of the Latin American Network — explained that the award to IDEA is for its to its “direct action” for the rights of the Venezuelan people and to spread democracy in Latin America, which has seen a “setback” in recent years due to the “interference of the Cuban regime, especially in Venezuela.”

“Ending the threat that the Cuban intelligence system and Castroism represents for democracy throughout the continent is an urgent task that begins with supporting democracy in Cuba,” said Payá, speaking about CubaDecides, which demands a binding plebiscite on the Island to change the political system and achieve “free, fair and plural elections.”

Despite not being able to attend the award ceremony in Havana, Pastrana sent a message of thanks in which he expressed the commitment of the former presidents who are members of IDEA to join with the Latin American youth of the Network to “continue fighting to defend and promote the democracy.”

In this second edition of the “Oswaldo Payá: Freedom and Life Award,” the Venezuelan opposition leader Antonio Ledezma — exiled in Madrid for months — received a special mention and also sent a message of gratitude that was read this Thursday at the event.

The former mayor of Caracas explained the reasons for his absence in Havana: “In my case, the guardians of the Venezuelan regime would have turned me over to their cronies to submit me again to the torture of a rigged judicial process.”

Luis Almagro, who was recognized with the Payá Prize last year in his first edition, was also unable to attend that year’s event, when the Cuban authorities denied him permission to enter the Island.

This year he again asked for a visa, but as of Wednesday he had not received a response, so he chose not to travel to Cuba, although he also sent a message to the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, in which he praised its work for freedom and human rights.

“The worst form of interventionism that exists in the international community is to give impunity to a dictatorship, to silence the voice of the people, to prevent them from deciding their future, and  revolutionaries or leftists do not do this,” said Almagro.

In his opinion, “the left that is a reference is the one that faced dictatorships demanding the rights of the people,” while accusing the Government of having “stripped its citizens” of the fundamental principles of freedom and independence that their independence heroes defended.


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Interview with Rosa Maria, Oswaldo Paya’s Daughter / Iván García

Photo: EFE, taken from Diario de Cuba

Ivan Garcia and Leonardo Santos, 15 March 2018 — It is difficult, for the macho mentality that prevails among Cubans, to relate to a woman with bold attitudes that require determination and bravery. Regarding Rosa María Payá Acevedo, freelance journalist José Hugo Fernández said that “she has a graceful, elegant appearance, a candid look.”

This is the leader of the CubaDecides campaign and president of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, who received us at her family home in the Havana neighborhood of El Cerro to talk about the second annual Freedom and Life Oswaldo Payá Prize, on 8 March. continue reading

Ivan García/Leonardo Santos: Why is the ceremony for this award being held in Havana, knowing that the Cuban regime would deploy a campaign to discredit the event and prevent the participation of influential international political figures?

Rosa María Payá: We will never shape our actions based on the decisions and actions of the regime of Raúl Castro, but rather on what all Cubans can do for ourselves. The decision to deliver, for the second time, this award in Cuba is not only consistent with honoring the legacy of my father and honoring the winners of each year’s award, but also demonstrates to Cubans the support of the international community.

We must be able to generate actions, both inside and outside the Island, in favor of a peaceful change in our country, in favor of a change towards democracy, and as I expressed during the first prize ceremony, for this we must move the scene of our actions to Cuba.

What happened this week, where the Cuban regime for the second time has considered the participation of the international community in the delivery of theFreedom and Life Oswaldo Payá Prize as a political provocation, we can consider as a victory, because it made clear the tolerances that still exist, in the international community, with respect to the Castro dictatorship.

García/Santos: In the first installment of the award, in February 2017, the regime denied entry to Cuba to Luis Almagro, secretary general of the OAS, former Chilean minister Mariana Aylwin and former Mexican President Felipe Calderón. On this occasion, the regime denied entry to presidents Jorge Quiroga and Andrés Pastrana and Chilean deputy Jaime Bellolio, among others. How do these actions hurt the Cuban regime ahead of the VIII Summit of the Americas to be held on April 13 and 14, in Lima, Peru?

Rosa María Payá: It is incoherent that there is a dignified position in the face of the Venezuelan dictatorship perpetuated in the figure of the dictator Nicolás Maduro and that the same treatment should not be assumed before the Cuban dictatorship perpetuated in Raúl Castro. The position of the Peruvian government and the Lima Group, declaring Nicolás Maduro not welcome for the next Summit of the Americas, is truly worthy.

The Cuban regime, which describes its electoral farce as transparent, nevertheless refuses to allow entry into the country of two presidents who were democratically elected.

On the other hand, it is impossible to conceive the collapse of democracy in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua without the concrete and active interference of the Cuban regime. I think all these considerations should be addressed seriously during this summit. The Secretary General of the OAS said clearly that dictatorships are not welcome.

García/Santos: Sectors of the opposition on the island have described CubaDecides, and its call for a binding plebiscite, as a “fanciful, ineffective and electioneering” endeavor.

Rosa María Payá: CubaDecides is a campaign for all Cubans and for all non-Cubans who support the right of Cubans to decide. The right to decide about how a nation operates, and the citizens that compose it, to determine its present and its destiny. To be against this basic principle is to be against democracy itself. And that basic principle is what CubaDecides defends.

CubaDecides is a citizen mobilization campaign to change the system and begin a process of transition towards democracy. The conditions for this transition to occur are based on the fact that there must be freedom of expression, freedom of association, access to information, and a combating of repression. These things are demanded by CubaDecides, and if that is not what the Cuban opposition wants, then what does it want?

However, all are welcome to join a decisive struggle for freedom. A fight that will end the day there are free elections in Cuba. The change in Cuba will not come from whomever will be the next candidate, because the change has to be radical and for this all Cubans should have the opportunity to participate in that change.

The CubaDecides campaign does not propose to speak for the Cuban people because nobody else should speak for all Cubans. Let’s ask the people, in a plebiscite, what they want.

García/Santos: The doctor Eduardo Cardet, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement among whose founders was your father Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, has been imprisoned since November 30, 2016. His family has recently stated that his case “has not had all the desired repercussions.”

Both since the CubaDecides campaign and the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, we have been carrying out actions for the release of all political prisoners and specifically for the release of Eduardo Cardet, whom the regime has targeted so particularly.

We are not only worried about his freedom, but also about his physical integrity and that of his family. It is a priority for the Network to take the case of Eduardo Cardet to the Summit of the Americas.

Cuba Denies Entry to Two Former Presidents Arriving to Attend the Paya Prize Ceremony

The former presidents of Colombia, Andres Pastrana, and of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, during their detention at Havana’s international airport. (@AndresPastrana_)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio (with information from agencies), Havana/Miami, 7 March 2018 — The Cuban government blocked the entry to the island of the former presidents of Colombia, Andrés Pastrana, and of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, who were sent back to Bogata on Wednesday, after they traveled to Havana to accept the prize that bears the name of the late dissident Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012).

“It shows arbitrariness and a great lack of respect,” said Rosa María Payá, daughter of Oswaldo Payá and the director of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy that awards the prize. Payá confirmed to EFE that Cuba would send the former leaders back on the next Aviance flight, scheduled for 3:50 PM local time. continue reading

Payá said that they are still awaiting the arrival of “other legislators and former presidents,” who are expected to attend tomorrow’s award ceremony in Havana. This year to prize has been awarded to the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA), a group of 37 ex-presidents and former heads of government.

It was Quiroga and Pastrana themselves who denounced in their Twitter accounts that they were being held in the immigration offices of the José Martí International Airport in Havana, where the dissident leader Rosa Maria Payá was waiting to receive them. Payá coordinates the Cuba Decides projects, which promotes “free” elections on the island.

On March 5, President Raúl Castro asked that the “Summit of the Americas not exclude” his Venezuelan colleague, Nicolás Maduro, “and today, March 7, his regime detains us at the airport and deports us along with Andrés Pastrana, preventing our participating in the name of IDEA in the Cuba Decides event with Rosa María Payá. We demand guarantees for her [safety],” tweeted the former president of Bolivia.

Along with a photograph in which they are both seen on board the plane that will take them to Bogotá, Quiroga later published: “Held for two hours in a small immigration office with two cameras filming everything. Honored to be deported by the Cuban dictatorship as inadmissible.”

Payá said in statements to the press from the airport that the government has banned the entry of “two legitimately elected former presidents” within three days of what “according to them are the most democratic elections in the Americas,” to be held this coming Sunday, 11 March.

“It is another example of the despotic nature of this regime and of this government,” emphasized Payá, who as a promoter of the citizen platform Cuba Decides is calling for a binding plebiscite on the island to choose the Island’s system of government.

The president of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, demanded that the Cuban authorities respect the rights of Bolivian presidents Jorge Quiroga and Colombian Andrés Pastrana

“We demand that the rights of former Presidents @AndresPastrana  and @tutoquiroga be respected and that they be allowed to travel to and enter #Cuba, and collect the #PremioPaya,” Almagro wrote in his account on the social network Twitter.

Almagro also intends to attend the award ceremony and has applied for a visa to travel to Cuba, although he is “still waiting for an answer” in Washington, according to an adviser to the high official.

Cuba’s official newspaper Granma published an article which made clear that Almagro is not welcome in Cuba, and denounced his visit as a “provocation” that seeks to “generate instability and damage the country’s international image.”

Last year, in the first edition of the Payá prize which had been awarded to him), Almagro also intended to travel to Havana to collect the award in person, but the Cuban authorities denied him entry.

On that occasion, entry was also denied to former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and former Chilean Minister Mariana Aylwin, who had been invited to the award ceremony.

Cuba’s decision to prevent Calderón and Aylwin from traveling to the country motivated official protest notes from the foreign ministries of Mexico and Chile.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Paya Award Winners: Former Presidents in Support of Democracy

Rosa María Payá took advantage of the ceremony in memory of her father to promote the public mobilization campaign ‘Cuba Decides’. (@RosaMariaPaya)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Miami, 1 March 2018 — The Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA), a forum in defense of democracy made up of former presidents and heads of state created in 2015 by two Venezuelans, won the Oswaldo Payá Freedom and Life Prize this Friday.

The second annual award of this prize, instituted by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy in memory of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, was proclaimed at a ceremony in Miami to mark the 66th anniversary of his birth on 29 February 1952. continue reading

In addition to the IDEA award, the Latin American Network awarded an honorable mention to former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma in recognition of his career; in 2017 Ledezma escaped from the home confinement he’d been sentenced to in the Venezuelan capital and is now in exile.

Aurora Espina, a Mexican member of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, was engaged to announce the honorable mention to Ledezma and the Payá Award to IDEA.

The formal delivery date of both awards, in Cuba, will be announced shortly, said Rosa Maria Payá, daughter of Oswaldo Payá and current president of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy.

In its first edition, the Oswaldo Payá Prize was awarded to Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), who was not able to receive it in Havana as planned because Raúl Castro’s government prohibited him from entering Cuba.

Rosa María Payá attended the ceremony in memory of her father to promote the public mobilization campaign Cuba Decides, in support of a binding plebiscite for Cubans to decide “their destiny” and the political system they want to live under.

The young activist urged Cubans to annul their votes in the March 11 election by writing “Cuba decides” or “plebiscite” on their ballots and asked the international community not to recognize whoever is elected as Raul Castro’s successor in those “fraudulent” and undemocratic elections that will consecrate “a dynastic succession,” she said.

Payá, who was accompanied by her mother Ofelia Acevedo and other relatives, said her father’s struggle is alive even though his life was “snatched away” by a “toxic” and “dictatorial” regime, and stressed that Castroism is a danger for the stability of the entire continent. If people do not believe this, she invited them to “ask the Venezuelans.”

IDEA identified the six award finalists as: Ledezma and three other Venezuelan opponents, Lester Javier Toledo Soto, Wilmer José Azuaje Cordero and José Vicente García, as well as the Humanist Network for Latin America, along with Camilo Ernesto Romero Galeano, governor of the department of Nariño, Colombia.

The winner is an international non-governmental forum composed of more than thirty former heads of state and government, “democrats respectful of the principle of alternation” in power, according to its website.

IDEA was started in 2015 by the creators of the IDEA-Democratic Foundation, Nelson J. Mezerhane Gosen, its president and owner of Diario Las Americas in Miami, and Asdrúbal Aguiar, its director and former minister of internal relations in Venezuela

In addition to designing programs and activities that support or strengthen democracy, the former presidents issue statements on important and topical issues.

Venezuela and Cuba are two of the countries of greatest concern to the IDEA forum participants.

This was demonstrated in a February 2 statement where they stressed that they remain “vigilant” in the face of the “agonizing struggle” carried out by Venezuelans and Cubans “in their legitimate demand for clean, free and competitive electoral systems and processes, subject to international observation, that will permit their early return to the family of democracies.”

More than thirty former governors have subscribed to or supported these statements, including José María Aznar and Felipe González, former heads of the Government of Spain, and the presidents Nicolás Ardito Barletta and Mireya Moscoso (Panama), Belisario Betancur, Andrés Pastrana, César Gaviria and Álvaro Uribe (Colombia), and Felipe Calderón and Vicente Fox (Mexico).

Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, Rafael Ángel Calderón and Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica), Alfredo Cristiani (El Salvador), Fernando de la Rúa (Argentina), Osvaldo Hurtado (Ecuador), Luis Alberto Lacalle and Julio María Sanguinetti (Uruguay) and Jorge Quiroga ( Bolivia) are also among the winners.

At the same ceremony, a mini-documentary on Oswaldo Payá, made by Adam Hawk Jensen, was premiered as part of The Witness Project, an initiative of the Memorial Foundation of the Victims of Communism.

The mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, and city commissioner Joe Carollo delivered a proclamation of Oswaldo Payá Day in Miami at the ceremony.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Trump, UN and OAS Asked To Not Recognize Transfer of Power In Cuba Without Free Elections

Activist Rosa María Payá in front of the new Cuban Embassy in Washington. (Twitter)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Miami, 7 February 2018 — On Tuesday, February 6, the Miami-Dade County Commission requested that the United States Government, the Organization of American States and the United Nations not recognize a possible transfer of power in Cuba if it is not the result of free elections.

The petition was contained in a resolution supported by Commissioner José Díaz on the occasion of tribute paid by the Miami-Dade Commission to the Cuban dissident, Rosa Maria Payá, for her work as the founder and coordinator of the Cuba Decide campaign. continue reading

The campaign is aimed at mobilizing the Cuban people to organize a binding plebiscite in which citizens can decide on the political system they want, according to an official of the Miami-Dade Commission.

In the resolution, which was unanimously approved, the Commission adopted Rosa Maria Payá’s call for the United States Government, the United Nations and the Organization of American States to “not recognize any succession of power in Cuba without free and multiparty elections that restore the self-determination of the Cuban people.”

Since Raúl Castro announced his intention to step down from the presidency, it is expected that his successor will be elected in a vote without opposition candidates on the electoral ballot.

“The Cuban people deserve the right to decide their own future in free, open and multiparty elections, not by a simulated vote orchestrated by the Communist regime,” said Commissioner Díaz.

Payá, the daughter of the dissident, Oswaldo Payá, who died in an automobile crash that his family believes was provoked by Castro agents in 2012, said that Cubans “need” the international community to support them in order to prevent a “dynastic succession” in Cuba.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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Cuban Faces 2017: Rosa María Payá, Activist

Rosa María Payá, activist. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 December 2017 — The activist, who divides her time between Havana and Miami, directs the Cuba Decides initiative that proposes the holding of a plebiscite to initiate a transition to democracy on the Island. With a degree in Physics, Payá (b. 1989, Havana) has had an intense year in which she has appeared in a growing campaign against her in Cuba’s official media.

Last February the activist organized the “Oswaldo Payá: Freedom and Life” award ceremony in Havana, in honor of her late father, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement. The authorities blocked the event and prevented Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), one of the first honorees of the award, from entering the country.

Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Mariana Aylwin, daughter of the late Chilean president Patricio Aylwin and former Minister of Education in her country, were unable to board a plane to Cuba to attend the tribute.

During the People’s Power municipal elections, held last November, Payá called on voters to annul their ballots by writing the word “plebiscite” or the name of her organization in it. The opposition denounced the harassment against the promoters of the initiative and described the election process as a “farce.”


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Oswaldo Payá’s Widow: “The Cuban State did not want to tell me why I can’t enter my own country.”

Our apologies for the lack of subtitles on this video.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 28 October 2017 – On Thursday, after four years of exile, Ofelia Acevedo, widow of Oswaldo Payá, the deceased opponent of the Cuban regime, was not allowed to enter her own country. Acevedo, an activist in her own right, had decided to travel to Havana to clarify the circumstances of her husband’s death in 2012, after a traffic crash that the family believes was an attack planned by the authorities.

Although the Cuban government provided her with a new passport, stamped with the special authorization that citizens who have been out of the country more than two years must have to enter Cuba, when she arrived in Havana she was refused entry to the country and forced to return to Miami from Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. continue reading

“The Cuban State will not let me enter my country. Despite having my papers in order and meeting the legal terms, I was forced to return [to the United States] on Thursday without even an explanation of why I can not return,” says Acevedo, who spoke with 14ymedio at her home in Miami.

“I wanted to get the autopsy reports for Oswaldo [Payá] and Harold [Cepero, who died in the same crash], because when I was in Cuba I filled out endless paperwork and they never gave them to me,” she explained.

“Upon arriving at the immigration barriers, an officer told me that the system showed a restriction order, so that I could not enter the country. I told him that I would not move from there until they explained to me why I could not return to my own land,” she says.

Acevedo tells how a nervous Customs official asked her to follow his directions. “I’m just doing my job. You must have a job and surely you do it,” he repeated.

In the face her demands, Major Ángel Hernández Báez, the person in charge of immigration, appeared and informed her that his function was “to execute the action” of not letting her enter. “My sole function is to keep you from entering the country,” he stressed to Acevedo.

The widow of the Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá shows the authorization on her passport, granted by the same authorities that later did not let her enter Cuba. (14ymedio)

For hours, Payá’s widow, in the company of her daughter Rosa María Payá, leader of the CubaDecides citizens’ initiative, debated with the official until finally Hernández Báez explained that the return flight was about to leave and that she would definitely not enter the national territory. The officer gave the airline a withdrawal order, but Acevedo was never given an explanation of the refusal.

After the crash that cost her husband and the young activist Harold Cepero their lives, the widow reports that she tried to obtain the report of the autoposy, but that the authorities never allowed it.

“After having taken so many steps and going to so many places the hospital director told me that he would send it to me in the mail, which he never did. I complained several times to the hospital but they never answered me,” she says.

The family has a right to the autopsy report, she asserts. From letters to the Minister of Public Health, Roberto Morales Ojeda, to an accusation presented to the Ministry of Justice, she took every possible action to seek to shed light on the fateful event.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (1952-2012) was a charismatic leader, president of the Catholic-inspired Christian Liberation Movement, which organized the Varela Project in 1998, collecting more than 20,000 signatures to demand political reforms from the government then presided over by Fidel Castro.

The Constitution allows the organization of a national referendum for any proposal signed by a minimum of 10,000 citizens. However, the National Assembly of Peoples Power, under the absolute control of the Communist Party, dismissed the initiative and Fidel Castro promoted the declaration of the “irrevocable” character of socialism, eliminating any attempt at political change through laws.

Payá’s widow says she will not rest until she gets all the information she deserves about her husband’s death and makes “the truth” known.

“I still demand an investigation so that we really know what happened, even with all the limitations that I have, like this one of not entering my own country,” she says.

“I fear for the life of my daughter because their [the Cuban government’s] logic is not our logic, it is evil. They have not changed anything. Rosa María has not abandoned the path traced by her father and they can’t forgive this. They hate my family a lot.”