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14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Miami, 3 July 2018 — With the title “The Night Will Not Be Eternal,” an unpublished book by the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, with proposals for Cubans to emerge from their situation, will go on sale on Amazon this July 5 before its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

Cuban Government Tells UN Those Fighting For Regime Change Are Not Defending Defend Human Rights

Presentation on Cuba at the Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights before the UN. (@RosaMariaPaya)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, 16 May 2018 — Cuba declared on Wednesday at the United Nations Human Rights Council that those who act internally in favor of regime change cannot be considered as defenders of human rights, since in reality they are “agents of a foreign power.”

The Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, attended the forum to present his government’s report on the human rights situation on the island, as part of a Universal Periodic Review process carried out for all UN member states.

“In Cuba, the law cannot be violated (…) in the service of an external agenda of regime change, of the constitutional order and of the political system that Cubans have freely chosen,” said the minister, who said that those who act that way “do not deserve the noble qualification of defenders of human rights.” continue reading

On the other hand, Rodríguez affirmed that civil society is gaining increasing importance at the national level and that there are currently 2,200 such organizations of this type in the country.

He insisted that civil organizations participate extensively in the design, execution and evaluation of programs with social impact.

During his presentation before the UN Council, Minister Rodríguez defended Cuba’s “democracy model,” which he considered “participatory and popular” and which, according to him, is not limited to electoral processes, but includes effective citizen participation in public matters.

“Our electoral processes are not media contests between elitist political parties, in which candidates make promises that fail, and promote division, hatred, lies and corruption.”

“There is no single model of democracy, nor a pre-established or agreed formula for this concept,” stressed the Foreign Minister.

In another area, Rodriguez denounced that the “worsening” of the United States ‘blockade’ in the economic, financial and commercial realms is the “main obstacle” to the economic and social development of the island.

After the minister’s presentation, the delegations of the Human Rights Council member countries commented on Cuba’s report and made recommendations to the Government; one of the most repeated of these was that there be guarantees for freedom of expression, association, the press and peaceful gatherings.

Several countries asked Rodriguez to extend a permanent and unrestricted invitation to come to Cuba to the United Nations rapporteurs who monitor the progress and setbacks in specific human rights, and to allow them to visit the places they wish, including prisons.

Another suggestion that was mentioned by different delegations was related to the relevance of creating an independent national institution for human rights.

On the other hand, many countries congratulated the Cuban Government on the rights to health, education and culture that are guaranteed to its population.

Hours earlier, Cuban activist Rosa María Payá said that the Cuban government “mocks” the Human Rights Council and that the report presented to this body in the name of an NGO is “fictitious.”

“We are here to denounce the efforts of the Cuban regime to mock us, the Cuban citizens and the Universal Periodic Review process,” said the activist in a meeting with the press hours before that scrutiny.

“The report that the alleged entities of Cuban civil society have sent is totally fictitious, and not only that, they have invented 400 NGOs.”

Payá said that among these NGOs are “the Cuban Federation of Canine Sports, and the Cuban Association of Otolaryngology, which have nothing to do with human rights” and added that, normally, states present a report referencing some 30 NGOs.

The activist denounced that in neither the government report nor in that of the NGOs did they denounce “the reality of what is happening in the country.”

“There is no talk of cases of torture, disappearances, arbitrary detentions, which are still common, or express kidnappings*, which is a pattern that continues, and that the Ladies in White suffer every week,” Payá said, and she added “330 express kidnappings have been documented in the last month.”

In addition, Payá said that the number of political prisoners “currently equals 120 people with sentences handed down.”

The daughter of Oswaldo Payá stressed that, in recent weeks, five sentences have been handed down against human rights defenders, “and even defenders of environmental rights. Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, an environmental activist has been sentenced to one year in prison, for denouncing threats to biodiversity.”

She also pointed out that there are “absurd cases like that of three activists who were sentenced to two and a half years in prison for demonstrating silently in the Plaza Cespedes who were accused and convicted of the crime of pre-criminal dangerousness, a ‘crime’ that exists only in Cuba and that ensures that you do not have to commit a crime to be arrested.”

With respect to Miguel Díaz-Canel’s assumption of the presidency on April 19, Payá said that the Cuban regime “is selling a process of political change when the appointee was hand-picked. In the last elections there were 605 candidates for 605 seats. The ability of Cubans to choose was zero.”

In addition, the activist denounced that the authorities have not allowed “hundreds of activists” to leave the island in the last months, and specifically related to the Universal Periodic Review “at least five” were blocked from leaving Cuba to prevent them from speaking out.

“We have no freedom to enter and leave as citizens, my own mother was not allowed to enter Cuba to visit the grave of my father,” she said.

*Translator’s note: Elsewhere in Latin America “express kidnappings” are abductions where an immediate ransom is demanded, for example the victim is forced to withdraw money from an ATM. In Cuba, the police and State Security frequently detain people for hours or days to prevent their participating in some political or artistic protest or activity, or to cause them to miss a flight to activities abroad.

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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.

Cuban Government Says Rosa Maria Paya is in Lima Due to "Secret Machinations"

Rosa María Payá with a painting of her father, Oswaldo Payá. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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. continue reading

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.

Propagandists of the Castro dictatorship asked to interview me.  Interview with  #CubaDecide by government media: @ACN_Cuba y @VideosCubaHoy en #VIIICumbredelasAmericas

– 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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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 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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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.

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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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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.

Cuban Regime Frees Activist Lia Villares

The activist Lia Villares. (FACEBOOK / MARTÍ NEWS)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 23 December 2017 — Activist  Lia Villares was released this Friday morning after being detained since Wednesday, activist Rosa María Payá Acevedo said in her Twitter account.

Villares, in addition, was fined 500 pesos by the authorities, according to Martí Noticias.

During the arrest, “her interrogators told her that she had committed crimes, and in order to prove it to her they showed her a photograph that she had taken some time ago with two policemen. In the photo she appears with a fan with the logo of the CubaDecides opposition initiative” directed by Payá Acevedo, according to the Miami media. continue reading

In the cell where she was detained, the activist wrote with a stone on the wall “Art Yes, Censorship No. I am free.”

“They tell me that this is a damage to property and carries a fine of 500 pesos,” she explained.

Villares  was arrested Wednesday along with other artists when they tried to attend the staging of the play Psychosis.

Among those arrested and then released were Tania Bruguera, actress Iris Ruiz (protagonist of the monologue that was to be performed), Adonis Milán (director of the play), poet Amauri Pacheco, art historian Yanelys Nuñez, another person identified as José Ernesto Alonso and the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.

The plot of the piece revolves around a person enclosed in a very small space showing obvious signs of madness who wants to leave the place.

The version that was presented was inspired by the events of 2010 at the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana, popularly known as Mazorra, where  26 patients died of hunger and cold. In the monologue direct allusions were to be made to Raúl Castro and terms such as “dictatorship” were used.

The independent gallery El Círculo is subject to constant repression by the regime. State Security also closed this independent space in April to prevent the presentation of the documentary Nadie, by Miguel Coyula, which deals with the life of the poet Rafael Alcides.

Likewise, the political police set up another operation last November to prevent public attendance at the work “The Enemies of the People”  directed by the documentary filmmaker Miguel Coyula, which fictionalized the final minutes of Fidel Castro.

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.”

“To Set Men Against Men is an Appalling Task”

Iván Hernández Carrillo. (Twitter / @ivanlibre)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Maria Paya, Miami, 4 September 2017 — In the early hours of September 1st they did it again. It happened just as it did 14 years ago when, in March of 2003, the Cuban regime arrested dozens of Varela Project activists and independent journalists. This time the assault lasted 10 hours.

Listening to the narration of the vexations perpetrated by the political police at the home of the former prisoner of conscience Iván Hernández Carrillo was like reliving the horror unleashed in 2003, when the repression tried to abort Cuban Spring, as my father, Oswaldo Payá, called the historical conjuncture where the dictatorship felt more exposed and cornered than ever. continue reading

Over two days, the repressors of the Ministry of Interior broke into the houses of most of the leaders of the Varela Project, most of whom were dear friends of our family. The triggering cause was that this legal initiative was getting the support not only of civil society, but also of a large part of the citizenry, which was sufficient reason to imprison 75 peaceful opponents throughout the island. On that occasion the searches seemed to go on forever, as they do today, and were and are brutally humiliating.

Iván Hernández was beaten at the doorway of his home where he lives with his family, in the municipality of Colón, Matanzas province. It was before dawn, when the family was still asleep. He asked for some time to get dressed before opening the door and it was then that they broke down the door and opened it by force.

The police entered with two German shepherd dogs. With great violence they pushed him against the wall while twisting his neck.

They immediately put handcuffs on him with his hands behind his back and did the same to his mother, Asunción Carrillo, a lady of 65 years. Then the two were pushed into the patrol cars, and arbitrarily detained until the evening.

Then the search began, followed by the robbery. About 50 people, including police, special troops and State Security agents, minutely searched every space in the house, including the garbage bins. They took everything they found in their path: both the cell and landline phones, fans, computer, old fax machine, a tablet, the clock, the television, all the family’s work and personal papers, the scarce office supplies, pencils, pens, staplers. Like neighborhood shoplifters, even some of clothes and shoes were stolen.

They also took away all the books, about 2000 volumes collected for years and years, which made up the family’s independent library and private collection. All were books that they made available to the community as loans, completely free of charge.

In this way, the entire collection of José Martí’s Complete Works was stolen, which State Security’s G-2 officials probably have not read nor will read, ignorant of even the phrases of reproof that the man we Cubans call ‘the Apostle’ dedicated to Marxism, as a doctrine of hatred: “To set men against men is an appalling task,” José Martí wrote, on the occasion of Marx’s death.

But, just like 14 years ago, the main message of this police attack is not aimed at the courage of the opponents attacked, but rather, it aims to discourage their families, neighbors, friends, and other Cubans, wherever they live. The message is terror in its pure state: that was the source and will be the legacy of the so-called Cuban Revolution. The goal is the paralysis of our people. The reason is the fears of a regime that knows itself to be vulnerable.

In truth, this cruelty exposes how weak the elite corporate-military perceives itself to be, though by now it certainly has all the power in Cuba and has hijacked our national sovereignty; but it didn’t know, does not know and will never be able to deal with differences, which is why it only attempts to annihilate them.

But the task of exterminating differences is humanly impossible, the socioeconomic system in Cuba failed decades ago and the dynasty has nothing to offer. That is why it represses without question, but that is also why it must disappear as a regime. We are much closer to freedom today than it seems to them with their atrocities. Because Cubans, like all other human beings, want to be the owners of our own lives (lives in truth, not in faked loyalty), to be able realize our most creative ideas, and to take advantage of the opportunities that we ourselves are capable of creating.

For this noble cause, Iván Hernández works with many others, promoting the Cuban people’s right to decide through the citizen campaign Cuba Decides, to which all are invited. The democratization of a country that does not deserve to be left out of the assembly of contemporary societies is a cause that cannot fail. It is the cause through which, sooner rather than later, the Cuban nation will rise.