Carromero’s Flesh / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo #Cuba

The phase of foul play against the exterminating Angel of the youth wing of Spain’s Ruling People’s Party will be tomorrow, October 5th, 2012

It’s rumored that his interrogators, in imitation of King Juan Carlos facing some babbling idiocy from Chavez, have forced him to remain silent and not make a fuss: “Angel, why don’t you shut up already?!”

We will see each other on the 12th in the cafe at the Spanish embassy in Havana

Before Carromero and After Carromero

Anything he says will be used against him. His biography itself accuses him: speeder with dozens of fines, entangled in matters of finance, twitterer in favor of the cuts of the Spanish government while dancing drunkenly in Seville.

Angel Carromero, in addition to being a member of a party considered fascist in Cuba (in imitation of Comandante Hugo Chavez), had his 15 minutes of infamy this first Friday of October, when he was condemned in a brief trial (according to the dictates of our Foreign Minister), where no Cuban demands anything at all from this Iberian.

It doesn’t stop drizzling in Havana lately. After the flood of more than a hundred thousand hours with Fidel, the Socialist State is mired in its transition to a Chinese-esque capitalism light, where the only thing that won’t fit well are the rights of the Cuban people, on the Island as well as in the Exile. And Angel Carromero will be a key piece in this unlikely vaudeville against all and for the evil of all. Although the coquettish prisoner from Spain’s People’s Party doesn’t imagine it on his Cuban Communist scaffold.

Only a foreign “enemy” fully immersed in “subversive activity” within the Island could be a pretext for the violent death of Oswaldo Paya Sardinas. A death announced for years by paramilitaries, even in front of his own family (and foreigners, to openly disseminate the terror of such an exemplary punishment). Well then, promise kept. There are things that the Castro regime doesn’t play with. Things about which the Castro regime never lied. Those who lack the revolutionary genes to assimilate this sinister sincerity, we don’t want them, we don’t need them…

That fateful Sunday of July 22, hours after the impact and the text message in Swedish heatedly typed after the harassment, in a hospital in the provinces and without evidence of urgent intensive care, another pillar of the Christian Liberation Movement also died, Harold Cepero Escalante, who survived the crash conscious but it didn’t occur to anyone to take a declaration from him (or to allow his family to see him before he died).

Much less do we know the testimony of the ambulance attendants, forensic doctors, and the security personnel who, within minutes, seized this stretch of highway and the city of Bayamo (who alerted them that the ID card of the dead-on-impact read: Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, putative president of post-Castro Cuba?). Only some half-literate peasants declared with precision on Cuban TV that the death car was traveling at a rate of speed of more than 60 mph: “a tin can…”

That dawn, as Oswaldo Paya Sardinas left home without saying goodbye to his wife Ofelia Acevedo Maura, the apocryphal Twitterer @Yoahandry8787 had already revealed in real time his trip to the interior of the country, misrepresenting that it was an excursion to the beach in Varadero. Indeed, nearly a decade before, in the official book “The Dissidents,” we could enjoy some photos violating the privacy of the vacationing Paya-Acevedo family.

There, a teenager of 14 appears to look into an empty future while her father dives and disappears under the grayness of the sea. It was Rosa Maria. It is Rosa Maria, suddenly become, today, the new leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MLC), the principal moral voice of recrimination against all the violence of the State that corralled her citizen father from the time she was born. Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo, accused before she opened her mouth of meeting false foreign tourists at the edge of the sea for a handful of euros, to fund the youth wing of the MLC.

Not one of the loved ones of Oswaldo Paya Sardinas or Harold Cepero Escalante is accusing the exterminating angel of the New Generations of the People’s Party. The State enterprise that owns the Hyundai Accent with license plate T311402 has not publicly demanded compensation for a single screw of its vehicle. Nor has any rice or forest cooperative spoken out in defense of the crops mowed down by the scars of the homicidal tree. It is a case, then, where legally no one is affected, except governmental innocence.

After the videoclip presented to the press, where a young Spanish politician asks the world not to politicize his case (filmed by the political police, but that’s a circumstantial detail), we already know Angel Carromero’s worst enemy will not be the Cuban State, but the drugged panic of Angel Carromero himself.

At the right hand of his steering wheel, like a perverse character of Perrault or the Brothers Grimm, a Social Democratic Swede snored through the nightmare under the midday sun on a pavement under repairs and a slamming on of the brakes at top speed. According to his testimony and with “European soil under his feet,” and despite his dreamlike innocence, Jens Aron Modig was also taken prisoner and held incommunicado in a windowless room, where his interrogators offended him with impunity, until they coerced him to testify against himself on camera.

From Kafka we know that justice in totalitarian systems is never interested in the Truth, this bourgeois prejudice of the Gospels. Much less in Life, this bizarre statistic. Angel Carromero, the talking cadaver, like the American Alan Gross, and countless Cubans who have been through the experience, declared like a ventriloquist that he still holds out a certain hope that he will come out safely. It’s called self-preservation and is a symptom of the mediocrity with which the old Europe of the 21st Century throws a tantrum.

In extreme situations, democracy is only for oneself. Western Christianity, then, has no neighbors. Angel Carromero wants to be Angel Carromero, even though he’s sunk in a concentration camp or humiliated in the cemetery where two human beings were plunged and disappeared under the grayness of the Sea.

The drizzle will not stop these days in Havana, before Castro and after Carromero. When this Friday the 5th what we all know and don’t know how to pronounce is finally verified, a new Cuban era in the history of the Revolution will commence. We will all be more alone, more desolate, more exposed to the paparazzi lenses that pornographically exposed his family and later expired Oswaldo Paya Sardinas.

As in the foundational good times of a cynical more than civic war, we will go quietly to survive under the obscene downpour. The free exile will be a million euros farther away than now. The pro-human rights solidarity activists will prefer to operate in any other corner of the world. The Chinese scribbles and the squeal of this collectivist language will make a little more sense to our individualistic sensibilities. The unethical etymology of the word “disappeared” will suffer a terrible updating. In a small air-conditioned room in eastern Cuba, the year zero of the Carromero cosmology is about to begin. Praise be.

Translated from the original in Diario de Cuba

October 4 2012

More Simple and Sincere Oswaldo Paya’s #ProyectoHeredia / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo #Cuba

Oswaldo Paya and his daughter Rosa Maria, before his death earlier this year

The Heredia Project can be signed or at least freely disseminated for Cubans and the great media (scaredy cats) of the international press. To the imprisoned national press it’s preferable not to mention it, because no Cuban journalist knows how to read…!

October 17 2012

Declaration from the Christian Liberation Movement Regarding the European Union’s Common Position / Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo #Cuba #MCL

The reasons behind the position held by the European Union (EU) concerning human rights in Cuba have not changed in the last 16 years. The Cuban Government has not recognized the fundamental rights of Cubans. With the imminent and necessary revision of the current Common Position and the possibility of future pacts with the Cuban governments, the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) has a duty to remind the EU that the Cuban people will not have the opportunity to participate and freely interact with EU states until Cuban authorities decide to make real internal changes to promote an open society.

The cooperation of the European Union with the Cuban government, without signs of a democratization process in the island, encourages and helps sustain a system that denies freedom and opportunity to its own citizens. Oswaldo Payá denounced this nine years ago with the following words: “The denial of hope.”

Change in Cuba is unavoidable and urgent, but it has not taken place. The response of the Cuban democracy movement to the attempt of fraudulent change” that the regime seeks in order to stay in power and oppress the people can be found in “The People’s Path,” which has been signed by over 70 organizations and 1,200 leaders, activists and citizens inside and outside the island.

This document contains basic claims that members of the opposition articulate through various strategies and styles. The MCL draws attention once again to the danger that lurks, disguised as legal reforms carried out by the Government; none of the which are democratic because they do not guarantee human rights to the people.

To establish a dialogue with a single part of our society, those who silence and oppress the majority of Cubans, is to participate in the exclusions to which the Cuban oligarchy subjects the people. The MCL does not support the isolation of Cuba, nor an external embargo, but it is also important to denounce the isolation that the people are subjected to by the Regime. We understand that the interests of organizations, businesses and citizens of the European Community need to be defended, but we hope that we can fight in parallel for equal rights for Cubans.

Our civil society, which is part of the people, has flourished in a range of initiatives and trends whose primary objective is attaining respect for human rights. More than 25,000 Cubans have legally joined a plebiscite that demands fundamental rights for citizens. We continue demanding and awaiting the government’s response, in the same way that we expect the international community to demand that the Cuban authorities complies with their own laws.

More than 17,000 people inside and outside the island have expressed their concerns, proposals and dreams by joining a National Dialogue to which all were invited. The result of this fraternal dialogue is the Transitional Program, which is not set in stone, but which is a concrete platform to build on in an orderly and peaceful fashion to bring democracy to our country.

The lack of freedom of association, expression, choice and mobility blocks any real and effective participation of the people in the construction of their present and future.

Free elections should be conducted, they must include every political current in our nation. That is the message that Cubans expect the democracies of the world to send to those who are trying to perpetuate the Dictatorship in Cuba. We cannot speak of real change because we Cubans still cannot freely enter and leave the island, we cannot decide what kind of education to give our children, we do not have sovereignty of our private property, many of us are imprisoned for expressing our ideas or proposing our social and political projects; real change will come with our human rights.

The repression and aggressiveness with which the Cuban Government, through the organs of State Security, oppresses those who peacefully oppose, have intensified in recent times. This fact has been sadly demonstrated in the violent – and still unexplained – car crash, which took the life of our general coordinator Oswaldo Payá Sardinas, who was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2002, and one of our younger leaders, Harold Cepero Escalante. There has been a complete lack of information about what occurred.

Other examples are the many and frequent death threats that were made to Oswaldo Payá by the political police, the current intimidation of his family and the abuses that members of our movement are subjected to, as well as the constant beatings and arbitrary arrests of many other members of the Cuban democracy movement.

Those who participate and work on the Path of the People and the legal democratic initiatives that we promote, suffer constant harassment. In addition, many independent journalists, bloggers, dissidents and democracy activists across the Island are also harassed and mistreated daily.

We urge the international community, the European Union and its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, Catherine Ashton, to work in solidarity with us, to be consistent and coherent with the democratic traditions of their own nations, and to demand a respectful, honest and direct dialogue to promote the interests of all Cubans.

This is only possible if the law and practice guarantee fundamental freedoms, which are not respected today. We hope the European Union will join the Cuban democracy movement in support of the demands expressed in The Path of the People, in our demand for transparency for Cuba, and in the beginning of the real changes that our people want and need.


Christian Liberation Movement
Havana, November 20, 2012

The Inheritance of Rosa Maria Paya / Mario Lleonart

Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

My first direct contact with the Payá family was very unfortunately this. I was totally dissatisfied when during the confused seconds before the coffin I offered brief and protocol words of sympathy they received as from one more stranger among the immense line offering tribute from so many hearts.

Because of that I did waste another fleeting moment and in the morning, well near dawn on the difficult day of the funeral, but that was one of the most solemn moments and this time far from all protocol. Rosa María Payá, that young girl from the photo on the beach, now without her loving dad, was alone for a moment in the first bench on the left of the parish, which was always occupied by the immediate family, all wearing black clothes sign of intense mourning that covered their souls.

I went with the same unwavering strength as the day before, this time not to break a police cordon, but to deal with a young soul shattered by the loss of her irreplaceable privileged father. My words were brief but came from the depths of my soul, this was more or less my message: “You don’t know me Rosa Maria but my name is Mario Felix and I’m simply a Baptist pastor in a remote village of Villa Clara. I am here because yesterday at about this same time of the morning I heard on the radio your words expressing your dismay and dissatisfaction with the way your father died. They were so shocking to me that made me cross the distance to get here. I think you inherited the same light that your father reflected and I just wanted to say: Let it shine.”

And that was it. But amid her grief she seemed to appreciate through her tears a strong flash of light to which I had just referred. A few hours later Maria Rosa illuminated the entire parish overshadowing all the words, including the homily that Cardinal Jaime Ortega had just pronounced.

Dead silence, broken only by the countless cameras flashes showed the attention that everyone focused on her. The content of her words and the way they broke through in the middle of so much pain proved to me that morning that I was right and I knew at once that if someone had thought that with the physical death of Oswaldo they could put an end to his legacy they were totally wrong because we were looking at the representation of the generation that shall reap the fruit of the seed of liberation he had so deftly planted.

November 8 2012

Update on Arrest of Yoani Sanchez, Reinaldo Escobar, Agustin Lopez (and others?) in Bayamo

Police blockades outside the court. Source: EFE

Site manager’s note: The following excerpts are translated from an article in Cubaencuentro.  In addition, an official government blogger reported that Yoani traveled to Bayamo intending to disrupt and put on a “media show” at the trial of Angel Carromero, who was driving the car in which Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero were killed.

For those who are unaware, Yoani is a correspondent for the Spanish newspaper El Pais, and was intending to cover the trial. Oswaldo Paya’s children also traveled to Bayamo, and according to tweets from Rosa Paya, his daughter, they have been prevented from attending the trial. Also note, Agustin Lopez has been reported in some tweets to be Agustin “Diaz.” Finally, the Paya and the Cepero families have specifically stated that they do not hold Angel Carromero responsible for the car crash.

From Cubaencuentro:

The well-known Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez and her husband, thejournalist Reinaldo Escobar, among other activitists, have been arrested this Thursday in Bayama, reported the official journalist Garcia Ginarte and it has been confirmed in Twitter by several sources on the Island.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo on his account on the social network, who says he received the information from Teo, Sanchez and Escobar’s son. According to what Teo Escobar told the blogger, the activists were detained at 6:00 in the afternoon and were not permitted to make telephone calls until 3:00 in the morning, the time when his parents called him to report their arrest.

5 October 2012


Response to Fernando Ravsberg / Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo

Rosa Maria from her Facebook page

Fernando Ravsberg, correspondent for the BBC in Cuba, has published an extension of the misrepresentations, manipulations and deceits with which the Cuban official media have sought to confuse the Cuban people and the rest of the world for over half a century. He has published it in his own blog, perhaps because the daily four pages that the newspaper Granma— the Communist Party’s organ — publishes were already full.

This time, to the falsehoods copied from the Round Table (the government’s political talk show) and to the absurd accident theory that the government provides to explain the deaths of my father, Oswaldo Paya, and of Harold Cepero, Fernando adds some entanglements of his own invention. He claims that Angel Carromero, the young Spaniard who was driving the car, and Aron Modig, the young Swede also in the car, traveled to the island to proselytize and to distribute money.

Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero. Source:

My friend, Harold Cepero recently wrote that “those who have the courage and freedom to choose a path of peaceful political work know they are exposed to nothing short of absolute solitude, labor exclusion, persecution, imprisonment or death.” His life and death are sincere and radical confirmation of his thought.

Ravsberg chooses not to mention that most Cuban dissidents lose their jobs, that they and their families are treated as social pariahs and are condemned to misery, especially outside Havana, where the foreign press is not interested to go. Instead, Fernando highlights the hypocritical moral debate regarding whether or not the opposition should be provided material support, as if elsewhere and in other times, during the struggles in oppressed societies, with many examples in Cuba’s history, regime opponents had not been positively supported by sympathizers and exiled communities.

Fernando Ravsberg. From

I wonder how many countries of the world Ravsberg knows where dissidents cannot travel freely in their own country because their names are in all police stations and airports. In what other dark corners of the planet do political police stop opposition members from meeting through blackmail, threats, beatings, arrests or “accidents.” This is the reason why young supporters who came to meet my father sometimes facilitated transport for him. This fact is far from the version that this reporter from the BBC and the Cuban government are determined to sustain.

Fernando lies intentionally because he knew my father very well and is aware that no one could give him orders on how to organize the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), a movement with 24 years of history with young members who have a clear vision and path. My father enjoyed freedoms that Fernando probably has never experienced despite coming from a democratic country: the freedom to live responsibly, to be consistent with one’s principles, thoughts and feelings, to be illuminated by his faith, these freedoms know no owners.

Mr. Ravsberg employs the most cynical colonialist tone to discuss the concerns of my people, simplifying us, saying that us, “the cubanitos”, will have enough if food appears in the markets and buses at the bus stops. Subtly he adds himself to an orgy of lies which aims to entertain the public, with a façade of poorly implemented economic reforms, which cover the fraudulent change my father often denounced.
Ravsberg, you enjoy the privileges that come with living in Cuba as a foreigner, you live above the disadvantages of all Cubans.

Your children can get in and out of the island, as they live their lives in Spain, but my brother has not been able to go meet his uncles in Madrid. I wonder if you have had to wait 5 years to visit your son, that’s the punishment doctors receive when they decide to live Cuba. You’re so used to ignoring these disadvantages that you dare to suggest Cubans do not care about human rights. How dare you despise people in such a racist way, the people you have lived off for so many years?

Thank God that today there are many initiatives in the cultural, political and social fields that manifest the dissatisfaction of the Cuban people and promote peaceful change. I would like to remind you that the Varela Project is supported by over 25,000 signatories, and it continues to exist because it intends to make changes in the law and not in the constitution, its purpose is to realize basic rights we still must conquer.

Thousands are signing the Heredia Project, which aims to give the people the right to leave and enter Cuba freely, to reside in any part of the country. It demands a stop to the humiliating internal deportations Cubans suffer and seeks to guarantee equal opportunities without exclusions due to ideology and to provide internet access to all at a price that the people can pay. These are independent and spontaneous initiatives that reflect the aspirations of many citizens.

Cubans, inside and outside the island, need our basic rights to design and build the Cuba we want. Our ingenuity, hard work and skills, which have been demonstrated even in times of crisis, are proof that we will be prosperous despite the destruction 50 years of communism will leave behind.

I assure you, Mr. Ravsberg, the food and the buses will come when we Cubans have our right to work for the right price and have real economic, social and political opportunities that allow us to participate in the process of building our own future. This is why we are fighting for our rights; this is the freedom we are demanding. We are getting closer to obtaining it because even those who persecute us, those whom you serve, are also our brothers, they are also Cubans and will benefit from democracy.

You have been in my house many times and now pretend not to remember how to spell my father’s name, a technique you have learned from the Roundtable. You have used my father’s name to supplant the truth, and have offended his memory, my family, the entire opposition and all Cubans. That is too low even for a correspondent for the Roundtable.

Translated by Cleonte

5 September 2012

News Conference by Rosa María Payá Acevedo Regarding Her Father’s Death / Rosa María Payá Acevedo

Today, I do not intend to give another version of what happened, we are not accusing anyone at this time.

The facts I will communicate below were read by Captain Fulgencio Medina, a criminal investigator, in a room at Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Hospital in Bayamo, the evening of Sunday 22 July. I will not narrate how these reports have reached our hands because we do not want to expose to pressure from State Security the people who, in solidarity with our family, have sent us this information.

According to what they told us, Captain Fulgencio Medina read the statements spoken by the witnesses of the events that took the life of my father and Harold; he relayed the following to all those present in one of the rooms of the hospital. The captain said he was going to tell what happened, reading the witness statements, he said.

The witness on the bike and the witness in the tractor said there was a red Lada [a Russian make car] traveling parallel to the wrecked car. For a moment, the wrecked car got ahead of the rest, the bicycle, the tractor and the red Lada, then the pavement ended and the gravel covered terrain started. The cyclist said that all he saw was the dust when the car fell (and that seemed normal to him.) The driver of the tractor commented that it seemed as if something had happened.

The officer said another tractor was coming from the other direction but apparently the road was wide enough and the tractor was far enough away to avoid causing any reaction in Angel’s driving. There was no danger of collision between the two.

The individuals from the red Lada came to the rescue, according to the words of the witnesses on the bicycle and in the tractor. The officer said that the witnesses declared that when the individuals from the red Lada came to aid the Spanish man, he reacted by saying, “Who are you and why are you doing this to us?” First, they took the Spanish man out, and there was another man complaining inside the car (apparently, this was Harold), he had a very sore leg and was touching his own chest, as if it hurt a lot. They did not do anything with the other person because they said that they touched him and realized he was dead.

The individuals from the red Lada took the foreigners out and then they took out a cell phone that they had and said: “Send an ambulance over, there has been an accident.” At that time a blue van arrived and picked up some of the injured and drove them to the hospital.

They received a call from the girl and said they did not know who the phone belonged to because everything was a mess. First a traffic police officer responds and then the coroner speaks. Fulgencio Medina said he knew the daughter had called because the coroner that had been in the ambulance talked to her.

This ends the information we have received about what Captain Fulgencio Medina said that evening in that room where officers and other persons were present.

It seems very strange to us:

1. That a coroner was present in the ambulance.

2. That none of the official versions mention this red Lada or the people traveling in it.

3. If there was no red Lada, who would have called the ambulance? [Translators note: it is not common in Cuba to call an ambulance or have ‘ phone numbers, rather people offer rides to the medical centers.]

4. The reaction Ángel had when he was assisted, according to witnesses.

5. Who determined and how was it determined that my father was dead so early during the events.

We have received other information which narrates that the ambulance was ordered by a lieutenant colonel and that in one ambulance they took Harold to the hospital after making ??a stop at a children’s hospital. We also have information regarding the doctor who attended Harold (nicknamed “The Kid”, son of Dr. Pérez Profet) According to this information he was heard expressing disdain for Harold. He told the other doctors and nurses that these people were bringing drugs to Santiago and that they were planning to plant bombs.

I have questions regarding the care my friend received in the hospital.

We have been informed that Ángel arrived at the hospital accompanied by an officer who said he was an eyewitness to the accident, and that at that point Ángel said twice that the car had been hit from behind.

I wonder, if this officer was a witness:

1. What was he doing at the place of the events?

2. If it was he who called, why didn’t he take the injured men in his car?

3. How did he know the hospital’s phone number?

4. Was he one of the individuals from the red Lada?

I also have doubts regarding the technical condition of the car in which my father and Harold were traveling.

They did not allow our friends, the people who represented our family, to see my father’s body until after 8 pm. They told us that the corpse had a syringe placed at the top of the leg, a shirt, his jeans and shoes and that at that time they saw it, the body was still without any form of conservation treatment, or refrigeration.

Regarding the state of Harold, a physician told our friends that the boy was going to die because he had suffered brain death. This information does not match the official version regarding the cause of death of Harold Cepero. It is also very strange because witnesses claimed they saw a conscious Harold according to information we received about the words read by Captain Fulgencio Medina. Our friends did not have access to the survivors until after Ángel was sedated so they were never able to talk to him. With Aron they were barely able to communicate because they do not speak English.

Aron, Ángel and I met Friday afternoon and talked, as three young people with social concerns converse, without interventionist agendas or money involved.

My father faced the power of a state, a totalitarian state with 53 years of experience. And that state has been bringing all its force to bear against a family, my family, since many years ago. I fear deeply for the lives of my brothers, my mother and my family. I reiterate that I hold the government responsible for the physical integrity of the members of my family.

We count on the support of many within and outside Cuba, we thank you all deeply. On the other hand, we know that these events have become a matter of international affairs, we know that sometimes between governments agreements are reached and they remain silent, but while others will remain silent, we will not, neither will we stop seeking the truth even if it means we will end up alone. My father, the Christian Liberation Movement and my family have been alone before, we are not afraid of loneliness.

We know, because we seem to have been touching it in recent days, that only evil fears the truth.

Translated by Cleonte

August 1, 2012

Cuban Opposition Leader Oswaldo Payá Dies in Car Crash / Yoani Sánchez

Oswaldo Paya, head of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba

At five in the afternoon on July 22, the death of opposition leader and founder of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) Oswaldo Payá was confirmed. The news started as a rumor that spread during the early hours of Sunday afternoon.

Known nationally and internationally for organizing and carrying out the Varela Project, his death at the age of 60 is a hard blow to the pro-democracy forces in Cuba. Social networks quickly did their utmost to spread the news and the hashtag #OswaldoPaya trended globally. The renowned dissident lost his life in a car accident — the facts of which are still unclear — which occurred around 1:50 pm local time.

The incident took place a few miles from the city of Bayamo in the eastern province of Granma, which is about 500 miles from Havana. Near the small town of La Gabina the car left the road and rolled until it hit a tree. It remains to be confirmed if, before the impact, it was hit by another vehicle, as claimed by several sources, or if the driver lost control, as claimed in the official version.

Payá was in the car with the dissident activist Harold Cepero who also died some hours after the accident. The two Cubans were traveling accompanied by two foreigners, the Spaniard Angel Carromero, 27, and the Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig, 27. Carromero is a lawyer and advisor to the City of Madrid, and secretary of the New Generations of the People’s Party in the Spanish capital. Modig chairs the Christian Democrat Youth League.

All were taken to the Professor Carlos Manuel Clinical Surgery Hospital in Bayamo, where hospital officials said that Oswaldo Payá was already dead when he arrived. After hours of incomplete reports, his wife Ofelia Acevedo was notified of his death through a Catholic Church source.

The two injured have been hospitalized in the same facility and, according to confirmations from El Pais newspaper, only suffered minor injuries. The entire hospital is surrounded by a heavy police operation, and it is impossible to communicate by telephone with the room where both Angel Carromero and Jens Aron Modig are being treated.

Rosa María Payá, the daughter of the deceased dissident, told several media that “they wanted to hurt” her father, “and ended up killing him.” Similar suspicions are growing among opposition figures as well, but will have to wait for the testimony of the two survivors and for the results of police investigations.

The Varela Project

In 2002 Oswaldo Payá received the European Parliament’s Sakharov prize, which was specially awarded for his work on the Varela Project. This initiative proposed a constitutional amendment under a process supported by legislation then in force on the Island. Through the Varela Project, he proposed the holding of a national referendum to allow free association, freedom of expression and of the press, called for free elections, promoted freedom to engage in business, and called for an amnesty for political prisoners.

Together with other members of the Christian Liberation Movement and activists of the banned opposition, Payá managed to present the National Assembly of People’s Power some 11,000 signatures on March 10, 2002. Two years later another 14,000 signatures were added, but the Cuban government rejected the demand for a popular referendum.

Instead, the official response was to declare the socialist character of the country’s prevailing system irrevocable, in a gesture that was popularly called the “constitutional mummification.” Surveillance and repression around Payá increased from that date, including arrests, threats and repudiation rallies in front of his house.

In March 2003, when the Black Spring occurred, about 40 members of the MLC were among the 75 defendants. Their sentences ranged from 6 to 28 years in prison on charges of violating national sovereignty. The vast majority of them had to wait to be released until 2010, when an unprecedented dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Cuban government ended with the freeing of these dissidents. Although Payá was not arrested or prosecuted, during all this time he did not cease to denounce the situation of the convicted activists.

Secularism and civility

Born in 1952 and raised in a family with a strong Catholic tradition, Oswaldo Payá had a religious upbringing. He attended a Marist Brothers school until 1961, at which time it was taken over by Fidel Castro’s government. When he was just 16 he did his military service and during that stage of his life was punished for refusing to transport a group of political prisoners. That refusal caused him to be sent to serve three years hard labor on the Isle of Pines.

On finishing this sentence he joined a parish youth group in his neighborhood of Cerro. Indeed his outstanding labor as a layperson led him to work on the process of Cuban Ecclesiastic Reflection (REC) and he served as delegate to the Cuban National Ecclesiastic Meeting (ENEC) in 1986. In parallel to his opposition activities he continued to work as a specialist in electrical equipment for a State agency. He had graduated as a telecommunications engineer.

In 1988 Payá founded the Christian Liberation Movement that quickly became one of the most important organizations of the nascent Cuban civil society. He also participated in drafting the Transitional Program to promote political change in the largest of the Antilles. From his status as a prominent leader he signed the Todos Unidos [Altogether] manifesto and served as coordinator for its rapporteur commission.

In 2009 he developed a Call for the National Dialogue and at the time of his death was championing an initiative to allow Cubans to freely enter and leave their own country. But his breakthrough as an opponent had come with the creation and dissemination of the Varela Project, an initiative that began to be developed by the MCL in 1998.

For his work he was awarded the W. Averell Harriman Prize, awarded annually by the National Democratic Institute in Washington and the Homo Homini Award of the Czech foundation People in Need. New York’s Columbia University named him an honorary Doctor of Laws and he was nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize. He was received in Rome by Pope John Paul II during the same trip that took him to the European parliament ceremony for the Sakharov Prize.

On his death he left three children, Oswaldo José, Rosa María, and Reinaldo Isaías, and also his widow Ofelia Acevedo.

With the death of Oswaldo Payá the Cuban opposition loses one of its most outstanding figures in both the national and international arenas. Gone, physically, is a politician of great importance for the political transition in the island, a prominent layman in the Catholic Church, and a man who was a bridge between the Cuban diaspora and the nation.

The body of Oswaldo Payá will be transferred to Havana where there will be a wake in the parish of Cerro, the neighborhood where he lived.

23 July 2012