One Year After the Scaffold / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Oswaldo Paya at the entrance of the National Assembly of Popular Power in Havana. (CUBAOUT.WORDPRESS.COM)
Oswaldo Paya at the entrance of the National Assembly of Popular Power in Havana. (CUBAOUT.WORDPRESS.COM)

I waited until the end of the line, after hundreds of mourners had filed past his casket. It was the month of July, criminally hot. In the Savior of the World parish in Havana’s Cerro municipality, the wake was being held for the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL): Oswaldo Payá, 1952-2012.

I bent over the glass of the humble box. There was the national flag, with its ever repressive geometry of blue and white bars, and that red triangle with the star like a predatory eye. The odor of dead flowers was unbearable, along with the hypocritical incense of a Church whose Cardinal is today almost a minister of the already fifty-year-old Communist government, turning his back to the faithful as at so many other times in our national history.

I looked at the face of Oswaldo Payá. He had a bruise on his left cheek. Among the Cuban exile, he was accused of being a supporter of the Castro regime for working for a peaceful transition to democracy :from law to law,” one that would redeem the truth and not end up in the fraud-change of exchanging one military caudillo for another in a suit in tie. In the ranks of the opposition, he was criticized for the virtuoso vehemence of this convictions. The loneliness of that fresh corpse was typical of our martyrs.

I thought about how the life of the young MCL leader named Harold Cepero had been claimed along with his. And at this point it was as if Oswaldo Payá looked at me with guilt, without needing to open his eyelids, heavy as backdrops.

At that moment I had a sweeping vision, inspired by the radio address I had just heard in the voice of his even younger daughter, Rosa María Payá, who announced to the world, with pain but great self-possession, that after decades of surveillance and constant threats, her father had been attacked, as demonstrated by the text messages sent to Sweden and Spain by the two foreign survivors of the “accident.”

In my vision, Oswaldo Payá was taken from the rental car he was traveling in and tried in situ by a military court, which condemned him to death without letting him speak, to satisfy the old personal vengeance of the Commander in Chief of the Revolution who never forgave him for being a free and happy man inside Cuba, capable of collecting more than 25,000 signatures against him, of speaking without fear but without hatred in his heart on receiving the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, and being on the point of receiving of receiving the greatly deserved Nobel Peace Prize (a title that Fidel Castro always coveted for himself).

Then, a trickle of blood began to flow from the left ear of Oswaldo Payá, streaming down his neck to settle in the pocket of his shirt. No one else saw it in the church packed with opponents of the regime, foreign press and infiltrated secret agents (all indistinguishable in more ways than one). Without realizing it I started to cry. The tears ran down my cheeks, I was powerless to control them. People called me from abroad and I reported crying, although I wouldn’t say I felt sad; I was just devastated. What had begun with some guerrillas who executed without trail since long before 1959, now ended with a State assassination, meanwhile investors in the free world are already counting their money to invest, seeing themselves investing as the saviors of the last totalitarian utopia on Earth.

The MCL’s Varela Project, the idea of reducing the tyranny by ordering it to comply with its own legislation, still exists today, and no Cuban official (not today and not tomorrow) will have legitimacy as long as the National Assembly of People’s Power does not comply with what it stipulates, and recognizes that this citizen’s petition came to them from within the framework of the constitution. This legacy of Oswaldo Payá will survive the Castro brothers. And even the capitalism-without-human-right that is being tested today in order to enthrone it after the Castros.

It is quite possible their crime will go unpunished in legal terms. But the lives of Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá (having been torn away as in my vision or in some other cruel way) are already a living gospel, patrimony of all Cubans, so that the violence of the State will be incinerated in Cuba along with the last of the green-executioner uniforms of State Security.

Translated from Diario de Cuba. Note: This is a longer version of an article that appeared a few days ago in the Prague Post.

22 July 2013