Sunday, March 22, 2015

The legacy of Oswaldo Payá and his nonviolent fight for human rights

"Two years and eight months since the unexplained deaths of Harold and Oswaldo." - Christian Liberation Movement, over twitter March 22, 2015

 Two years and eight months ago on July 22, 2012 Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante were killed under suspicious circumstances that over time point more and more to an extrajudicial killing carried out by the Castro regime's security services.

Despite calls for an international and transparent investigation by world leaders including Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and Anti-Apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu none has been carried out and made public.

Unfortunately, the international environment at the moment does not favor such an investigation. On December 17, 2014 Gerardo Hernandez, the Castro spy convicted in the conspiracy to murder four individuals to a life sentence was freed, along with two other regime spies by President Barack Obama. On February 24, 2015, nineteen years after the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down, Raul Castro celebrated the return of his spies and planted medals on them.  The unrepentant spy announced that he was ready for his next order.

Rosa María Payá Acevedo asked the following question in December 2013 after the US president shook hands with the Cuban dictator in South Africa: "Why did Barack Obama shake the hand of my father's killer, Raul Castro?" Rosa's question was answered on December 17, 2014: to free three Cuban spies, opening the US embassy in Havana, and announce a campaign to end the US commercial embargo.

Last month on February 3, 2015 Rosa María before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee provided the following indictment of the Obama administration's outreach to the dictatorship in Cuba:
On 22 July 2012, Cuban State Security detained the car in which my father, Oswaldo Payá, and my friend Harold Cepero, along with two young European politicians, were traveling. All of them survived, but my father disappeared for hours only to reappear dead, in the hospital in which Harold would die without medical attention.

The Cuban government wouldn’t have dared to carry out its death threats against my father if the US government and the democratic world had been showing solidarity. If you turn your face, impunity rages. While you slept, the regime was conceiving their cleansing of the pro-democracy leaders to come. While you sleep, a second generation of dictators is planning with impunity their next crimes. 
Democracy is in decline in Latin America. Human rights are worsening in Cuba and in this international environment it has been in decline worldwide for the past nine years. The policies pursued by Western democracies do not promise a turn around any time soon.

Nevertheless, one cannot despair and the power of nonviolence needs not only to be remembered but acted upon. Speaking truth to power and engaging in effective nonviolent campaigns that topple entrenched unjust systems does not cost billions of dollars. Appeasing tyrants have generated great profits for industries in the past as has going to war against them. This is both the tragedy and opportunity of nonviolence that provides power to the powerless. It can emerge spontaneously but with training, tactics and a strategy the odds of success increase dramatically while at the same time lowering the cost in lives.

On what would have been Oswaldo's 63rd birthday on February 28th a Mass was held for him at Our Lady of Charity and a rousing call was made there to nonviolent resistance in a homily that reflected on the prayer, Our Father.

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