Friday, January 22, 2016

End Impunity: Truth and Memory three and a half years after Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero killings

"Three and a half years since the attack that took away #OswaldoPayá and #HCepero. Their hope remains #EndImpunity" - Rosa María Payá Acevedo, over twitter in Spanish and reproduced below
Rosa María Payá tweeted this photo with her dad  Oswaldo Payá
Today marks another sad anniversary that a daughter observed posting a picture from better days when her dad was still alive. The tragedy is that Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas was murdered by agents of the Cuban dictatorship along with Harold Cepero, a young man who was a friend of hers and a youth leader in his nonviolent democratic movement.  Three and a half years later and the evidence that an extrajudicial execution was carried out by Castro's state security service has piled up and petitions made to the UN Human Rights Council and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights but nothing has been done and the killers remain at large and unidentified.

Young members of the Free Cuba Foundation in an open letter replying to Cuban American businessmen advocating engagement with the Cuban dictatorship and the Obama administration's "new policy" of unilateral concessions to the regime that began in 2009 made reference to both of them. The bitter harvest of this approach can be seen in the high profile body count generated. The December 17, 2014 announcement by President Obama doubled down on this policy that has been hostile to Cuba's democratic aspirations.
Cuba has seen rising levels of violence against nonviolent activists and the suspicious deaths of human rights defenders during the Obama presidency: Orlando Zapata Tamayo (February 23, 2010), Daisy Talavera de las Mercedes Lopez (January 31, 2011) , Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia (May 8, 2011), Laura Inés Pollán Toledo (October 14, 2011), Wilman Villar Mendoza (January 19, 2012), Sergio Diaz Larrastegui (April 19, 2012), Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (July 22, 2012) and Harold Cepero Escalante (July 22, 2012).

Both Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá each had the international recognition and ability to head an authentic democratic transition in Cuba. Oswaldo Payá had forced the dictatorship to change the constitution in 2002 because of Project Varela, a citizen initiative demanding legal reforms within the existing system, and Laura Pollán through constant street demonstrations achieved the freedom of scores of Cuban prisoners of conscience. It is important to remember that the deaths of these high profile human rights defenders all happened on President Obama's watch.
 What is profoundly moving is that despite all of this, Rosa María Payá Acevedo continues not only to advocate for justice on behalf of her dad and her friend but also for Cubans to be able to decide their country's destiny in a plebiscite in a initiative called CubaDecide. She will be addressing these issues on February 23, 2016 in Switzerland at The Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. You can register online if you plan to attend in person or watch it live stream.

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