Friday, June 30, 2017

Forget Castro: Next month we observe five years since two were killed that would've led a free Cuba transition

The talk today is of globalization, but we must state that unless there is global solidarity, not only human rights but also the right to remain human will be jeopardized. - Oswaldo Paya, December 17, 2002

History knows the names Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Mart Laar, and Vytautas Landsbergis all of whom presided over the liberation of their countries: Poland, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, and Lithuania respectively. These movements had the solidarity of the free world and the Catholic Church which offered a measure of protection and moral support that made a difference.

Sadly others have not had such support. This is the case with dissidents in China and the moral failing of the West to back Chinese democrats in 1989 in order to pursue commercial interests with their communist oppressors. The consequences are seen today with an aggressive communist regime in China with a modern military that backs rogue regimes such as North Korea. The political show trial of Chinese scholar, dissident and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo in 2009 who has spent the past eight years unjustly imprisoned and today faces terminal liver cancer and the specter of medical neglect while in the custody of the Chinese communists.

The same holds true in Cuba where the embrace of commercial priorities, especially during the previous Administration coincided with the deaths of many high profile dissident leaders. Next month on July 22nd friends, family and human rights activists the world over will remember Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante two who were killed for dedicating their lives to a nonviolent transition to democracy and freedom in Cuba.

Harold Cepero (age 32) was a youth leader in the Christian Liberation Movement of which Oswaldo Payá was a founder. In 2002 he was expelled from the university for his role in a petition drive to reform Cuban laws to bring them in line with international human rights standards. At the time he wrote a statement on the injustice of what was taking place not only for him, but Cuban society as a whole:
"They are wanting to perpetuate something that it is not even known if it is fair, and in this manner they are denying the progress of a society that wants something new, something that really guarantees a dignified place for every Cuban. They are pressuring people or preventing them from expressing their true feelings, they are cultivating fear in the nation."

Vaclav Havel and Oswaldo Payá meet in Prague (2002)
 Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (age 60) spent his entire life advocating for Cuban freedom and consequently in opposition to the Castro regime's tyranny. He exchanged letters communicating with Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel. When Havel passed away in December 2011 Oswaldo Payá remembered his friend stating:
Havel, precursor and guide to liberation in this new era. God receive you, friend in solidarity with the cause of democracy in Cuba. Personally I lose an inspiring friend, from whom I received a great education. Always grateful to Havel for the reception he gave me.
Havel met Oswaldo in Prague in 2002 but Lech Walesa never did and following the Cuban dissident's death observed:
I regret that I never had the opportunity to meet with Oswaldo and personally express my admiration for his courage and his extraordinary spiritual strength. But Oswaldo, although he died, in my memory he will remain alive forever. I am confident he will stay alive in the memory of all, for whom freedom and human rights are a fundamental value. 
We owe it not only to these two Cuban martyrs but all Cubans to remember and place their struggle into the Cuban historical context. Furthermore all people of good will should continue to demand an international investigation into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths of Oswaldo and Harold.

Polish solidarity leader, Lech Walesa sent his condolences to the Payá family on July 23, 2012 and eight days later on July 31, 2012 in a second communication called for an international investigation:
 It's hard to calm the pain and be resigned to the loss of a loved one. It is difficult to understand the meaning of this suffering, when the family is denied the truth about the circumstances of the death of someone close. The lack of official information, the denial of contact with the participants of the accident, raises questions about the version of events presented in the mass media in Cuba. That is why I am supporting your efforts and those of the MCL for an open transparent investigation and to convene an international commission
Five years have passed and both the demand and need for justice continue to be called for around the world. How do you plan to remember and honor Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero?

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