Thursday, July 5, 2018

Justice for the Forgotten: Remembering Oswaldo, Harold and 37 tugboat massacre victims

“In Cuba there are missing and it is known who has disappeared them, the latter are heroes for the government….There are more than 20 murdered children waiting to be claimed and mothers and grandmothers who were not allowed to look for them when they were killed off the coast of Havana” – Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, El Nuevo Herald, March 18, 2005*

24 years ago on July 13, 1994 in the early morning hours, a few miles off the coast of Havana several families risked all to get to freedom on board the "13 de Marzo" tugboat and paid the ultimate price. Castro's state security agents had learned of their plans, rather than preempt and stop the journey before it started, the repressive apparatus opted to make an example of them in an act of state terror that will never be forgotten by those touched by this crime. 37 men, women and children were killed.

Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas denounced the crime, demanding justice and years after he continued to hold the Castro regime accountable. He also called on Cubans to exercise their freedoms. This desire for freedom was intolerable for the dictatorship.

Six years ago on July 22, 2012 in Eastern Cuba two human rights and pro-democracy leaders who had organized a petition drive 16 years ago that shook the dictatorship to its very core were murdered in a successful effort by Cuban state security to silence and stop those who could not be intimidated by threats of prison, violence or even death. Cuba remains a totalitarian, communist dictatorship where human rights have and continue to be systematically violated, and dissent is not tolerated.

Truth and memory in defiance of the attempt to whitewash and forget. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel explained in his 1986 Nobel Lecture why it is important to remember:  "To forget the victims means to kill them a second time. So I couldn't prevent the first death. I surely must be capable of saving them from a second death." ... "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."

It is our duty to continue the call for justice for the 37 victims of the "13 de marzo" tugboat massacre and for Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante. On Friday, July 13th at 12 noon wherever you are hold a copy of the image at the top of the page and hold a 13 minute moment of silence, take a picture at the end of your demonstration and post it on social media.

The dictatorship killed the dreamers, but the dream lives on.

"You can blow out a candle
But you can't blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will blow it higher."
Peter Gabriel, Biko

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