Friday, July 22, 2022

Remembering Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas: The Consistent Human Rights Defender

“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness...” Elie Weisel 

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas spent his entire adult life defending the human rights of the Cuban people. He founded the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) in 1988 and used nonviolent means to demand that human rights be respected in Cuba. He mobilized tens of thousands of Cubans through the Varela Project on the need for a democratic transition. However, he did not only focus on the human rights violations of the Castro regime and consistently defended human rights in stark contrast to the current government in Oswaldo's homeland.

Two instances separated by a decade involving the United States and Iran demonstrate this courageous consistency in speaking truth to power.

On January 12, 2002, the Cuban Communist Party's daily newspaper Granma offered the official position of the dictatorship on the prison camp in Guantanamo: "We will not create any obstacles to the development of the [U.S. military] operation, though the transfer of foreign prisoners of war by the U.S. government to the base—located on a space in our territory upon which we have been deprived of any jurisdiction—was not part of the agreement that the base was founded upon."

The first Cuban on the island to criticize and denounce the United States for housing Afghan prisoners in Cuba and demanding they be treated with dignity was Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas on December 17, 2002:  

"It's obviously a matter of shame that our land is being used for that purpose, having foreign prisoners brought to Cuba. Even if they are terrorists, they deserve respect. Their human rights should be respected."
Ten years later, on January 11, 2012,  Oswaldo Paya was criticizing the honoring of the Iranian despot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, denouncing both his antisemitism and brutal human rights record:
"Tyrant lizard on the hill. Currently, Ahmadinejad speaks at the University of Havana. It is an insult to the students and an outrage to the sacred remains of Father Varela, and against the virtue and homeland of the Cubans."
"Mahmoud, why do you deny the Holocaust? Would you repeat it? Never again against any people."

Ten years ago on July 22, 2012 this consistent human rights defender was killed in what was a premeditated state security operation that led to the car crash, together with the killing of MCL youth leader Harold Cepero Escalante. Over the past decade his family and friends have demanded an investigation into these two deaths. 

Seven years ago, on July 22, 2015, Javier El-Hage and Roberto González of the Human Rights Foundation released a 147-page report titled The Case of Oswaldo Payá that concluded.

"Information that emerged in the months that followed and that was not at all considered by the Cuban court that convicted Carromero – consisting of witness statements, physical evidence and expert reports – suggest direct government responsibility in the deaths of Payá and Cepero. Specifically, the evidence deliberately ignored by the Cuban State strongly suggests that the events of July 22, 2012 were not an accident – as was quickly claimed by authorities in the state-owned media monopoly and later rubber – stamped by Cuba’s totalitarian court system – but instead the result of a car crash directly caused by agents of the State, acting (1) with the intent to kill Oswaldo Payá and the passengers in the vehicle he was riding, (2) with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm to them, or (3) with reckless or depraved indifference to an unjustifiably high risk to the life of the most prominent Cuban activist in the last twenty-five years and the passengers riding with him in the car."

Less than a year ago on December 14, 2021 a hearing was held at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on "Case 14.196 - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Harold Cepero and others vs Cuba." 

On May 19, 2022 the documentary short, "The truth about the murder of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero" premiered worldwide and was streamed over Youtube.

The Christian Liberation Movement will hold a Tribute for Oswaldo and Harold on the tenth anniversary of their murders at 3:00pm on July 22, 2022 at the Westchester Regional Library located at 9545 Coral Way, Miami, Florida. They have also announced masses to be held in Poland, France, Spain, Mexico, and Costa Rica. 

Cuba Decide announced the presentation in Spanish of the Biography of Oswaldo Payá. With Pulitzer Prize winner David Hoffman on Friday, July 22, at 6:30pm at the Varela Hall of the Ermita de la Caridad. Mass in celebration of the lives of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante will commence at the Ermita at 8:00pm.

People of goodwill that wish to send a message to the international community that the deaths of Oswaldo and Harold need to be investigated should sign the petition circulated by the Christian Liberation Movement. They are demanding truth and justice for their murdered founder Oswaldo Payá, and murdered youth leader Harold Cepero.

Please use the hashtags #PayáVive #OswaldoYHaroldViven along with quotes by Oswaldo and/or Harold Cepero with a link to the petition.

"Those who remove and crush freedom are the real slaves." - Harold Cepero Escalante (January 29, 1980 - July 22, 2012)

"They have told me that they will kill me before this regime ends, but I will not flee." - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (February 29, 1952 - July 22, 2012)

No comments:

Post a Comment