|Rosa María Payá tweeted this photo with her dad Oswaldo Payá|
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).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.
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.