Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rosa María Payá Honors Her Father Oswaldo Payá: “We do not seek revenge, but we thirst for the truth”

Rosa María Payá Honors Her Father Oswaldo Payá: "We do not seek revenge,
but we thirst for the truth" / Yoani Sánchez
Oswaldo Payá, Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

About five hundred people accompanied the body of Oswaldo Payá to his
final resting place in the Colon Cemetery. Family members, activists,
Ladies in White, foreign correspondents and diplomats based on the
island gathered at eleven in the morning. Dozens of dissidents traveled
from the central and eastern provinces to the capital in Havana to say
their last goodbyes to the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement.

Many of them remained throughout the night and into the morning hours,
outside the Parish of Our Saviour of the World where they kept watch on
Payá's body. Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino at
eight o'clock, before the coffen left for the cemetery. Those present
broke into an emotional applause as the coffin left the Catholic Church,
carried through the crowd outside composed of Payá's followers, the
church's neighbors, plainclothes police and uniformed traffic control

As the funeral procession left the church, several activists were
arrested, including Guillermo Fariñas who, like Payá, was awarded the
European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

The funeral procession moved – at high speed – along the central avenues
to the city's main cemetery, with the car windshields displaying a photo
of the recently deceased government opponent. Among those present, many
wore T-shirts with his face, and formed the letter L – for Liberty –
with thumb and index finger. This gesture is the symbol of the Christian
Liberation Movement, representing its demands for freedom.

The entire day was marked by the same emotion which, on Monday, had
suffused the neighborhood parish that was home to the creator of the
Varela Project. His daughter, Rosa María Payá spoke to the congregation
in the church to assure them that the family will appeal to justice.

"We do not seek revenge, but we thirst for the truth," said the visibly
saddened young woman, accompanied by her two brothers. Ofelia Acevedo,
Oswaldo Payá's widow, also read a brief statement from the Christian
Liberation Movement about the continuity and preservation of the work of
her late husband.

The parish pews were crowded and the aisles packed, to the point that it
was nearly impossible to move. Among those present were many nuns and
members of the Catholic hierarchy. In the words of one of them, "Payá is
being honored like a head of state, at least in the popular affection
being shown to him during his farewell."

Today, in a humble family vault, lie the remains of a man who was the
most promising leader of the Cuban dissidence. Without a doubt, this is
a hard blow to the country's democratic forces, and opens many questions
about the future of the opposition movement. Nevertheless, Oswaldo
Payá's funeral has been a show of unity for the country's growing civic

Crying, shaking, praying in front of his coffin, were the faces of all
his fellow travelers, even those whose programs diverge significantly
from those of the Christian Liberation Movement. The pain brought
together in one place, and around a single figure, those who, more than
once, had distanced themselves due to political and programmatic

The great challenge will be to maintain the convergence achieved in
these two days of formal mourning.

Throughout Oswaldo Payá's wake and funeral an intriguing question has
been making the rounds of those present. One that scrutinizes that
accidental character of the incident where he lost his life, along with
the young Harold Cepero, and that also resulted in injuries to two
foreigners, citizens of Spain and Sweden.

While many insist on pointing to the repressive forces as the cause of
the crash, others prefer to wait for the testimony of the two tourists
to come to light. Meanwhile, the surveillance and threats continue,
raising more doubts about what happened. However, the police
investigation has just begun, and the two survivors will be key pieces
in clarifying what transpired.

For now, in a small tomb in Christopher Columbus Cemetery in Havana,
rests the body of a person whose peaceful struggle marked the most
recent history of Cuba.

24 July 2012

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