Thursday, April 25, 2013

What Cuba does to its own people

What Cuba does to its own people
The daughter of pro-democracy activist Oswaldo Payá tells the story of
his death at the hands of state security
By Rosa María Payá Acevedo / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, April 25, 2013, 3:41 AM

On July 22, 2012, Cuban pro-democracy activists Oswaldo Payá and Harold
Cepero of the Christian Liberation Movement were killed in a car crash
near the town of Bayamo as they and two European visitors were traveling
to visit fellow dissidents. Although Cuban authorities claimed the crash
was an accident, one of the survivors, visiting Spanish politician Ángel
Carromero, later confirmed that government functionaries ran the car off
the road — and subsequently coerced him to sign off on their version of
events. Oswaldo Payá's daughter, Rosa María, has called for an
independent investigation by the United Nations and the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights. Below is her account of the events
surrounding her father's death.

I knew right away that the deaths of my father and Harold were not an
accident. Text messages sent by the two survivors of the crash to Madrid
and Stockholm saying that they had been rammed and pushed off the road
were our first clue. And earlier death threats on the part of the Cuban
government's state security services were all at once solidified in our

As the days passed, information started to come in from various sources.
There were affidavits of witnesses read by the police captain, Fulgencio
Medina, on the night of July 22 in front of my friends saying that there
was at least one other car involved (a red Lada). There were tweets
posted by state security officials in which it was clear that they had
been following my father since the morning of the crash.

Then I met with the young Spaniard, Ángel Carromero, who was driving
that car. He confirmed to me that they were constantly being followed by
state security cars and that, at one spot on the road, a car
intentionally rammed them from behind.

When Ángel managed to stop the car, the people who came out of the red
Lada hit Ángel and Aron Modig (a Swedish politician) — and then they
were taken away to a hospital.

Since then, our efforts have been directed at clarifying what happened.
We have the right to know the truth. We are not looking to heal past
wounds, but rather to make sure that what happened to my father and
Harold does not happen to anyone else in Cuba.

It is urgent because the same oppressors who threatened to kill my
father now call my family's home in Havana to say, "We are going to kill

It is urgent because arbitrary arrests, beatings and intimidation
against the democratic opposition have been rising on our island.

For several years, the Castro regime has been trying to sell a series of
minor reforms that, in truth, do not give citizens any of the serious
rights that my father and others demanded. Every reform works as one
more way to control citizens, rather than as a real tool of empowerment
for Cubans or a way to strengthen civil society.

My father and Harold strongly denounced this fraudulent change by Cuban
authorities to improve their image and standing on the world stage — and
to keep their grip on the island. Through the Varela Project, they
pushed for real democracy, for the kind of freedom we have been long
promised and long denied.

I only hope that the international community and people of conscience
around the world support my call for truth from the Cuban government and
press it for the reforms my father believed were essential. This is
urgent. We are running out of time.

Payá Acevedo is a youth activist with the Christian Liberation Movement
of Cuba. She spent most of March and April of this year in Europe and
the United States advocating for an independent investigation into the
crash described above — and for the recognition of basic human rights in

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