for Human Rights and Democracy
Tuesday February 23rd, 2016
Rosa María Payá, MCL and Latin American Youth Network for Democracy
Thank you for this opportunity to spread the voice of the Cuban people. Cubans have lived for nearly 60 years without the freedom to express our own voice. The Revolution of 1959, immediately suppressed freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of movement, as their totalitarian tools to remain in power forever. These suppressions came with the repression and the violence, as illustrated by the long list of extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the Cuban authorities.
In this moment, I would like to remember and honor the memory of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, dead exactly 5 years ago, during a hunger strike in a Cuban prison. My prayers are also for the 4 innocent pilots from Brothers to the Rescue, shot down in international waters by the Cuban military, on February 24, 20 years ago.
In February 2016, the same violators of human rights are still ruling on the Island. Even more dangerous, this corporative and military elite is involved in a fake transition not to democracy, but to legitimize their total control upon Cuban society, with a renewed image for the international public opinion, in order to attract foreign investors and financial credits.
This combination of the worst of communism and the worst of consumerism is leading my country to dynastic State capitalism, a “Castro-capitalism”, like my father Oswaldo Paya, warned in a book that is going to be published very soon.
It´s a system where the “historical generation” and their descendants, have monopolized all the economic resources of Cuba, while they keep sequestered the political sovereignty of our nation, condemning an entire people to the economic and social scarcity, because the absence of Human rights prevents Cubans from managing themselves.
Is this the Cuba where the European Union and the United States expect to make profits, with the justification that at some point there will be an empowerment of the civil society? This empowerment hasn’t happened, not because of a foreign policy, but because of a totalitarian state that does not recognize legal personality to any Cuban citizen, and, therefore, no one can belong to a business company or civil association or political party.
We do not believe that, what hasn´t happened in China or in Uzbekistan, is now going to happen in dictatorial Cuba.
My father, Oswaldo Payá —founding leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, and winner of the Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament—, denounced this operation of the regime as the Fraudulent Change. He paid with his life for his peaceful activism to achieve the real rights that belong to the Cuban people. On July 22, 2012, my father was extrajudicially executed by agents of the political police, together with my dear friend Harold Cepero, staging a car crash that never took place, in a location of Cuba that remains to be determined. Not satisfied with this double crime, my family was threatened to death and forced to exile, in order to carry on with more safety our lives and our struggle for a free Cuba.
But we do not belong to exile, and I refuse to remain in exile, treated as a stranger by the Cuban government and their despotic bureaucracy, including the new embassy in Washington DC, where they didn’t open the door to me.
Next Monday February 29 my father would be 64 years old. Our friends and I, in person, will be there, back in Havana in a thanksgiving mass for his life.
Death is not more powerful than Love. And the legacy of my father Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero is full of love for life in a free Cuba. Many Cuban lives are still in risk today. This is why we are now trying to open an independent investigation, to stop the impunity, to find out how Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero were murdered in Cuba.
In the summer of 2015 a special report was released by Human Rights Foundation, where all evidences indicate that this was a crime against humanity, with the involvement of Cuban authorities.
We’ll never give up on justice, because there can be no reconciliation without the recognition of the whole truth. A nation that pretends to forget the violence against its innocent people will remain a captive nation. And It will be a nation condemned to suffer such violence over and over again.
Cuba is now the country that many Cubans DO NOT want to experience. My people are selling their houses to escape through Central America, or boarding a raft to reach the United States.
But I’m not here just to tell you about our tragic history, I'm here to ask you to support the Cuban people in our struggle to change our history.
Today it is my honor to be part of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy. We coordinate efforts in 20 countries to preserve and to rescue the democratic values that have been compromised in many parts of our continent, because of corruption, authoritarianism, and the interference of the Havana regime, as in the Venezuelan case.
So, it is time for Cubans to decide our own destiny, and to stop being the subjects of official agendas and secret pacts between governments.
It is time to put an end to the impunity of the Cuban government, which has never been chosen by Cubans in free, fair and pluralistic elections. It is time for the younger generations to assume our responsibility to build together a better Cuba.
This why more and more Cubans are now saying YES to a citizen initiative that claims for a plebiscite in Cuba, through a national and international campaign called Cuba Decide. Totalitarian and post-totalitarian systems cannot coexist with the people deciding by themselves. And this is precisely what Cuba Decide stands for, in order to initiate a true transition on the Island. Cuba must open to our own citizens, who have the right to decide the system we want to live in, after almost 60 years of unconsented government.
Cubans have the right to be asked if we want to vote, in free elections: in a safe frame for peaceful and plural political organization, with international institutions and personalities supervising the process, to avoid fraud. In this, we need all of your solidarity to spread the liberation message of Cuba Decide, and for all Cubans finally to decide our own future.
By democratizing our country we do not need to become another corrupt nation. This fatalism is another fallacy of the regime, a lie repeated by many academics from the free world.
Let me tell you that, as a young Cuban woman, me and many like me, are now struggling to live and love in a decent, inclusive, prosperous and modern 21st century society. Please, join us, in this effort to return sovereignty to the people, to give power to the people and not to the powerful. The last Iron Curtain must fall, and it must fall now!
“Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all men are not free”, said President John F. Kennedy in his speech at the Berlin Wall.
“Dictatorships do not have political colors: they are just dictatorships”, said my father until his life was taken.
Dear friends: the Cuban people are not a monolith, to the image and likeness of the Communist Party, the only one legal according to the Constitution. In this new era of “normalization with Cuba”, the table of negotiations should contribute to a true transition and not to the interests of a General in power. We, Cubans do not need that the European Union or the United Sates solve our problems, but we need them to be coherent and to support the right to decide of the Cuban people, using all the channels available.
We are Latin Americans, but we believe in the best principles of North America too. We are Caribbean, but we stand for the best values of Europe too. We are Cubans, but we are Asians and Africans struggling for a better life. Despite the rhetoric of a reactionary regime, let’s not forget that we Cubans are no less than human. And each and every one of the universal human rights applies to us, as much as to anyone in the world.
No man is an Island. No nation is an Island. As my father used to say: help us to globalize solidarity, or human rights in Cuba will always be in danger.
God bless you all, and all our families and countries.
Thank you very much.
Rosa María Payá, MCL and Latin American Youth Network for Democracy