The international press is focusing all its coverage on Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez’s world tour, but there is another young Cuban woman, an emerging and impressive leader of Cuba’s opposition, who has also been able to leave Cuba and is speaking clearly and forcefully about the lack of human rights and freedom on the island. Her name is Rosa Maria Payá, the daughter of slain democracy activist Oswaldo Payá, and at the 2013 Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, this courageous young woman spoke truth to power.
Rosa Maria may not have all the accolades Yoani has been awarded and the press coverage that engenders, and very few people know who she is. But that soon is bound to change. The determination of this young, intrepid Cuban woman who has the courage to publicly confront and challenge the same brutal dictatorship that months ago murdered her father goes well beyond what the international press typically shows of Cuba’s dissidence. Like her father, Rosa Maria is destined to rise above the din of Castro propaganda and soon become a household name in Cuba and the world.
Here is her moving speech – a must read for everyone interested in Cuba and in freedom – at the 2013 Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy:
Rosa Maria Paya
Movimiento Cristiano Liberacion
Thank you so much to the organizer of this Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, It is my pleasure to thank to all the friends whom worked to make this meeting possible, to facilitate my travel here and to all of you who joined us here today.
My country is in a deteriorated and in an unstable situation. My people have suffered the lack of human rights for many decades already. My family have been directly affected and attacked; I think is time to stop. It is time to change and an every time growing group of Cubans works for make true that change.
At the same time the Cuban government has developed a series of legal reforms and public messages designed to preserve its power and authority. These reforms do not guarantee the citizen rights, so: this is the Fraud Change.
I want to be clear about something: the lack of human rights is the principle reason, for the suffering, poverty and social problems of our people. Cubans, like all human beings, we need to be free to be prosperous. Europe is the prove that a country doesn’t have to choose between be economically successful or to be a state of right. And Cuba is neither of the two things.
In 2007, my father and the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL in Spanish) delivered a legal initiative called the Heredia Project to the National Assembly (the Cuban Parliament). This project, as well as the Varela Project (which is supported by more than 25,000 citizens), calls for elemental rights which are grounded in a few articles of the Cuban constitution, but are violated in the law and in the practice.
Now, The Christian Liberation Movement which is our movement, as well as other organizations in the opposition, is collecting signatures in support of the Heredia Project´s call for legal changes. Coincidentally, some of the reforms which the government promotes are precisely in some of the areas in which the Heredia Project has called for reform. In each case, the new laws, far from giving power to the people, have been designed so that the government retains the last word. These laws, not only confirm the government´s control, they also maintain the discrimination against the Cuban citizens. For instance, the reform of the immigration laws eliminated the exit permit (permiso de salida), but added a list of requirements to receive the actualized passport. The government continues deciding who may enter or leave the island. So it is a procedural change and not an actual recognition of the right to travel that all people have because of their human condition. And this is just one representative example. This time I could get out but other Cubans couldn’t and still can’t.
The Heredia Project has hundreds of activists in different provinces of the country and from different organizations of the opposition. It forms part of the Path of the People, which is a proposal that is welcomed and supported by the majority of the Cuban democratic movement. The Path of the People demands fundamental rights which the Cuban people lack, and suggests steps to obtain them. It also expresses the fact that the opposition in Cuba is united in its objectives.
As The Vision of The Path of the People says: “it is up to only us Cubans to define and decide on the changes our society needs and to accomplish our national project” and as my father said: Nobody, not a state, neither a market could be over the freedom of the persons and the decisions of the peoples.
We don´t want and we don’t need to depend of nobody, not of Venezuela, not of United State. What we do need is to be free.
Free to dream, free to decide, free to love, free to make, free to build with our imaginations and our efforts the society that we, the Cubans, choose.
The Path of the People also says: Yet, for our citizens to truly design, decide and build their future, their rights must be guaranteed by the law and a trustful and respectful environment must be attained. Only by doing so will we engage in a genuine national dialogue and launch an inclusive process of legal reform to preserve the advances the people have achieved and to exercise the people’s sovereign right to change that which the people decide to change.
So, our demand is for the right of all Cubans to their fundamental rights and to free elections. We need political support for these and the other demands which are contained in the Path of the People and this is the support that we expect from all of you.
Otherwise, The Cuban Government have continued and have raised the repression against the political activists. The leaders of the Heredia Project in the whole country are always under watch and oppression of the State Security. Other opposition’s groups and independent´s journalists are also suffering the government hostility. The Cuban Democratic Movement is entirely peaceful and it is being confronted by the force and in many cases with violence.
As my father said: The heroic Cuban civic fighters, the citizens who sign the Varela Project, are not carrying arms. We do not have a single weapon. We are holding out both arms, offering our hands to all Cubans, as brothers, and to all the peoples of the world. The first victory we can claim is that we do not have hate in our hearts. We therefore say to those who persecute and try to dominate us: you are my brother, I do not hate you, but you are no longer going to dominate me through fear, I do not want to impose my truth, and I do not want you to impose yours, let us seek the truth together.
My dear father, Oswaldo Payá, and my young friend Harold Cepero gave their lives fighting peacefully against the Fraud Change and for the freedom of the Cubans. My family, the MCL and many people do not believe that their deaths were accidental. My father received many death threats during his life, which increased in the last months of his life. We received a mobile text message from Madrid that told us that his car was hit by another car. And much of the information suggests that their deaths were provoked intentionally. We are asking for your support of our request for an International Investigation into their deaths.
I have a fear, but my fear will not dominate me and I trust and I know that more Cubans feel the same way. We have a path, so we have a hope.
and now, freedom!
God help us all
Thank you all