Family of murdered opposition leader Oswaldo Paya launches new plebiscite effort in Cuba

Nora Gamez Torres in The Miami Herald:

Payá family launches new effort for plebiscite in Cuba

On the second anniversary of the death of Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá, his daughter, Rosa María Payá, announced Tuesday that the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) he founded is preparing a campaign to demand a plebiscite on the island’s future.

Rosa Maria Payá said that the plebiscite, based on her father’s Varela Project, would include “one single question: Do you want to participate in free and multi-party elections?”

The Varela Project gathered more than 10,000 signatures on a petition seeking a new electoral law and demanding the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association, among other measures.

The signatures were rejected by the legislative National Assembly in 2002 but later that year Payá won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Conscience, the most prestigious prize awarded by the European Union.

His daughter told El Nuevo Herald on Tuesday that since the Varela Project remains alive, “it is not necessary to collect more signatures. More than double the number required already have been handed in, even though the National Assembly has not responded to the demand.

“But the Varela Project is a citizens’ effort. Our intention with this (new) campaign is to mobilize citizens to demand their rights,” she added. “There can be no transition in Cuba unless first there’s a recognition of civil rights, of freedom of expression, of freedom of association to carry out the change we want.”

The activist added that her family, which now lives in South Florida, is also preparing a new request to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a branch of the Organization of American States, for an independent investigation of her father’s controversial death.

According to the official version of the Cuban government, Payá and MCL activist Harold Cepero died when the driver of their vehicle, Angel Carromero, lost control near the eastern city of Bayamo and crashed into a tree on July 22, 2012.

Carromero, a member of the youth wing of Spain’s Popular Party, was tried in Cuba and sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular homicide and is now serving his sentence in Spain, free but under probation. The other passenger in the car, Jens Aaron Modig, a member of the youth wing of Sweden’s Christian Democratic Party, was allowed to leave Cuba shortly after the crash.

The Payá family and Carromero have repeatedly insisted that the car carrying the two Cubans and two Europeans was rammed from behind and forced off the road by another vehicle that had been following them.