Oswaldo Payá, Cuban Activist Dies Suspiciously


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:12 AM EDT, 24 July 2012

Oswaldo Paya, Photo by Kozusnik.euHAVANA, Cuba – Oswaldo Payá, 60, a prominent Cuban dissident and pro-democracy campaigner died when his car was struck on Sunday, 22 July 2012. Of the three passengers accompanying him, two were uninjured, but Harold Cepero, 31, a fellow activists also perished.

Payá, a practicing Catholic, was the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement and organizer of the Varela Project, a citizen petition movement for greater rights guarantees in Cuba, which resulted in the brutal suppression and arrest of hundreds of pro-democracy activists in 2003.

Payá was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, and worked tirelessly in defense of human rights, particularly the right to free assembly, freedom of speech, and achieving equal representation in the government.

Despite great risk to himself and his family, Payá devoted his efforts toward effecting change from within Cuba and conscientiously chose not to align himself with the powerful U.S. based Cuban community nor accept any external financial support from anti-Castro organizations. Regardless, the Cuban government maintained that Payá was a subversive United States agent tasked with the job of undermining the country's revolution.

At a recent conference honoring Cuban dissidents and activists Payá reiterated his goal for ‘peacefully defending and promoting the rights of all Cubans; for fearlessly denouncing violations of these rights; and for writing and speaking the truth, which in Cuba is itself imprisoned.’

Throughout his political career he has received numerous death threats, but family members stated that recently these have increased in frequency.  “His death follows the death last October of Laura Pollan, the leader of the Ladies in White, also under suspicious circumstances. (Source: PR Newswire)

Payá’s funeral was held in San Salvador Catholic Church and was attended by family, friends, and fellow Cuban human rights activists. Distraught relatives alleged to the press that Payá was murdered by being driven off of the road, a charge with the government vehemently denies.

The government countered these assertions by issuing an official statement blaming Payá for losing control of his vehicle while traveling on a road in eastern Granma province just before hitting a tree. They subsequently issued a statement that an investigation into the incident would be initiated.

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