Monday, July 23, 2012

Oswaldo Paya, R.I.P.

He was genuine, no one ever doubted that.  

Oswaldo Paya was a devout Catholic, a patriot, an engineer who worked at his government job repairing medical equipment, a Cuban who could not imagine leaving Cuba and instead opted to stay and try to change it.

His Varela Project, carried out by the Christian Liberation Movement that he led, was a petition drive that was unique among the initiatives undertaken by Cuba’s dissidents in that it successfully enlisted large-scale citizen participation.  The project took advantage of a provision in Cuba’s constitution that allows a bill to be presented for debate in the National Assembly if 10,000 registered voters bring a petition to that effect.  It proposed an expansion of civil and economic rights and release of political prisoners, and it was delivered to the National Assembly in 2002, eventually with 25,000 signatures.

The Varela Project drew criticism.  Fellow dissident Rene Gomez Manzano, a former law professor, wrote that it was invalid because it sought changes to Cuba’s constitution, something not permitted by the constitution’s citizen initiative provision.  More important, it drew criticism from other dissidents and from many in Miami who oppose the idea of working within Cuba’s governing structures to effect change. 

The initiative was rejected by the National Assembly.

The arrest and imprisonment of 75 dissidents in 2003 focused in large part on the Christian Liberation Movement, the network that circulated the petition and gathered the signatures.  When Paya met visiting U.S. legislators in his home in subsequent years, he always invited wives of these prisoners to speak on their husbands’ behalf.  He opposed the U.S. embargo but preferred always to talk about the political issues that in his view mattered the most, i.e. those that need to be settled among Cubans alone.


(Photo from European Parliament website.)


Anonymous said...


Good bye Oswaldo, we weep because you have left us but thoughts of you will be always with us.

I love you brother and I am saddened by the thought I cannot be at your funeral tomorrow to lay a flower at your grave site.

You were a true patriot and a real believer in democracy and non violence.

You were a true Christian convinced that violence begets more violence and of the need to once and for all to break this vicious circle so typical in the Cuban political environment.

Your life reminds me of the biblical teachings that stated that the meek and the peacemakers would be blessed and inherit the Kingdom of God.

Your legacy to all Cubans is the belief in the necessity to carry out dialogues and employ non violent means to defeat the present dictatorship in order to away with the conditions that could produce other future dictatorships.

In life your leadership role and your personal qualities were not fully recognized but someday your beliefs in a peaceful democratic transition will come true and your role as a precursor who pointed out the correct way will be recognized by historians and by future Cuban generations.

Until then, you will continue to inspire all Cuban democrats in our efforts to find a solution to our country's crisis.

Like the Mio Cid even after death you will lead us to victory. But not in bloody clashes that will cost human lives.

Your's will be peaceful victories where compatriots will learn to meet in order to listen o each other and to make mutual compromises for the common good.

Your's will be bloodless battles in which the spirit of respect, consideration and tolerance between countrymen will win the day.

Your's will be victories where all will win and where there will not be any vanquished. Where once more all Cubans be united and behave to each other as brothers.

You Oswaldo will have helped to someday make all this possible.


brianmack said...

Very sad and an education in understanding why this mans death means so much to so many. Peace and prayers to Mr. Paya's family, friends and compatriots.

Antonio said...

A good man. He will be missed.