Much has been written about dissident leader Oswaldo Paya, and rightfully so, since his death July 22 in a car crash in eastern Cuba.
But there was a second man who died in the crash, Harold Cepero, leader of the youth wing of Paya's Christian Liberation Movement.
Yuri Perez-Vazquez, a Cuban exile working as an intern at the Cato Institute, remembers his friend:
Harold Cepero was a young man full of good intentions and with strong commitment toward his fellow man. I met him because we share many things in common, but one marked our lives forever. As with many other idealistic young Cubans, we were expelled from the university due our passion for freedom. Although we just wanted to have fun, improve ourselves and our Cuba, we faced the intolerant rule of the Castro brothers, the Cuban Communist Party, and the covert action of their secret police. Several requests directed to Cuban authorities, UNESCO and the OAS Inter-American Commission of Human Rights did not succeed in our efforts to go back to university. In fact, Cuban authorities stood by their discriminatory policy against “non-revolutionaries.” UNESCO sided with the Cuban government, despite recognizing human rights violations, and we are still waiting for the Inter-American Commission. (See here and here.)
In a country where young people are forced to adore the Castros’ revolution, are forbidden to think, and if they think, they cannot speak and act accordingly, we made the right choice. Harold had a gracious girlfriend, played soccer, and strived for a better future. He collected signatures for the Varela Project, a citizen initiative led by Paya to promote a peaceful transition to democracy that gained the support of thousands of fellow citizens. After being expelled from university, he decided to give himself to the service of the others and became a Catholic seminarian. However that was not his vocation, and Harold paid the ultimate price for liberty: he ended sacrificing his life on a very different altar.
In this tragic moment I recall images of their beloved families. Oswaldo Paya’s wife, Ofelia and their children, and Harold Cepero’s parents and brother. The immense grieving for the loss of these great Cubans is not only theirs, but also belongs to every freedom lover. As Jesus Christ, Paya’s and Harold’s teacher said, “There is no greater love than this to lay one’s life down for a friend.”