The deaths of Oswaldo Paya, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) and Harold Cepero, head of the MCL's youh win, in a car crash on July 22, 2012, have not been in vain. Instead, they have inspired many to pick up their legacy and to carry on with the struggle for Cuban freedom.
The Castro dictatorship may have indeed murdered Paya and Cepero, but it has not stamped out their legacy and the desire of their successors to continue with their struggle for peaceful, democratic change in Cuba.
None have demonstrated that desire to carry on and to complete what Paya started more than his daughter, Rosa Maria Paya.
Here is what she had to say this week on the eve of the first anniversary of her father's death.
For another reminder of Paya's legacy, read the speech he gave when he accepted the European Union's Sahkarov Prize for Freedom of Thought in December 2002:
Read the rest here.
You have awarded the Andrei Sakharov Prize to the people of Cuba. I say “the people of Cuba” because they are the ones who so richly deserve such an award. I say it without excluding any of my fellow countrymen, irrespective of their political stance, because rights have no political, racial or cultural hue. Nor have dictatorships any political color: they are neither right-wing nor left-wing, they are merely dictatorships. In my country there are thousands of men and women who are fighting in the midst of persecution for the rights of all Cubans. Hundreds of them have been imprisoned solely for having proclaimed and stood up for those rights, and this is why I am receiving this award on their behalf.
I say that this prize is for all Cubans because I believe that, in awarding it, Europe wishes to say to them: “You too are entitled to rights.”
This is something which we have always firmly believed, but there are times when this truth has seemed to be less than self-evident to many of the world’s people.
I have not come here to ask you to support those who oppose the Cuban Government or to condemn those who persecute us. It is of no help to Cuba that some people in the world side with the country’s government or with the latter’s opponents on the basis of an ideological standpoint. We want others to side with the Cuban people - with all Cubans – and this means upholding all their rights, supporting openness, supporting our demand that our people should be consulted via the ballot box regarding the changes we are calling for. We are asking for solidarity so that our people can be given an opportunity to speak through the ballot box, as proposed in the Varela Project.
Many people have linked this prize to the Varela Project, and rightly so, since the thousands of Cubans who, in the midst of repression, have signed the petition calling for a referendum are making a decisive contribution to bringing about the changes which Cuba needs. Those changes would mean involvement in cultural and economic life, civil and political rights, and national reconciliation. That would constitute a genuine exercise in self-determination by our people. We must reject the myth that we Cubans have to live without rights in order to support our country’s independence and sovereignty.
Father Felix Varela has taught us that independence and national sovereignty are inseparable from the exercise of basic rights. We Cubans – whether we live in Cuba or in the diaspora – are a single people and we have both the determination and the ability to build a just, free and democratic society, without hatred and without the desire for revenge. In the words of José Marti, ‘With everyone and for everyone’s benefit’.