Press Release — HRF Joins Cuba Decide to Honor Oswaldo Payá on the 5th Anniversary of his Death

NEW YORK — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) invites you to join The Change is in Your Hands, a Cuba Decide initiative to honor the life and legacy of democracy champion and Varela Project founder Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who was killed in mysterious circumstances in 2012.

The campaign launched earlier this week to recognize the 5th anniversary of his death and to urge the Cuban State to launch an investigation into the circumstances surrounding his killing. The social media campaign encourages human rights activists, members of the international civil society, and Cuban exiles to post videos of themselves holding a poster of Payá and reading his 2011 statement in which he demanded a plebiscite to bring democracy to Cuba.

To join the campaign, social media users should post their videos on the day of the anniversary — tomorrow, Saturday, July 22 — using the hashtags ++#StopImpunity,++ ++#CubaDecide,++ ++#OPAYA,++ and ++#5thAnniversary.++

“Oswaldo Payá was the most prominent prodemocracy activist in Cuba in the last 25 years. He deserves to be remembered for his nonviolent work promoting democracy and fundamental rights in Cuba, for which he paid the ultimate price,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “He was cruelly and relentlessly persecuted by the Cuban dictatorship throughout his life, as were his family, friends, and supporters. All they worked for was for the right to choose their own government. Instead, they are ++harassed++, beaten, arrested, ++imprisoned++, and even murdered because they think differently. By joining this campaign, we are not only honoring a hero’s legacy, but the ideas of freedom that he so passionately defended,” concluded Halvorssen.

On July 22, 2012, Oswaldo Payá was killed under circumstances that have been actively obscured by the Cuban State. In 2015, HRF published an ++exhaustive legal report++ on Payá’s case, which concluded that the evidence, most of which was purposely ignored by State officials, strongly suggested that the Cuban regime was directly responsible for Payá’s death. Five years after the killing, his family has yet to see any justice or achieve closure.

This week, Rosa María Payá, the late activist’s daughter, traveled to Cuba to join her family, friends, and supporters in paying tribute to her father. Rosa María is one of the founders of ++Cuba Decide++ , a citizen-led initiative that continues her father’s campaign to seek a binding plebiscite in Cuba that would initiate a transition to democracy. Due to fears of reprisal at the hands of the regime, Cuba Decide has urged followers to monitor Rosa María’s trip via the organization’s ++Twitter++ and ++Facebook++.

Since her father’s passing, Rosa María has become one of Cuba’s most vocal political activists. Rosa María has never ceased to call for a formal investigation into his killing, and she has also made sure that his death was not in vain. Rosa María travels around the world to speak on her father’s behalf, promoting democratic change in her country. She was one of the speakers at HRF’s 2016 ++Oslo Freedom Forum++ and 2016 ++San Francisco Freedom Forum++. Last Wednesday, her advocacy yielded new results: six U.S. senators introduced a ++bipartisan resolution++ honoring the legacy of the Cuban dissident and calling for an impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.

“Oswaldo Payá embodies the vision of a democratic Cuba, free from tyranny. His killing is a cruel reminder of the violent, immoral, and criminal nature of dictatorships and, therefore, it should never be forgotten in the democratic world,” said Garry Kasparov, HRF’s chairman. “By joining this campaign, you are helping the Cuban activists who strive for a free and democratic Cuba, so that some day soon, they can determine their own future,” said Kasparov.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.

For media inquiries, contact Prachi Vidwans at (212) 246-8486 or send a message to ++prachi@hrf.org++.

For further information on the campaign, contact Cuba Decide at (786)-717-6334 or send a message to ++info@cubadecide.org++.

TAKE ACTION! Join HRF and Cuba Decide in The Change is in Your Hands campaign:

  1. PRINT ++this poster++ of Oswaldo Payá;
  2. MAKE A VIDEO holding the poster and reading a 2011 statement by Oswaldo Payá copied below;
  3. POST and SHARE in social media; and
  4. GET five more people to do it.

STATEMENT

“No one should dare to challenge that the people want change in the form of freedom, reconciliation, and rights. The opposition peacefully fights and works both within Cuba and abroad to accomplish this very end. Our greatest drawback as Cubans is not having a voice or the democratic means to express ourselves while, at the same time, the government and some people in the world deceitfully speak on our behalf. These are the reasons behind our demand for the Cuban government to carry out a plebiscite so that, for once, the people have the final word in sovereignly approving or rejecting the following:

'Do you agree with the convening of free, fair, and pluralistic elections by exercising freedom of speech and of the press; and freely organizing in pluralistic political parties and social organizations? Yes or No?'

To carry out this plebiscite is to respect the sovereignty of our people, and to support it is a display of true respect for the Cuban people self-determination.

No one should ever speak on behalf of the Cuban people. We should be asked in a plebiscite!”

Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas. Havana, Cuba, January 17, 2011

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