From Religious Fidelism to Oswaldo Paya’s Rebellion

By Lynn Cruz

HAVANA TIMES – Communism and Religion are opposites. They both have ideology at their heart, so they are incompatible. If we remember that back in 1960, the US Government and the Catholic Church organized Operation Peter Pan, a maneuver designed to transport the children of Cuban parents who opposed the Communist regime.

The Escambray insurgents, Hubert Matos’ rebellion, the execution of opposition members by firing squad, were some of the first enemies of Fidel Castro’s regime, and his declaration in 1961, of the socialist nature of a revolution that had been comprised of different factions, up until then.

There were three mass exoduses: Camarioca (1965), Mariel (1980), Los Balseros (1994). Miami would receive Cubans from different periods and social origins. However, the pain of the latter is underestimated, because they were mostly outcasts or children of people who probably benefitted from the Cuban regime, but then had to flee because of the crisis that ensued after the former Soviet Bloc collapsed. This got me to thinking and I think I’ve reached the heart of the matter: this Cuban-US conflict is a conflict of classes.

It wasn’t until the ‘90s that the existence of organized opposition groups in Cuba became known. Almost 30 years have passed since then, and Fidelism continues to endure in spite of its leader’s death and attempts of reform.

I recently published a post on my Facebook wall and said that we Cubans found ourselves in the 16th century, referring to the “reforms” implemented by Raul Castro’s government, the so-called “Guidelines”. I also spoke about the targeted “counter-revolutionaries”, how we were like Martin Luther and his critical rebellion against the Catholic Church. 

The closest thing we had to Luther here in Cuba, was Oswaldo Paya, the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) and the Varela Project.  In 1992, Paya went public for the first time and announced his intention to run for a seat in the National Assembly of People’s Power. Creating this political movement without a religious affiliation, he was taking the Cuban Constitution as his second bible and that’s where he decided to take a stance.

The Communist Party (PCC) stopped his nomination at the time. Then, in 1997, Paya and another 10 MCL members collected hundreds of signatures supporting their candidacies as National Assembly members. This opposition group acted from a position of respect for the established power.

However, we have seen over time that the PCC doesn’t want real change, but only changes that come from the PCC itself. Just like the Catholic Church did in the beginning when Luther criticized the role of the Pope.

In 1998, Paya also collected over 10,000 signatures to present an appeal for legislative changes, via a popular referendum. His petition demanded freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free elections, business freedom and amnesty for political prisoners, the latter with the aim to reconcile Cubans.

Paya didn’t accept help from the US government, and he opposed the embargo. He refused to support the mission of some Cuban political groups in the US with regard to implementing a program of reclaiming land, after exiles returned to Cuba.

He was, of course, attacked by more conservative groups on both shores of the Florida Strait. Abroad, he was considered a Communist, and on the island, he and his family were intimidated by the police and State Security, until his death in 2012.

I totally identify with Paya. I believe that he is the dissident who was best able to expose the two powers that have determined Cuban politics over the past 61 years. Politicians in exile and their disproportionate support for stifling the Cuban economy, and the Castro family and their closest acolytes. The cause of Paya’s death is still unknown.

20 thoughts on “From Religious Fidelism to Oswaldo Paya’s Rebellion

  • huh!

  • Ok Mr MacD, I would agree that you didn’t express a direct opinion on this but instead preferred to throw in your opinion regarding other matters from decades ago with it’s clear implications. Entirely your prerogative my dear old chap.
    The man is a Spanish Right-Wing-Christian Politician (of not particularly high ranking). That’s not slanted – just a plain and simple fact. And that’s precisely why he was in Cuba.
    And I’m stating that I wouldn’t necessarily trust a man from this tradition any more than I would necessarily trust a man from the Cuban/Communist/Atheist tradition.
    I just look at the facts such as they are known, make the assumption that Cuban State Forces would have been following, pose the question as to whether the car was rammed and describe and cast the glaringly obvious doubts on the key surviving protagonist.

    I don’t see that this take on the matter is either left or right.

    But if you do, each to their own huh ?

  • Unlike yourself, I do not claim to have any personal knowledge or informed background information, of the incident under discussion. in consequence I did not make any comment about it. My observation was regarding the known practices of the Communist Party of Cuba, which make ascertaining the truth impossible. But, two and two do make four and in the case of the many non-communists who were active and important members of the revolution, the subsequent purge of them by the Castros about which I commented, is a matter of fact.
    I am sure that the sycophants are grateful for your continual casting doubts and repeated slanted implications about a “Spanish Right-Wing-Christian Wanna-be Politician”. I guess someone has to speak up and express the “balanced” view on behalf of the left.
    I did admire, albeit with a grin on my face, your claim that: “I have no preference for either of these political persuasions” and trust that Olgasintamales now fully understands you.

  • That’s hilarious Mr MacD.
    So your first comment in relation to this article is apropos of what then ?
    If that comment was not reflective of your opinion on the matter at hand, then pray enlighten as to otherwise ? Or was it just a purely random quotation ??
    Or after examining the very sketchy available facts such as they are, do like me, draw the conclusion that there is no valid reason to take the word of a Spanish Right-Wing-Christian Politician over that of a bunch of Cuban Communist Atheist Politicians ???
    You wanna beat around the bush or would you prefer to take a big old step and express an opinion regarding ‘’the incident itself’ ??
    Perhaps, like me, you have no conclusive opinion (although that would be a touch unusual for your good self Mr MacD) ???

  • Nick, you are obviously too engaged in pursuing support for those “Cuban Communist politicians” to notice that I did not make any comment upon the incident itself. Perhaps you would care to quote from my contributions in support of your baseless accusation:

    “you and others base your conclusions”


    “unlike you, I have drawn no conclusion as to who was responsible in this specific case.”

    Just illustrate Nick, don’t just blindly pursue your imagination in endeavor to smear!

  • Mr MacD,
    As is abundantly clear, you and others base your conclusions on your preference for the Spanish Right-Wing-Christian politician over the Cuban Communist politicians.

    In my case, I have no preference for either of these political persuasions and, unlike you, I have drawn no conclusion as to who was responsible in this specific case.

    My only conclusion, for the umpteenth time, is that Oswaldo Paya’s death was a sad loss because he seemed like a decent man.

  • Reference final paragraph of contribution by Nick.
    …….and as you demonstrate Nick, so do those of left wing political persuasion.

  • 14/05/2020 8000 firmas online en Change. org y cientos a mano dentro de Cuba ( pues la web está bloqueada por el régimen) piden a #MichelleBachelet Alta Comisionada DD.HH. ONU investigación muertes de #OswaldoPaya y Harold Cepero. Mártires del Movimiento Cristiano Liberación. #Cuba

  • Brad,
    It’s entirely your prerogative to come up with as many excuses as you wish for this Right-Wing-Christian Politician from Spain who changed his story in order to reduce his prison sentence and further his political career.
    It’s curious that this individual who you are defending stated that the car was being repeatedly rammed but the other Rigt-Wing-Christian Wanna-be Politician (non jail sentence) survivor still states that he slept throughout the journey up until the impact with the tree…..
    He must have had an awful-big heavy old drinking session the night before (for a right wing fundamentalist god fearing Christian) to have slept throughout all that car-ramming commotion ??

    Everyone has the prerogative to base their conclusions on their political opinions and objectives rather than on the available facts and that would most definitely include all those of a right wing political persuasion……..

  • I have had a speeding ticket as well just about everyone has.

    Did you know about a couple of months before his death Paya and his wife had their 1964 VW van rammed from behind in Havana and turned on it’s side. The photo is on the net.
    I seriously doubt it’s a coincidence.

  • Brad is saying that I am siding with ‘the communist regime’. I’m afraid you have misread my comment Brad.
    I’m referring the speed of the vehicle driven by a young man with a previous speeding conviction. I’m referring to the driver being inexperienced on Cuban roads. I’m putting forward the facts regarding that stretch of the road being unsurfaced at that time as can be seen from the footage. I’m also making a presumption that the car was being followed. And I’m posing the question ‘was it rammed?’
    It’s blatantly obvious that I’m not siding with anyone in my comment other than with those who also presume that the car was being followed.
    I have no need to side with anyone. Neither with Communist Politicians in Cuba nor with the Right-Wing-Christian Politician in Spain who changed his story in order try and reduce the sentence he was serving in Spain for ‘involuntary manslaughter’.
    If I’m going to side with anyone it would be with Oswaldo Paya. As I said, his death was a great shame and mentioned that to his eternal credit he was no U.S. flunky.
    In fact, because of his refusal to take the U.S./Miami dollar, some of the more rabidly right wing of the Miami faction regarded him (during his lifetime) as a Communist Sympathiser.

  • Nick said
    “The car was being driven way too fast by the Spanish Guy on an unsurfaced road that he was not accustomed to. The car was undoubtedly being followed. But was it rammed ?”

    You are siding with the communist regime’s version of the event that completely contradicts the drivers version of the event.

  • To make a fine point Olgasintamales, I too do not have hatred, but I do detest the Castro communist regime. My views upon communism in general, and the Stalinist version in particular as practiced by the Castros, are based upon the demonstrated evil of the system, not upon emotion.

    Those of us who have been fortunate enough to live in the democracies, base our opinions of other countries upon observation, hence we do not hate. But for those who like you are born Cubans, and who have personally experienced the pain inflicted by the Castro system, it is obviously emotional and consequently breeds a justified hatred. I do not regard that as a weakness.

    There can be little doubt that Fidel Castro was driven by hatred, both of Batista and particularly the US. The depth of that hatred was demonstrated when he proposed to Nikita Khrushchev that an initial nuclear strike should be made upon the US – even if it resulted in retaliation upon his own country and the people of Cuba.

  • Olga, I’m British. Thanks.
    I’ve spent a lot of time in Cuba over the last 25 years. I’m often critical of the Cuban Government. However, I wouldn’t say that I’m an attacker or defender.
    Just trying to be rational. When I see irrational comments devoid of any context then I shall put the other side of the argument. I’ve met a lot of very good and decent people in Cuba who support their Government. I may not agree with them, but that does not stop me thinking that they are good or decent (I have also met a lot of good and decent people there who are not so supportive of their Government).
    I think it would be a weakness to be driven by hatred.
    I am critical of the Cuban Government but also critical of the USA. The USA does a lot of stuff that I don’t agree with. I am concerned by the current situation in the USA. This man-child in the White House is clearly mentally ill. It concerns me that such a large minority of people in the USA support him. I am very concerned about the way the USA seems to be so totally divided – and the divisions looks like they are getting ever wider. I don’t like the way trump tries to encourage and exploit these divisions.
    Having said that, I must say that you are 100% incorrect Olga. I most certainly don’t hate the USA. If you took the trouble to read my comments, you would see that.
    I have had a number of relatives who have, like you, emigrated to the USA. I have had the good fortune to spend a lot of time in the USA. I have seen remarkable things and have met wonderful people there. I am a big fan of a lot of the culture and artistic expression of the USA.
    Cuba and the USA are two of my favourite countries. I am not a ‘supporter’ of the political system or government in either of them. But I have no hatred.

  • Ángel Carromero Barrios the driver of the vehicle stated that he had been drugged and threatened by Cuban authorities who had forced him to make a false statement.
    He also stated that the car had been rammed by another vehicle with Cuban government license plates, causing the fatal crash.

    The Cuban regime knocked off some more dissidents (Paya) it’s what they do.

  • I can’t believe this Nick, Canadian or British guy. He is willing to defend the dictatorship to any cost. 200,000 Cubans under the Atlantic Ocean dead why looking for freedom, 3 millions in exile, lack of freedom in every field. And this guy is defending what is not can be defend any longer his hate for USA is so deep and sicknesses that he is always willing to look the other way and ignore the pain of us Cubans in Cuba and outside of Cuba.

  • Just think for a moment about the disappearance of Camilo Cienfuegos. Here was a man loyal to Fidel Castro as leader of a revolution against dictatorship, but along with Huber Matos (and 38 other revolutionaries) an anti-communist. Cienfuegos’s popularity was such that he could attract bigger crowds when speaking in Havana than Fidel Castro. Just disappeared! The pilot of the armed Sea Fury fighter plane that took off from the same runway just a couple of minutes following the aircraft carrying Cienfuegos, died within a month – dead men tell no tales.

    Cienfuegos was the Head of the Military – who succeeded him? Why, the ever crafty Raul!

    As for Huber Matos and the other 38, with Cienfuegos out of the way, a couple of weeks later, Fidel Castro personally conducted their trial at which Faustino Perez (one of Fidel’s own officers) enquired:

    “Is this Batistiano terror?”

    to which Fidel Castro responded:

    “No, this is revolutionary terror.”

    As for Matos, who stood at Fidel Castro’s left hand side when they entered Havana on January 8, 1959, he was incarcerated for twenty years, with all the other 38 being jailed. Why was Matos not executed as Raul Castro advised Fidel? Because the cunning Fidel responded: “I don’t want to turn him into a martyr.”

    The Castros lust as dedicated Stalinists, for absolute power and control has never ceased and anything which threatened their ambitions was purged.

    It is of course possible for sycophants to dismiss recorded facts as “conspiracy theories”.

  • Hi Olga, I heard recently that Payas family has been demanding an investigation about the death of Oswaldo. Its clear that they haven’t proof. I can believe it was a crime but since there’s no investigation, we need to wait. They were persecuted before the accident, so for now this is the most important thing.

  • Four people in the car. The two wearing seatbelts survived. The two not wearing seatbelts didn’t.
    Anyone who has been to Spain, Sweden and Cuba will know that it is habitual to wear seatbelts in Spain and Sweden. It has been for decades. But in Cuba it is only just becoming habitual now.
    Conversely, conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists have had a habitual presence all the way round the world since forever.
    The car was being driven way too fast by the Spanish Guy on an unsurfaced road that he was not accustomed to. The car was undoubtedly being followed. But was it rammed ?
    Either way, shoulda worn a seatbelt.
    It is a great shame that Oswaldo Paya died. As the article points out, he was in opposition to the Cuban Government but to his eternal credit, he was not some U.S. sponsored flunky.

  • Everyone knows that Osbaldo Paya was murdered there are even a testimony from ppl in the hospital that said he arrived alive to the hospital, in the car were a Swedish, a Spaniard, and two Cubans and the only two fatalities were Cubans. Because the Cuban government knew that the dead of the two foreign would bring an international investigation.
    The Paya’s family were harassed even in the day of Osbaldo’s funeral With pogrom pro dictatorship outside of the church and the negative of the government to allow ppl to march to the cemetery in the funeral caravan.
    I can’t wrap my head around thinking as Cuban who had suffer the horror of the Cuban dictatorship how some ppl who live in democracy come to this pages and defending the Castro’s regime. A bloody communist dictatorship.

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