By Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — The Communist Party’s Juventud Rebelde newspaper had the following headline on its front page on the February 22nd edition: “Failed anti-Cuban provocation”. When you find out what really happened in Havana over the attempt by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro to receive the Oswaldo Paya Freedom and Life Prize, we can say that this headline is far from reality.
The prize-giving ceremony took place the morning of February 22nd in the living room of the Paya-Acevedo’s humble home in the capital city’s El Cerro municipality.
Boris Gonzalez Arenas, an independent journalist who was present at the ceremony, wrote in Diario de Cuba:
“The room was too small to receive all of the members of civil society who could come, from the diplomatic corps and foreign press. The available chairs had been collected initially, and everyone present had to stand for the duration of the event. It was a good example of how, thanks to Castrismo, such events must be held in domestic spaces instead of public ones, among other strange appropriations.”
In fact, accounts indicate that almost a hundred people were present, clarifying that diplomatic corp members were from the United States, Sweden and the Czech Republic. Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of Osvaldo Paya Sardinas, leads the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, an organization which is handing over this award for the first time. When speaking about the goverment’s refusal to grant the prize-winner and other invited Latin American figures an entry visa, she stressed:
“The awards will not be sent to their owners, they will be kept to then be handed over in person in this same room in a free Cuba.” Her statement coincides with her former statements when she said that “The political scene towards Cuba needs to change.”
Meanwhile, Almagro, former Uruguayan Minister during leftist Jose Mujica’s government, specified with respect to not being granted a visa from the Cuban government that “the ceremony which I had been invited to in Havana, is no different to other similar events I have participated in in other countries within the region, which take place without the government supporting them, without censorship, because this is part of tolerance and democratic values.”
Once again, the Cuban Communist Party has fulfilled its stated objective when it comes to stopping any public impact from the opposition, no matter how peaceful it is. The fear is obvious in the face of a simple awards ceremony in a small house in El Cerro, handing over “a prize invented by an illegal and small anti-Cuban group”, which is what the Cuban Foreign Affairs Ministry said, which then went on to say: “Maybe some people got it wrong and thought that Cuba would give up its principles for keeping appearances.”
Talking about principles and appearances, it’s worth remembering that Osvaldo Paya Sardinas died in a car accident on July 22, 2012 along the main highway, near Bayamo, along with his contributor Harold Cepero. Government authorities refused to give the case complete transparency which it deserved, because of the high-profile figure of Paya.
The leader of Proyecto Varela, collected, in accord with the 1976 Socialist Constitution and which is still in full-force, over 25,000 signatures, co-signed with every signee’s ID cards, asking for freedom of expression and association, freedom for political prisoners, as well as a legal initiative which the Constitution grants to any movement once it reaches at least 10,000 signatures.
The Sakharov human rights prize-winner from the European Parliament and Nobel prize nominee on several occasions made the following statement which says a lot about his essence:
“Give the Cuban people the chance to speak and you’ll see how this section of the population who marches in uniform and shouts in Revolution Square, will vote for new laws, will vote for truth, will vote for freedom.”