Cuban dissident leader Oswaldo Paya dies in alleged accident

Deceased Cuban dissident, Oswaldo Paya.
Deceased Cuban dissident, Oswaldo Paya.

.- Cuban dissident leader Oswaldo Paya, died on July 22 in an apparent traffic accident in the southeastern province of Granma.

The accident occurred at around 2 p.m. local time when the 60-year-old Paya and three companions were driving from Havana to the city of Bayamo.

Elizardo Sanchez, president of the Cuban Commisssion on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, the dissent leader’s brother, Carlos Paya, who lives in Madrid, and the secretary of the bishop of Bayamo, Msgr. Carlos Amador, all confirmed the news to Europa Press.

Some, however, including the dissident's daughter, Rosa Maria Paya, suspect foul play.

“There was a car that was trying to force them off the highway and was bumping into them the entire time,” she told CNN Español.

“So we think this was not an accident. They wanted to hurt him and they ended up killing my father.”

She was informed of the accident by Cuban police but was provided details about the crash from two of the companions who survived.

Carlos Paya told CNN Español that for “twenty years we thought something like this could happen,” adding that his brother was constantly persecuted by the police.

“Oswaldo Paya is a peaceful dissident, nominated six times for the Nobel Peace Prize, but above all he is a great human begin, one of the kindest persons in the world. Someone devoted in body and soul to seeking peace and reconciliation between Cubans.”

Paya’s family has traveled to Bayamo to identify his remains. Cuban dissident Harold Cepera also died in the accident.

Oswaldo Paya was the most prominent leader of the Cuban dissidence and was the drive behind the Varela Project, which calls for a peaceful transition to democracy and freedom in Cuba.

In 2002, the Cuban parliament rejected his proposal, which then President Fidel Castro dubbed a conspiracy by the United States to overthrow his government.

In October of that same year, the European Parliament bestowed the Andrei Sakharov Award for Human Rights and Freedom of Thought on Paya for his peaceful struggle for democracy.

Paya, who was the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, was sent to a Communist work camp during the 1960s.

On March 12, 2012, days before Pope Benedict XVI’s historic visit to Cuba, Oswaldo Paya granted an extensive interview to CNA.  

He criticized the lack of rights and the captivity in which the country of Cuba has lived under the Communist regime of Fidel and Raul Castro.

However, he noted, there “can be no conditions on what the Pope has to say” when he arrives on the island.

“I am not going to put words in the Pope’s mouth. Our attitude is one of listening, and I think that the changes in Cuba are the responsibility of us Cubans, and it is not just or healthy to expect that the Pope and his message is going to be what brings about political changes in Cuba. But we can expect a message of hope,” Paya said.