Rosa María Payá Returns to Cuba to Honor Father’s Memory

Cuban dissident Rosa María Payá will return to her homeland after nearly two years in exile. (Rosa María Payá Acevedo)

EspañolAfter nearly two years of living in exile, Cuban political dissident Rosa María Payá will return to Havana on Monday, May 11, to pay her respects at the grave of her father, activist Oswaldo Payá.

Payá, who died in an alleged car crash in eastern Cuba on July 22, 2012, was a staunch defender of civil liberties in Cuba, and a fierce opponent of the Castro regime.

Rosa María invited her followers to pay tribute to her father’s name by using the hashtag #UnaFlorParaPayá (A flower for Payá) on social networks.

One of Oswaldo’s major initiatives was the Varela Project, which aimed to incorporate freedom of political association, freedom of speech and press, and amnesty for political prisoners in Cuban legislation. Prior to his death, over 10,000 Cubans had signed the petition, calling for a national referendum in support of these changes in the Caribbean island.

“Join me on my return to Havana. Please share this video, and use the hashtag #UnaFlorParaPayá. My flower for dad.”

Today, his daughter continues his project through the Cuba Decides campaign, which seeks to reestablish Cuban politics and legislation through a national plebiscite.

“There will be no transition to democracy in Cuba if Cubans are excluded again,” the project’s website reads, stating its goal as giving “the Cuban people the ability to express themselves.”

“Cubans have no say, we have no democratic means to express ourselves, while the government and some worldwide claim to speak for our people,” it adds.

“If you decide, Cuba decides. Lift up your hearts, Cubans! Your signature counts for freedom.”

Rosa María announced her imminent return to Cuba on a video posted on social networks, despite the harassment and threats that her family have routinely suffered at the hands of the government.

“I have decided to return to Cuba to visit the grave of my father,” Rosa María says, describing her father as someone who “devoted his life to the dreams and hopes of all Cubans.”

Regarding her father’s death, she reports that Oswaldo “said he lived and died in the hands of God.” She has no “hatred in her heart,” she adds, but doesn’t want to “live in fear.”

“I return to Havana as a Cuban citizen, with all my documentation, but I also go back exercising the right that entitles all Cubans — even if the law recognizes it or not — to return to our country at our own discretion,” Rosa María argues.

She then invites her supporters to join and support her return through their prayers and messages.

“Let the flower for my dad be the flower of all, the flower of many, and your flower to remember his legacy and honor his name,” she concludes.

In April, the activist participated in the Civil Society Forum of the Seventh Summit of the Americas held in Panama. Shortly after she landed on the Central American nation, Payá was faced with the threat of deportation, as well as harassment by supporters of the Cuban regime.

Translated by Rebeca Morla. Edited by Laurie Blair.

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