Oswaldo Paya was the founder of the Varela Project, a campaign to force the Cuban parliament to consider new human rights laws. He was one of Cuba’s most prominent political dissidents and the winner of the EU’s Sakharov Prize, an important human rights award. On Sunday, his car swerved off the road and hit a tree, killing Paya and 31-year-old Harold Cepero, a fellow activist. Paya’s family says his car was forced off the road.Days after his funeral (where police detained eight of Paya’s fellow dissidents), the web is abuzz with theories that the Cuban authorities had someone kill Paya and make it look like an accident. Cuban exile groups and democracy activists—even Mitt Romney—have suggested foul play was involved.Meanwhile, Raul Castro’s has been hinting that he is trying guide Cuba into the modern global economy. Last month he traveled to China and Vietnam, both communist in name but both eager participants in global capitalism. Neither country is considered a beacon of human rights.Crackdowns on dissidents can be read one of two ways. One is that Havana is serious about economic reform but wants to kneecap the opposition to guard against anybody getting the idea that economic reform means political change. The other is that Havana is dead set against meaningful change in either the economic or the political spheres.Either way, the political as opposed to the economic intentions of the government are perfectly clear. Cubans standing up for free expression and basic human dignity deserve the respect and support of free people all over the world. Some day, we can hope, Cubans will have the freedom to choose their leaders and to fire them when their policies fail.Until then, I continue to favor lifting the embargo and the travel ban; they limit the freedom of Americans to travel where they want and invest and trade where they please and they neither weaken the government nor help ordinary Cubans. But the Castro brothers believe that lifting the embargo will weaken their hold on Cuba and undermine their propaganda; we can count on them to frustrate efforts in the US to normalize relations as long as they are in power. Crackdowns on dissidents are one of the tools they use to keep Washington at bay; they have been at this game for a long time, and they are very good at what they do.
Cuban Dissident Killed in Suspicious Circumstances
Newer Post WRM on NPR Older Post Iranians Don’t Want to Play Mullahs’ Game of Chicken