Cuban Ofelia Acevedo, widow of dissident Oswaldo Paya, who died in unclear circumstances, asked that an international investigation be opened to know the truth about her husband’s death.
Married in 1986 in the parish Del Cerro, she has three children, aged 26, 25 and 22. She has now left Cuba and fears for her life. “We have suffered all sorts of repressions, threats, vigilance, and interference in our family life,” she tells ZENIT in this interview, adding that she is "a member of the Coordinating Council of the Christian Liberation Movement.”
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ZENIT: Where are you living now?
--Ofelia Acevedo: At present I‘m living with my children in the United States. A year ago I had to leave my country as a political refugee. On July 22, 2012, the State Security in Cuba, pursued with its cars the car in which my husband was traveling, taking it off the highway and obliging the driver to stop. The next day they announced that my husband died in a traffic accident. They began immediately again the threats and following of my children.
Since then, I am determined to try to initiate an investigation independent of the Cuban government (it must necessarily be outside of Cuba), to clarify the circumstances of his death and of the young man Harold Cepero who was accompanying him on the trip. We have reasons and evidence for it.
ZENIT: What is the present situation in Cuba and of its citizens? How do Cubans live?
--Ofelia Acevedo: In the main, Cuba today is a poor country. Cubans, and I’m referring to ordinary Cubans, suffer great material and spiritual want. A great many of them survive economically thanks to the existing corruption. Cubans cannot develop a plan for their lives, because in my country any private initiative can be declared illegal when the Government so wishes. They live submerged in a culture of fear and the social differences are enormous. Those with political power have all the rights and all the resources; they are hugely rich while the great majority of the people have nothing or almost nothing.
ZENIT: What do you think is the situation of human rights and of freedom of expression?
--Ofelia Acevedo: There is a grave situation of violation of human rights in Cuba, and there are no prospects of a solution, precisely because the government itself doesn’t recognize the problem and feels attacked by the simple mention of the subject.
There is no freedom of expression or free access to the Internet or the media, which is totally controlled by the State, although the people pay for them. Any independent manifestation for freedom of expression is controlled and can be punished by long years in prison. Education is controlled by the State. The health system is precarious. People don’t have mobility because of the lack of transport and unreachable prices. It is difficult to be able to feed the family every day, although the greatest discrimination is the political. For people who don’t submit to the control of the group that has the power, it is as if they didn’t exist.
ZENIT: How do Cubans who live on the Island see the Church? And those who have had to leave the country?
--Ofelia Acevedo: Wherever citizens aren’t free, one cannot speak of true religious freedom. The Church pilgrimaging in Cuba is part of our people, which it has served evangelizing, educating, helping the poor, the sick, prisoners and their families. For years the Church has endured and endures the regime’s interference, repression, contempt, control and attempts to de-Christianize our culture.
ZENIT: Is it true that the Government is promoting some reforms? Which ones?
--Ofelia Acevedo: The Cuban regime has failed as a political system. As ever, the Government must be maintained with the economic aid of other countries or Governments that are more or less akin.
The so-called “Raul’s changes” undertaken by the regime, marking a difference with its predecessor in power, are reforms of some laws. The most important, for those who live inside, is the Migratory Reform, because to flee the country has been the way of salvation, which Cubans have pursued, to free themselves from their distressing reality. The other most trumpeted reform is the new law on foreign investment, which gives facilities to foreign merchants to establish businesses with the Government. Oswaldo Paya called these bit by bit reforms, dressed as changes, “Fraudulent Changes,” because in reality they consist in legitimizing and consolidating the most merciless inequality, guaranteeing the privileges of the powerful and their new rich status, while the regime insists that it will not implement political changes or be open to rights. And we all know that economic reforms have never brought rights and freedom.
ZENIT: Is a process of democratization possible?
--Ofelia Acevedo: Yes, a process of democratization is possible, as a consequence of a process of liberation that can take place through strength of spirit and solidarity, the only thing capable of overcoming the culture of fear which for years has reduced the individual and the society to defenselessness and impotence.
The Christian Liberation Movement (CLM) has worked and works inside and outside of Cuba, together with a great part of the Opposition, to achieve real changes towards freedom and rights. The legal initiative with the referendum of the Varela Plan, has been and is up to now the greatest citizen mobilization in favor of fundamental rights, made concrete by the Cuban people. The CLM has a rich history of concrete projects developed with the citizens, helping them exact through peaceful ways their fundamental rights. On May 10, 2006, Oswaldo Paya presented to all Cubans, on behalf of the Coordinating Council of the Christian Liberation Movement, a political plan based on the Social Doctrine of the Church, the program “All Cubans,” which is a viable political alternative to begin the changes towards democracy. It was elaborated with the contributions of thousands of Cubans who live inside and outsider of Cuba, who worked with much love to elaborate it.
ZENIT: What message do you think it is important to give?
--Ofelia Acevedo: That it be recognized that we, Cubans, have a right to rights, that we want to live in peace, in the lovely land that God gave us. We want to live without fears, without exclusions, without lies. We want to be able to participate freely and democratically in political decisions that affect our lives and those of our families. We must all rebuild with our effort and ingenuity our destroyed country. We, Cubans, are also human beings and we want to count on the solidarity and fraternity of people of good will around the world. Support the Cuban people.