CUBA BRIEF: Cuban dissidents honor OAS secretary-general denied entry to Cuba

Fox, February 22, 2017
The Americas

Cuba denies entry to OAS chief invited to a pro-democracy event

Published February 22, 2017

The Organization of American States Secretary-General Luis Almagro said Wednesdaythat the Cuban government denied him permission to enter the island to receive a human rights prize created to honor late dissident Oswaldo Paya.

Mexican ex-President Felipe Calderon and former Chilean Education Minister Maria Aylwin were denied entry to the island the day before. All three were invited by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, whose president is Paya’s daughter.

In a letter to Paya’s daughter, Rosa Maria, Almagro explained that the Cuban consulate in Washington informed him that he would not be granted a visa and that Cuban authorities considered the purpose of the visit to be an unacceptable provocation.

The OAS secretary-general also said the government in Havana had accused him of involvement in anti-Cuban activities.

“My only additional concern is to ensure there’s no type of repression or reprisal against the event’s organizers,” the OAS chief said.

Cuban authorities have not responded to requests for comment.

Paya, the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, died at the age of 60 in a car accident on July 22, 2012.

Cuban authorities blamed the crash on the driver of the vehicle carrying Paya, but the Paya family contends that the Cuban security services were involved in the dissident’s death.

Paya emerged as a leading opposition figure in 2002, when he delivered more than 10,000 signed petitions calling for a referendum on democratization to Cuba’s parliament.

He was also honored that year with the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

EFE and AP contributed to this report.


ABC News, February 22, 2017

Cuban dissidents honor OAS secretary-general denied entry

  • By Andrea Rodriguez, Associated Press

HAVANA — Feb 22, 2017, 4:12 PM ET

A group of Cuban dissidents on Wednesday recognized the secretary-general of the Organization of American States for defending human rights in their country even though the government denied him entry to attend the ceremony.

About a dozen dissidents and diplomats from the U.S., Czech Republic and Sweden honored Luis Almagro at the home of the late democracy activist Oswaldo Paya, who died in a 2012 car accident.

Paya’s daughter Rosa Maria invited Almagro to receive the prize from her group in Havana. She has accused the Cuban government of causing the wreck, a charge the government denies.

Almagro sent dissidents a letter saying that the OAS’s only interest is to help move Cubacloser to the values and principles upheld by the organization in relation to democracy and human rights. He also said his intention is not to evaluate Cuba’s internal politics.

In his letter, Almagro said the Cuban government told him it was astonished he was involved in what it called “anti-Cuban” activities. He also said he hoped the government would not retaliate against the group.

The communist-run government also denied entry to Mexican ex-President Felipe Calderon and former Chilean Education Minister Maria Aylwin, both of whom were invited to attend the ceremony.

Cuba has not belonged to the OAS since 1962. It considers the organization an instrument the U.S. government uses to pressure countries that do not follow its policies.


Andrea Rodriguez is on Twitter at


Digital Journal, February 22, 2017

Cuba blocks visit by OAS chief to receive dissident prize

By AFP  

A Cuban dissident group awarded a prize Wednesday to the head of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, even though he was not allowed into the country to accept it in person.

Cuban authorities denied visas to Almagro and other foreign dignitaries invited to witness him receive the Oswaldo Paya prize, named after a dissident who died in 2012 in a car crash under mysterious circumstances.

But about 50 people, including opposition activists, journalists and diplomats, crowded into the Havana home of the dissident’s daughter to award Almagro the prize in his absence.

“We are happy to do this with those who were able to make it,” said 28-year-old Rosa Maria Paya, who leads a group called the Latin American Network of Youths for Democracy.

In her living room, decorated with a Cuban flag and a poster of her father, were two empty chairs — one for Almagro and other in honor of the late Chilean president Patricio Aylwin, who also was being recognized.

Black plaques bearing Oswaldo Paya’s face were placed in each seat.

Almagro, Aylwin’s daughter Mariana, and former Mexican president Felipe Calderon all were blocked from traveling to Cuba for the event.

Almagro said earlier in Washington that the Cuban consulate had denied him a visa, and officials there said the motive for the visit was an “unacceptable provocation.”

The Cuban officials also expressed “astonishment” at the OAS’s involvement in what they deemed anti-Cuban activities, he said.

Almagro, a Uruguayan diplomat, has been a sharp critic of Venezuela’s leftist government, Cuba’s closest ally.

“We hope that this aggression, this vulgarity on the part of the Cuban government toward the guests … is met with a response from the members of the OAS and other democratic governments,” Paya said.

Paya’s father Oswaldo was a recipient of the European Union’s Sakharov prize in recognition of his work advocating democracy and political freedoms in Cuba.

He was killed when a car he was riding in went off a road and into a tree. The government blamed the driver, saying he was speeding, but the family and another occupant of the vehicle say it was deliberately run off the road.

Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962 at the height of the Cold War, and has declined to return despite having been readmitted in 2009.

Since Cuba’s suspension, the only OAS secretary general to visit the island was Jose Miguel Insulza, a Chilean who attended a Latin American summit in Havana in 2014.

The Miami Herald, February 22, 2017 

Cuba denies entry to OAS Secretary General

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By Nora Gámez Torres

Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro on Wednesdaydenounced the Cuban government’s refusal to issue him a visa for entry to the island to receive a democracy award named in honor of the late government opponent Oswaldo Payá.

The award was to be issued by the Latin America organization Jóvenes por la Democracia (Youth for Democracy), which is headed by Payá’s daughter and renowned activist Rosa María Payá.

“My trip to Cuba was no different than others I have made to attend similar events in Latin America organized by civil society,” Almagro posted in Spanish on Twitter, adding that the reason he could not receive the Oswaldo Payá award in Cuba was because his visa request was denied.

Almagro said, in a letter to Rosa María Payá, that the Cuban consulate in Washington informed him that he would not be granted a visa to enter Cuba as secretary of the OAS (Organization of American States) nor would he be allowed to enter with his Uruguayan passport because the reason for his visit constituted “an unacceptable provocation.”

In his letter, Almagro said that “an analysis as superficial as alarmist, seems to have warned about the danger that my visit and the ceremony announced could have for the future of Cuba-United States relations, and the welfare of the Cuban people as it could motivate a hardened attitude by the government toward groups” that do not support it.

Almagro added that “it would be quite ridiculous that after 67 years of revolution, both the well-being of the Cuban people and bilateral relations with the United States depended on this ceremony.”

The OAS Secretary General pointed out that he has attended similar events by civil society organizations “without the government supporting them, but without censoring them because they are part of the tolerance of democratic systems and values.” He also asserted that his “only interest … is and will be to facilitate Cuba’s rapprochement with the values nd principles of the Inter-American system.”

Cuba’s ban as a member of the OAS was lifted in 2009 but Raúl Castro’s government has repeatedly stated that it would not be part of the organization.

Beyond Almagro, other dignitaries and members of the Jóvenes por la Democraciagroup also were denied entry to the island, said Payá who, like her father, promotes holding a plebiscite on the political system in Cuba.

The ceremony ultimately was held around 11 a.m. at the Payá home in the El Cerro neighborhood of Havana, without the participation of Almagro and other guests, and under a strong police presence, social activists reported. About 50 people attended, including European and U.S. diplomats, several news agencies reported.

Almagro also shared on social media networks his concern about potential reprisals against organizers of the event.

If the intention of the Cuban government was to avoid a conflict by restricting attendance to the event, the denial of entry to Almagro, former Chilean Minister Mariana Aylwin and former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, generated an outcry across the region.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray stated that Calderón’s presence in Cuba does not affect the Cuban people or government. “We lament the decision,” he posted on Twitter.

Former Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda characterized Havana’s action as “highly hostile against Mexico” in statements to Televisa. The Mexican government maintains close relations with Cuba and its President Enrique Peña Nieto was even invited to give an eulogy at the funeral of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera posted a video condemning the Cuban government for its decision to prevent the entry of visiting politicians and activists.

“This demonstrates not only that the Cuban government has no respect for freedom, democracy and human rights, but also signifies an affront to all Chileans.”

Ricardo Lagos, also a former president of Chile, said that Cuba’s refusal to allow entry to Aylwin was “unacceptable.” Alwyin was to attend the ceremony to pay tribute to his father, former President Patricio Aylwin.

Former Colombian President Andres Pastrana, issued a communiqué on behalf of a democracy organization he heads (Internacional de Partidos Demócratas de Centro), protesting the Cuban government’s action and reiterating the group’s “position in favor of respect for human rights and liberties of Cuban (government) opponents.”The communiqué also called for the release of Eduardo Cardet, the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement who has been imprisoned for nearly three months and is regarded as a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International.

Payá posted a message attributed to former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in which she expressed her hope that the Secretary General of the OAS could travel to Cuba “without interference” and receive the prize that carries the name “of one of the world’s great proponents of peaceful struggle for democracy.”

The Cuban Embassy in Chile, meanwhile, issued its own declaration calling the event, “A serious international provocation against the Cuban government… perpetrated by an illegal anti-Cuban group that acts against the constitutional order and that provokes the repudiation of the population, with the collusion and financing of politicians and foreign institutions, in order to generate internal instability and, at the same time, affect our diplomatic relations with other countries.”

In the statement, the embassy affirms that “in a discreet and constructive manner, it made all the efforts in its reach, to inform, to dissuade and to prevent that the provocation” be carried out.

In Miami, Ophelia Acevedo, Oswaldo Payá’s widow and mother of Rosa María, said she feared for the life of her daughter and the other event organizers who are promoting the CubaDecide (CubaDecides) campaign in and outside of the island. Acevedo lives in Miami with her daughter, who traveled to Havana specifically for the award ceremony.

“We know what the Cuban government is capable of doing,” Acevedo said, a reference to the family belief that the deadly car accident that killed her husband in 2012 was orchestrated by the government.

“We have seen their level of intolerance, arrogance and contempt for others,” she said. “They feel attacked because other personalities in the world recognize not only the Oswaldo Payá award, but also because in Cuba there are people who think differently and have different alternatives.”

Cuba correspondent Mario J. Pentón contributed to this report.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

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