Oral Testimony By Rosa María Payá for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Women Leaders Countering Authoritarianism


By Rosa María Payá

Full Committee Hearing

Women Leaders Countering Authoritarianism

Senate Foreign Relations Committee

September 21, 2022

Thank you. 

In her book, Sex and World Peace, Dr. Hudson argues that the status of women is the single most important predictive factor for state stability. 

In truth, the state terrorism in Cuba affects both, men and women, but the status of women in my country is not only a predictive indicator of repression but also of how the US will fare in terms of its own national security.

My name is Rosa María Payá, from the citizen initiative, Cuba Decide, to move Cuba toward democracy. With thousands on the Island, during the last years, we have lived a radical increase in activism and peaceful demonstrations, and an equally intense increase in repression. 

Ten years ago, the Castro brothers ordered the murder of Harold Cepero, and my father, Oswaldo Payá, a respected civic leader who mobilized thousands of citizens. 

And, if the treatment of women is indeed an indicator, I’ll tell you about the way my mother was treated when she had to leave Cuba because my father’s murderers harassed my brothers and threatened me with death.  And then, in 2017, when she returned to visit her husband’s tomb, the political police detained and expelled her, from her own country with the collaboration of American Airlines.

If a Woman is a symbol for Cuba, her name is Sayli Navarro. She is 36 and serving a sentence of 8 years for going to a police station to ask about the disappeared persons from the protests of July 11. 

If a Woman is Cuba, her name is Aymara Nieto, mother of two girls whom she has not seen grow up because, since 2018, she has been imprisoned for demanding the liberation of the political prisoners. 

There are more than 1000 political prisoners in Cuba, that is more than in all of Latin America combined. 

My country is on the brink of a humanitarian tragedy. Mothers cannot feed their children. 

Why does this matter to Americans?

Because the world still believes you stand for freedom.  

But also, because it is in your self-interest. 

In the last 10 months alone, almost 2% of the Cuban population have crossed the US border in a coordinated operation between Havana and Managua. • 

The dictatorship threatens peace in the continent and provides sanctuary to terrorists. That it why is critical to keep Cuba on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The Cuban regime has a strategic and military agreement with Russia. Russia’s best transatlantic ally is only 90 miles away.

But you can end this threat. 

First, there are the Cuban people. Despite the terror, the humanitarian crisis, and the exodus, protests continue. WE, CUBANS, ARE DETERMINED TO BE FREE!

Second. We encourage the administration to:

  1. Stop any attempt to appease the Cuban Regimen and instead demand the unconditional release of all political prisoners; the end of repression; respect in law and in practice of freedom of expression, association, and economic freedom.

  2. Apply individual sanctions―the Global Magnitsky Act―targeting top officials and individuals involved in human rights abuses.

  3. Create an international effort in support of a binding plebiscite so that the Cuban people can decide to change the system towards democracy peacefully.

Lastly, we ask the administration and the Congress to remember that, American companies embraced the Sullivan Principles to end South African Apartheid. Please, request from companies the same behavior towards the Cuban people now. 

In closing, I’ll share a story 

In 1781, when the Continental Army was depleted. The Ladies of Havana donated 1.2 million pounds of silver to the cause. Many said that the donation was the foundation on which the building of democracy was built. Their gift came with a letter: This is “So the American mothers’ sons are not born as slaves.”

Today, my  country is enslaved and All we are asking is for the US  to support the people of Cuba, the women of Cuba, in our just quest for freedom. 

Thank you.

Source: CubaDecide