Bill Nelson: U.N. must investigate Oswaldo Payá’s death
Posted on Sunday, 03.24.13
Bill Nelson: U.N. must investigate Oswaldo Payá's death
BY BILL NELSON
Like so many of her followers, we've been watching Yoani Sánchez's
international speaking tour. Just this month, the well-known Cuban
opposition blogger came at my invitation to our nation's capital, where,
in a rare appearance, she shared her views on life inside today's Cuba.
During her hour-long visit, she met with members of Congress from both
sides of the political aisle.
And her message was bell-clear: The Cuban people are still struggling
for freedom and democracy — and, they need our help.
Despite Cuba's incredibly restrictive laws governing free speech and
freedom of the press, Yoani has found a way to stay connected with the
world, via the Internet. Millions of people now follow her on Twitter
and read her blog, Generation Y.
She's illustrative of how the social media are slowly overtaking the
repression and control of authoritarian regimes everywhere, including
communist Cuba. Sánchez fittingly summarized the situation last week,
saying: "It took me a full 10 years to see images from the fall of the
Berlin Wall. But my son was able to witness the images from Tahrir
Square almost exactly as they were happening."
Still, we must remember that some of her fellow dissidents have been
silenced — some forever.
It was just 10 years ago this month that the regime conducted one of its
severest crackdowns of democracy activists and journalists, known as
Cuba's "Black Spring."
And, of course, there's still one of our own — Maryland native [and
USAID worker] Alan Gross — languishing in a Cuban jail for nearly four
and a half years now. We must remain unrelenting in our calls for his
release and safe return home.
More recently, new details emerged in The Washington Post regarding the
death last summer of popular Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá. From
the safety of his native Spain, Ángel Carromero, the driver of Payá's
car the day Payá died, finally gave his version of events leading up to
the mysterious crash that killed Payá and fellow Cuban activist Harold
Their vehicle, according to Carromero, was being followed by another car
with government plates, before it was suddenly hit with a "thunderous
impact from behind" and run off the road. Payá, the man who had
orchestrated the largest democratic petition drive in Cuban history, was
killed. Carromero's detailed account of the July 22 crash matches that
of other witnesses.
Given this new information, and my discussion with Yoani Sánchez, I have
now asked the head of the United Nations to direct a thorough
independent investigation of the events leading up to Payá's death. Such
an investigation should begin immediately.
Payá will forever be remembered as one of Cuba's best known dissidents.
But the causes that he championed — freedom of speech, press and
enterprise — continue to elude the Cuban people. That's why this
investigation is critical. Without it, further reform is easily
undermined or avoided, altogether.
Meantime, Yoani's visit to the United States is a welcome development
that indicates some seeds of change are beginning to take root on the
On an 80-day world tour of a dozen countries, after a decade of being
barred from leaving Cuba, Sánchez next plans to visit Miami. On April 1,
she'll speak at the iconic Freedom Tower — significant because that's
the site where many Cuban exiles were processed upon their arrival in
the United States.
I'm planning to join her there in support of her call for democratic
reforms in Cuba. These, I believe, must include the release of Gross and
the investigation into Payá's death.
Bill Nelson is Florida's senior U.S. senator.