In July of last year, when I talked to some of the victims of the “Marzo de 13” Tugboat massacrein the Bay of Havana, I found a list of horrifying statistics.
Two of them would make any halfway decent human being shudder: the bodies recovered from the sea as a result of the sinking of the boat were never returned to the families, and there was never an independent investigation into the massacre in which 41 Cubans lost their lives. Ten of them were minors.
What was so shocking about these events was not just the impunity of those who perpetrated the atrocity on Cuban soil, but that what happened on 13 July 1994 is a pattern that has been repeated almost since the Revolutionary government took power in 1959.
The violent deaths, on 22 July 2012, of Oswaldo Payá, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Throught, and Harold Cepero, young leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, followed the same path of an absence of justice and the utter helplessness of the affected families. Although in this case the bodies were handed over to the families, neither Payá nor Harold were given an autopsy or an independent investigation.
With the policy changes of the Obama administration and the Havana dictatorship, some voices have begun to ask for independent investigations of the violent deaths, especially where it is known that the authorities had some participation.
Other think that these kinds of “problems” have to full potential to point the accusing finger at the face of the government in Havana and that “this is not the opportune moment to talk about accusations, but rather the issues that bring both nations closer,” like an independent blogger on the Island told me.
The international media ignores the issue to the same extent. The saddest thing isn’t that they don’t emphasize these presumed assassinations, but rather that the majority of us, Cubans inside and outside the country, don’t consider it one of the most important issues to address. An independent investigation into the deaths of Osvaldo Payá and Harold Cepero protects all of us Cubans.
The alleged “accidents” and “careless doctors” who caused the deaths of Laura Pollán, Oswaldo Payá, Harold Cepero and many other Cubans are the extrajudicial executioners that hang like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of all Cubans living on the Island.
Those who dare to dissent and openly criticize the Government have felt the danger much more closely. Many of them have received death threats from members of State Security, who act with total impunity, as they themselves know, without legal consequences.
Last night I heard that Rosa María Payá met Robert Jacobson on a plane, when the daughter of the Cuban dissident was returning from a short trip to Washington, where she had the privilege of being the guest of Senator Marco Rubio at the State of the Union. The Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs was on her way to Havana to meet with officials from the Cuban Government in one of the meetings between the two nations at the highest level since the Jimmy Carter administration.
In this short encounter, Rosa María Payá asked whether the investigation into the death of her father would be on the negotiating table. The answer, as politically correct as it was evasive, was, “ This is always a point that we can raise*,” this is always an issue we can touch on.
Maybe I’m wrong, but judging by the response, the issue of the unexplained deaths of opponents like Oswaldo Payá and Laura Pollán will remain unaddressed (for now) and, with them, the fear every Cuban has of being murdered at any moment, without consequences for the executioners, nor for those who give the orders.
*In English in the original