» ICDC: International Committee for Democracy in Cuba
Rafto Prize Nomination
Oswaldo Paya Sardinas
People in Need nominated Oswaldo Paya for the 2004 Rafto Award because PIN feels that his life is an inspiration for all of those working towards a world in which the freedom of religious expression and political choice is possible. Oswaldo Paya’s adult life has been a trial of humiliation and oppression at the hands of the Cuban regime, and yet Oswaldo Paya has remained true to his democratic ideals and his deep faith.
Oswaldo Paya is a charismatic leader who has chosen to battle the communist regime in Cuba not with blood, but with courage. The Valera Project, his main initiative, is a campaign to gather 10,000 signatures that would become a draft of a bill. The strategy for this movement is outlined in Article 86 of the Cuban Constitution. Oswaldo Payá has inspired over 25,000 Cubans to stand up next to him and demand that the Cuban regime recognize their desire for freedom, a move which has required great courage and resulted in many supporters being imprisoned or terrorized for supporting the petition. Arrest, imprisonment, intimidation and economic strangulation have not dissuaded Oswaldo from supporting his community and encouraging his grass-roots campaign. By working within the bounds of the Cuban constitution, Oswaldo has found an intelligent means to exercise mass civic disobedience.
People in Need has worked with Oswaldo Paya for over nine years. During this time PIN has supported the efforts of the Valera Project and has worked to have the contributions of Oswaldo Paya recognized in the wider world. In seven years of cooperation, Oswald Paya has shown himself to be a man of honor and great bravery, and his dedication to the cause of freedom in Cuba is remarkable.
International recognition of the work of Oswald Paya is vital to the success of the Valera Project and to insuring the continuation of Oswaldo’s struggle for democratic freedom in Cuba. The Rafto prize is dedicated to activists who embody fundamental spiritual and political freedom, and as such could lend tremendous strength to the work of Oswaldo Paya. The Rafto prize bestows on its laureates a global sanction for the work of the winner, and this type of recognition could help turn the tide of the Communist regime in Cuba.
PIN believes that if international support grows loud enough, the Castro regime will be forced to listen and to take action that will make a transition to democracy possible in the future. The recognition of the Rafto prize will also make it more difficult for the regime to stop the work of Oswaldo himself. The publicity and attention that the Rafto could draw to Oswaldo will help more Cubans become aware of his work, while at the same time giving him the added protection of international popularity.
People in Need, an organization active in the promotion of democratic ideals around the globe, feels that no one is better suited to stand with former Rafto laureates than Oswaldo Paya Sardinas.
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