The widow of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Ofelia Acevedo, and her children Rosa María and Reinaldo, have asked for political asylum in Miami, according to representatives of the anti-Castro movement that Payá had founded.
The request marks the first time that high-profile dissidents who have been allowed to travel outside of Cuba in the past several months have requested asylum in the United States.
On Sunday, Antonio Díaz, member of the coordinating committee of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), told El Nuevo Herald that Payás family members were in Miami and were focusing on initiating the paperwork to settle in as political refugees.
Theyre already here and are taking some time to finish the process, said Díaz in Miami, who said he was in contact with the family. For now they will take care of the paperwork, and shortly after, they will speak to the media.
In a communication released Saturday night, the MCL said that the Payá family arrived in Miami accompanied by other unidentified family members.
On Thursday, June 6, Mrs. Ofelia Acevedo Maura, Oswaldo Payás widow and a founding member of the MCLs Coordination Council, arrived in Miami accompanied by her daughter Rosa María, also member of the MCLs Coordination Committee, and her younger son Reinaldo, as well as other members of her family, the release says.
The Payá familys decision took place nearly two months after Rosa María Payás return to Cuba after a tour through Europe and the United States. During her visit to Miami, she told El Nuevo Herald that the Cuban regime had intensified the threats against her family.
On Sunday, leaders of the Cuban community in Miami expressed support for the decision made by the family members, who had insisted in requesting an international investigation to clarify the strange circumstances of the deaths of Payá and Harold Cepero in a car crash on July 22 last year. The family alleges that the government is responsible for those deaths.
It was to be expected that after requesting the investigation, Payás family members would begin to have a lot of problems, said Ninoska Pérez Castellón, a talk-show host at Radio Mambí. Unfortunately, this is the path that numerous Cubans have had to follow. [...] I am sure they will continue to energetically denounce the crimes that are taking place there.
The executive director of the Human Rights Foundation of Cuba, Yvonne Soler-McKinley, said that the Cuban regime has not hesitated to continue threatening peaceful internal dissidents.
Dissidents are being subjected to a lot of pressure, they are constantly harassing them, said Soler-McKinley. We in exile must now support them in everything we can.
Several of the dissidents who returned to Cuba after traveling under the immigration reform implemented on Jan. 14 have said they were victims of constant harassment.
Among them is Eliécer Avila, who at the end of May said he was stopped at Havanas José Martí International Airport by immigration officials and police, who spent four hours thoroughly checking his belongings and then seized more than a dozen books and magazines that he was carrying.
Upon her return to Cuba on April 16 after an international tour, Rosa María Payá said that the threats against her and her organization had not stopped.
There is no doubt that vigilance has intensified, Rosa María told El Nuevo Herald.
In May a pro-Castro blog accused Rosa María of creating a matrix of international opinion about her fathers death. The threats from the Heraldo Cubano blog sympathetic to the Cuban government were part of an opinion column titled Those Who Play With Fire..., and was signed by Arthur González.
Oscar Peña, president of the Miami-based Cuban Committee for Human Rights, said that the Payá familys exit is a hard blow for dissidents who remain on the island, but he said he understood the decision.
I understand them perfectly well because I went through the same situation, Peña said. On the one hand there is the fatigue of the dissidents families and, on the other hand, there is the governments plan to clear the streets of any voice opposing them.
The MCL release said that it will continue working with love on the opposition program known as El Camino del Pueblo (The Peoples Path), which expresses the common goals of the Cuban democratic movement.
Inside and outside of the island, we will continue to take action in order to obtain an independent international investigation that would publicly clarify the deaths of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, said the release.
Regis Iglesias, who is among those who signed the MCLs statement in support of it, said the Payá family had been a victim of a harassment campaign.
They are going through very difficult moments, Iglesias said Sunday from Madrid. There is no option but to support them in these circumstances.
Iglesias denounced that the governments violence against dissidents has grown increasingly aggressive. He mentioned, for example, the machete attack on Saturday against Werlando Leyva Batista, an MCL member in the city of Holguín.
Eduardo Cardet Concepción, who also signed the MCLs statement, said that Leyva Batista had to have surgery after wounds on his right forearm. They yelled insults calling Werlando a worm, a counterrevolutionary, an opposition member [...] and then using a machete they attacked him, said Cardet in a telephone message released by MCL.