After a month of spirited dissent and calls for justice from the Cuban-American community in light of President Obama’s capitulations to the Castro regime in December, the Republican Party is answering by hosting some of the most prominent members of the Cuban dissident community at tonight’s State of the Union Address.
In addition to renowned human rights activists Jorge Luis García Pérez (Antúnez) and wife Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera– who will attend the address as guests of House Speaker John Boehner— Senator Marco Rubio has invited Rosa María Payá Acevedo, a prominent dissident and outspoken critic of President Obama’s negotiations with Cuba, to accompany him to the event as a guest.
Payá Acevedo is the daughter of Oswaldo Payá, the leader of Cuba’s Christian Liberation Movement and advocate for free and fair elections on the island. Payá was killed in a car crash in 2012, widely believed to have been targeted by the Cuban government due to his advocacy. The Cuban government sentenced the driver of the car, a Spanish national, to four years in prison, though the driver has maintained for years that the “accident” was, in fact, an attack by the Cuban government.
Since her father’s death, Payá Acevedo has taken the helm of the Christian Liberation Movement, and in doing so has criticized any move by the American government to legitimize the Castro regime.
Sen. Rubio notes this in his official statement announcing Payá Acevedo as his guest tonight. “All Oswaldo Payá wanted was a better future for Cuba and the Cuban people, and the Castro regime assassinated him for it,” Rubio writes in his statement, adding that the younger Payá has taken up his fight and expressing hope that her presence will help the Obama administration reconsider their new policies. “I hope Rosa María Payá’s presence on Tuesday night will at least remind him that her father’s murderers have not been brought to justice, and that the U.S. is now, in fact, sitting at the table with them,” he writes.
In an open letter to President Obama in the Washington Post, Payá Acevedo calls on him to support human rights in Cuba by demanding specific directives– from an open investigation on the death of her father to a plebiscite for a new government in Cuba. Anticipating that President Obama’s claims of supporting human rights will result in no meaningful action, she writes:
We do not want symbolic solidarity. We do not want to participate only in the parallel forum to the next Summit of the Americas. The chair that will be occupied by the Cuban government is not the chair of the people, because the Cuban government does not represent Cuba’s citizens. […]
Mr. President, your laws are not what is preventing the free market and access to information in Cuba; it is the Cuban government’s legislation and its constant censorship.
The President is expected to defend his recent policies in support of the Castro regime at the State of the Union address, as First Lady Michelle Obama has invited Alan Gross, a USAID worker sentenced to fifteen years in prison in Cuba before being released as part of the December negotiation, as her guest to the event.