Editor’s Note: Statement by the White House Press Secretary on the death of Oswaldo Payá.
The President's thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Oswaldo Payá, a tireless champion for greater civic and human rights in Cuba. Payá gave decades of his life to the nonviolent struggle for freedom and democratic reform in Cuba as the head of the Christian Liberation Movement, the leader of the Varela Project, and through his role as a civil society activist. He remained optimistic until the end that the country he loved would see a peaceful and democratic transition. We continue to be inspired by Payá's vision and dedication to a better future for Cuba, and believe that his example and moral leadership will endure. The United States will continue to support the Cuban people as they seek their fundamental human rights.
Arrest of Activists in Cuba
We condemn the arrest of nearly 50 pro-democracy activists by the Cuban government during funeral ceremonies for Oswaldo Paya this week. Some of those arrested were reportedly beaten at the time of their detention. The fact that this occurred while hundreds of people gathered peacefully to commemorate the life of one of Cuba’s foremost human rights advocates only underscores the importance of Paya’s struggle on behalf of the Cuban people. Unfortunately, these arrests provide a stark demonstration of the climate of repression in Cuba, as demonstrated by the June 9 arrest of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez following his testimony to a U.S. Senate Subcommittee regarding rights abuses in Cuba, and by hundreds of other arbitrary detentions in recent months.
We call on the Cuban government to respect internationally recognized fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech, rather than arresting their citizens for peacefully exercising these universal rights that are protected and promoted by governments throughout the world. We look forward to the day when the Cuban people can live in the free society Oswaldo Paya worked so hard to bring about throughout his lifetime.
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