Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Cuban Dissidents Detained at Payá Funeral



Cuban police detained at least seven people on Tuesday immediately following the funeral service of Oswaldo Payá, a leading opposition figure who died in a car crash on Sunday. Shouting anti-government slogans, Guillermo Fariñas and other activists were detained upon exiting the San Salvador Catholic Church in Havana. Fariñas has staged hunger strikes to protest the state repression of dissidents; in 2010, he won the European Union’s Sakharov human rights award, which was granted to Payá in 2002.

According to official accounts, Payá and another dissident, Harold Cepero Escalante, died when their car hit a tree travelling near the town of Bayamo, in eastern Cuba. However, a number of dissidents—including some arrested on Tuesday—have raised suspicions of foul play. Payá’s 23-year-old daughter, Rosa Maria Payá, questioned the official version of the death in a speech at the funeral.

Payá is best known for launching a petition known as the Varela Project to call for greater civil liberties in Cuba, including the right of assembly and freedom of expression. Following the funeral service, Payá’s son said that his father had received multiple death threats over his career as a dissident, especially after the Valera Project.

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