Remembering some of the victims of Cuban communism: Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas
“When one man dies it’s a tragedy. When thousands die it’s statistics.” – Josef Stalin
Some psychologists argue that as the number of victims increase into the hundreds, and thousands that compassion collapses out of the human fear of being overwhelmed. In the case of Cuba the communist regime has killed tens of thousands, and many have become numb in the face of this horror. Therefore on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first communist regime in Russia, that caused so much harm around the world, will focus on the small corner of Cuba and on an infinitesimal sampling of some of the victims of Cuban communism. These took place during my years of activism, and I knew some of the victims personally, and remain outraged at the injustice and continuing impunity. The first entry concerned a humble bricklayer turned courageous human rights defender who paid the ultimate price for speaking truth to power. This entry focuses on a Catholic lay activist, nonviolence icon, husband, father of three and the founder of a Cuban opposition movement that shook the foundation of the Castro regime with a simple demand that human rights be respected and reformed in Cuba using the existing constitution. This audacious action and continuing speaking truth to power led to a suspicious death that appears to have been a political assassination by the communist regime in Cuba.
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas never held political office. He was born into a Catholic family on February 29, 1952 that did not side with either the Batista or Castro dictatorships. Oswaldo was just 6 years old when Fidel Castro took power in January of 1959. The Payá family was considered an enemy of the regime simply because they refused to renounce their Catholic faith as the communist dictatorship demanded or to remain silent before glaring injustices.
In 1961 during the Bay of Pigs invasion there home was subjected to what would later become known as an “act of repudiation” where a mob surrounded their home shouting insults, death threats, and for the family to be taken to the firing squad. All the adult males had been detained leaving the women and children alone to face the harassment and threats. Until 1992 the regime was officially atheist, violently hostile to religion and the continued fealty of the Payá family to their Catholic faith meant that they were targeted, their home under constant surveillance, and occasionally searched.
Forced Labor Camp at age 16
Oswaldo was the only child in his class who refused to join the young communists and its precursor the young pioneers. During the 1968 invasion at age 16 he demonstrated his sympathy with the people of Czechoslovakia and openly criticized the Soviet invaders. When other students sided with Oswaldo’s support of the Czechs, the school authorities saw the 16 year old as a threat and sent him to a punishment camp to forced labor from May of 1969 until 1972.
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