Rosa María Payá is the Cuban activist behind Cuba Decide, a campaign to bring change to Cuba through a plebiscite — that is, a direct vote by Cubans on a transition to democracy.
Her father Oswaldo Payá was one of the most prominent Cuban dissidents of his generation. He founded the Christian Liberation Movement (or Movimiento Cristiano Liberación), which sought to bring legislation to Cuba’s National Assembly through a signature-gathering mechanism laid out in the Cuban Constitution. In 2002, he was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. In 2012, Oswaldo Payá was killed when a car he was in was run off the road by an agent of the Cuban government. The crash also killed one of the Christian Liberation Movement’s young leaders, Harold Cepero — a friend of both Rosa María Payá and our own Nicolás Jiménez.
Like her father, Rosa María has been vilified by Cuba’s dictatorship, which has made changes to its constitution in response to both her campaigns and her father’s. She’s spoken at the United Nations Human Rights Council, met with heads of state and U.S. legislators, been elected president of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy and mobilized Cubans in the U.S. to deliver aid to Cubans on the island during the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. People en Español named her one of the 25 most powerful women of 2013.