The first information about the death of Cuban opponent Oscar Peña circulated in the morning of last Friday as a murmur.
It had not yet been reflected in the digital media, but those who knew him well circulated the sad news: Oscar had died hours before, apparently, according to people close to him, a victim of the coronavirus. He had been a persistent fighter for the freedom of Cuba.
I consider it important to highlight the life and work of Oscar Peña because with his departure a significant part of the battle for the defense of human rights is diluted in a country that, after more than six decades, has not managed to escape from a dictatorship .
Peña’s career was closely linked to the Cuban Committee for Human Rights that Ricardo Bofill founded in 1976, a time when the Castro regime persecuted dissent with particular fury. That young university student would follow the leadership of Bofill, one of the key figures in the opposition arena, over the years.
It was people like Bofill, Elizardo Sánchez and Martha Frayde, among others, who promoted this movement by claiming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Faced with the violent repression of Castroism, they responded with the peaceful but continuous defense of human rights, exposing to the world the abuses of a government that to this day denies Cubans the right to live in a democracy with alternation of political parties.
Almost all of them went through political imprisonment and suffered a multitude of humiliations and discrediting campaigns by the Intelligence apparatus. Bofill, Peña, and Martha Frayde herself ended up exiled, but they did not abandon their militancy in exile.
Together with them, and over the years, we can talk about figures of the caliber of Sebastián and Gustavo Arcos Bergnes. Or Oswaldo Payá, at the head of the Christian Liberation Movement, who shook the foundations of the dictatorship when he promoted a massive collection of signatures to carry out a referendum that would have been an avenue towards change.
These are women and men who sacrificed their lives with the mission of digging into that space of freedom that at some point manages to tear down the wall of oppression.
After leaving and entering prisons, some arrived sick in exile. Most had to start from scratch. In the case of Payá and the also activist Harold Cepero, they died in strange circumstances in a traffic accident when they were closely followed by State Security. Bofill died last year at his modest home in Miami, where, while he had the capacity to do so, he never abandoned a fight in which Peña accompanied him to the end.
It is necessary to remember the founders and promoters in Cuba of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights so that they do not fall into oblivion of the collective forgetfulness.
They were courageous pioneers of a movement that would shape successive efforts to regain democracy. In one of his writings Oscar Peña highlighted, “I dream of a Cuba in which we all fit.”
His dream is still intact and waiting for it to come true.
Twitter: @ginamontaner. © FIRMAS PRESS