Cubans across the island will take to the streets Monday in massive peaceful protests and non-violent acts of civil disobedience to demand democracy and freedom, but one South Florida activist is slowly becoming a prominent figure among the many Cuban exiles fighting in solidarity in Miami.
Rosa María Payá is a Cuban human rights and democracy activist and the daughter of slain Cuban democracy activist Oswaldo Payá.
As a graduate of the University of Havana and Georgetown University’s Global Competitive Leadership Program, Payá founded Cuba Decide, a grassroots campaign to foster democracy in Cuba.
She is also president of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, which aims to strengthen, defend, and consolidate democracy throughout the region.
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Her activism was inspired by her father, Oswaldo Payá, a Cuban political activist who died in 2012 in a car accident that many believe was caused deliberately.
Throughout her career, Payá has spoken at many forums including the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Oslo Freedom Forum, and the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. She has also met with heads of state, members of Parliament, and civic and spiritual leaders around the world.
Payá, along with several other humanitarian leaders, requested clearance to fly to Cuba from Miami on Monday to observe the nationwide protests, visit political prisoners in jails and hospitals, and meet with independent civil society leaders.
"The Cuban nation, which lives inside and outside the island, will be on the streets today because we demand democracy, to take back our country, and move forward in freedom. We have requested permits and are scheduled to fly this morning to participate from Cuba because, as Cubans, we have that right in the law," Payá said in a statement.
The Cuban government denied the request.
Payá participated in a Miami rally Sunday where more than a thousand demonstrators gathered to show support for activists in Cuba participating in Monday's Civic March.
According to Payá, Cubans on the island fighting for freedom are risking their lives and those that have found refuge elsewhere have the responsibility of "not stopping until they get all the necessary support to recover their homeland, life and freedom."