Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas – Biography
Born on February 29, 1952 in “El Cerro” neighborhood in Havana. He is the fifth of 7 brothers. From the time of his childhood, his family and siblings were very active in the Parish Church “Savior of the World” in El Cerro.
Oswaldo studied at the Champagnat College of the Marist Brothers in El Cerro until the third grade (1961). The college was shut down and he was compelled to attend Public School, while taking catechism in his parish where he did communion and confirmation. Oswaldo never joined the Communist Youth or the Communist Party and was never a “Pioneer.” His internal exile was the Catholic Church. At age 16 he had to complete mandatory military service and he was punished for refusing to transfer a group of political prisoners. He was sent to the Island of Youth to carry out forced labor. Upon finishing his sentence, he reintegrated into the life of the parish. He became a member of the Youth Group, a Catechist, and a member of the Parish Council. He studied at the University of Havana and graduated in Telecommunications Engineering.
He worked from then on as a medical equipment specialist.
He works on the Cuban Ecclesiastical Reflection (REC) process and in February of 1986 becomes a delegate for the Cerro-Vedado Vicariate to the Cuban National Ecclesiastical Encounter (ENEC).
He founds the Christian Circle of Cuban Thought in the Parish of El Cerro and publishes “People of God” for distribution in all of the Churches.
He founds the Christian Liberation Movement. As the national coordinator of the MCL, Oswaldo calls for national reform and makes the Proclamation of the MCL.
The political police detain and threaten him with many years in prison if he continues to carry out his civil and peaceful struggle.
He attempts to run as a delegate for the National Assembly of Peoples Power but is completely rejected by the authorities.
He drafts the Transition Program.
He participates as one of the five organizers of the Cuban Council and drafts the only document of unity that represented the position of its members. He is detained by the police.
He drafts the Varela Project together with other members of the MCL.
He participates in the drafting of the “All United” manifesto and proposes the first assembly of the opposition, which took place under intense repression. A movement of unity arose from this effort. Payá is nominated as the coordinator of the Reporting Committee for “All United.”
He receives the Homo Homini Award from the Czech foundation “People in Need” for his contribution to the defense of human rights.
More than 11 thousand signatures backing the Varela Project are presented to the National Assembly of People’s Power in Cuba.
He speaks with former President Jimmy Carter in Havana, who goes on to express his support for the Varela Project in public.
The Czech president Vaclav Havel nominates Oswaldo Payá for the Nobel Peace Prize of 2002.
The Dutch NGO Pax Christi hands in to the Vice President of the European Parliament, Alejo Vidal Quadras, close to 4,000 signatures that were collected in a dozen European countries in support of the “Varela Project”
He receives the W. Averell Harriman prize that is awarded annually by the National Democratic Institute in Washington. The Cuban government prevents Oswaldo Payá from traveling to receive this prize in person.
In October he receives the Andrei Sakharov Prize for human rights that is awarded by the European Parliament. He begins a tour of Europe and America where he is met by President Aznar, President Havel of the Czech Republic, the Prime Minister of Slovakia, and ministers from the Swedish government. He visits the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, meets with high level officials from the French government, meets His Holiness the Pope John Paul II in an audience, and speaks with the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell. He visits the city of Miami where he meets with the local authorities and various representatives of the Cuban exile community. He visits Mexico, where he speaks with President Fox, and before returning to Cuba he stops in the Dominican Republic where he meets with President Mejías.
In May more than 40 activists and Varela Project organizers, many of them members of the Christian Liberation Movement are imprisoned and issued sentences of 12 to 28 years in prison.
In December he presents 14 thousand additional signatures in support of the Varela Project.
He is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize of 2004 and the “Principe de Asturias” Prize for harmony.
He receives an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Columbia University in New York.
He presents the Program for All Cubans, a roadmap for a peaceful transition to democracy.
He signs together with other dissidents, the “Unity of Freedom” statement. He presents the Cuban Forum campaign, which calls on the participation of all Cubans including the government.
He is awarded the “Liberty Oak” prize by the “New Generations” youth of the Popular Party of Extremadura, Spain. He presents a citizens petition to abolish the current electoral law to the Assembly of Peoples Power.
2008 nominated for Nobel peace prize
2010 nominated for Nobel peace prize