Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas: The Faith of a Layman Committed to His Time

paya  bXVIBorn on February 29, 1952 in Havana, Oswaldo is the fifth of seven children from the marriage of the business entrepreneur Alejandro Payá and Ms. Iraida Sardiñas, both of whom were descendants of Spanish immigrants. From the time of his childhood, his life and that of his family have always been linked to the Savior of the World Parrish in the El Cerro municipality of Havana.
Oswaldo attended the Champagnat School of the Marist Brothers in El Cerro until the third grade (1961). The school was shut down and he went to public school, attending catechism in his parish, where he took his first communion and was later confirmed. Oswaldo never belonged to the Communist Youth or the Communist Party and was never a “Pioneer.” His internal exile was the Catholic Church. At age 16 he began compulsory military service. He was sent to the Island of Pines, now the “Island of Youth,” to carry out forced labor. Once finished, he reintegrated into parish life in El Cerro. He became a member of the Youth Group, Catechist (Catequista), and a member of the Parish Council.

Since the time of his punishment on the Island of Pines, his actions as a committed layman have forged in him his commitment to human beings and their inalienable rights. He worked on the Cuban Ecclesiastical Reflection (REC) process and in February of 1986, became a delegate for the Cerro-Vedado Vicarage to the Cuban National Ecclesiastical Conference (ENEC).

Between 1986 and 1988, Oswaldo founded and maintained the Christian Circle of Cuban Thought in the Parish of El Cerro and published “People of God” for distribution in all of churches. In 1988, he founded the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL). As the national coordinator of the MCL, Oswaldo called for national change and issued the Proclamation of the MCL. Since then, he has been detained on various occasions by the political police of the regime. His home was attacked by mobs encouraged by State Security in 1991, and the following year he drafted the Transition Program (Programa Transitorio). He participated as one of the five organizers of the Cuban Council, drafting the only unity document that captured the positions of its members. In 1999, he participated in the drafting of the “All United” manifesto and was named coordinator of its Reporting Committee. He created the Citizens Organizing Committee for the Varela Project in 2001 and on March 10, 2002, presented more than 11,000 signatures in support of a plebiscite for this project before the National Assembly of People’s Power of Cuba. In May of 2003, more than 40 activists and organizers of the Varela Project, many of them members of the MCL, were incarcerated and condemned to sentences of between 12 and 28 years. This did not prevent Payá and the Citizens Committee from presenting 14,000 additional signatures in support of the Varela Project that December. In 2006, he presented the “Program for All Cubans,” a document for a peaceful transition toward democracy. He later signed the “Unity for Freedom” document along with other dissidents.

Oswaldo then organized the Cuban Forum campaign, in which all Cubans, including the government, are called to participate. In 2009, he issues a call for the National Dialogue and, in 2010, launches the Forum for All Cubans. In 2011, he drafted the declaration “The People’s Path,” which was supported by the majority of the civic opposition within the island. Oswaldo Payá has been honored with the Homo Homini Award from the Czech People in Need Foundation for his contribution to the defense of human rights and with the W. Averell Harriman Award that is awarded annually by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Washington, D.C. He received the Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament in 2002 and was later awarded the “Liberty Oak” prize by the “New Generations” of the Popular Party of Extremadura, Spain. Payá was also honored with an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Columbia University in New York. He has been considered once for the Prince of Asturias Award and six times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Pope John Paul II  and  Oswaldo Payá /Vatican 203 2003

Visit Oswaldo Payá Miami

Oswaldo Payá presents the Varela Project before the Virgin of the Sanctuary of the Copper Charity.

Oswaldo Payá and his wife, Ofelia Acevedo, at the Cuban National Ecclesiastical Conference, 1986.

LIFE IN THE PARISH “The Savior of the World,” Cerro, Havana

Sakharov Prize, 2002, European Parliament, with President Aznar, Madrid.,With Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell, Washington, D.C.

With Vaclac Havel and the Archbishop of Prague

Presentation of the Varela Project in 2002 and in 2003

Harassment of Oswaldo Payá and the MCL

Contact: info@oswaldopaya.org














Spanish TVE


radio spain  COPE: Varela Project


VIDEO mother of Yosvany Melchor: MCL “my son is a Hostage”


Harassment  the MCL


police follow paya on Havana streets