Top diplomat to accept democracy group award in Cuba


A prominent diplomat is planning a politically sensitive trip to Cuba to accept an award from a pro-democracy group on the island, AP reports:

Luis Almagro (above right), secretary general of the Organization of American States, will travel to Cuba next week to accept the Oswaldo Paya Prize from the Latin America Youth Network for Democracy, a spokesman for the regional organization said Wednesday. Spokesman Gonzalo Ezpariz confirmed Almagro’s plans but declined to disclose details of a trip that could touch a nerve in Cuba, which has opened its economy to a degree but remains a one-party state and has had a rocky relationship with the OAS.

Oswaldo Payá was murdered by the Cuban regime when state security police forced his car off the road, the Center for a Free Cuba adds:

At the time July 22, 2012 another Cuban Christian Democrat activist Harold Cepero was also killed. No autopsies of them have been made available despite repeated requests. A foreign passenger in the car sent text messages from his phone that a government vehicle was following them. Neither the details of their medical treatment at the hospital nor any physicians present have been made available.

Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, said Havana would likely provoke sharp reactions in Washington and elsewhere if it blocked Almagro’s visit, AP adds.

“To receive a human rights prize in no way threatens the Cuban government,” he said. “They won’t be happy and they will criticize it but they should let him in.”

Rosa Maria Payá (above left), heads Cuba Decide, which works to promote civil liberties in Cuba and citizens’ support for a plebiscite.  She is also president of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy.

It would be unprecedented for an OAS secretary general to travel to the island to accept an award named for a Cuban dissident, said Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“It doesn’t surprise me that there are doubts about whether the Cuban government will admit a high official to talk about internal democracy and human rights, subjects that are still very sensitive,” Arnson said.

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