Photo: Cuban Opposition Activists Arrested During Fellow Dissident's Funeral
Several opposition activists were detained Tuesday as prominent Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, who died last weekend in a traffic accident, was buried in Havana’s Colon Cemetery.
More than 300 people accompanied the casket after the Mass officiated by Cardinal Jaime Ortega at Paya’s parish church in the capital.
When the mourners started on their way to the cemetery, as many as 10 were arrested in the parish including independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas, Efe was told by Elizardo Sanchez, leader of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.
Dozens of people gathered in the cemetery chapel to pay their last respects to Paya at a brief religious ceremony led by the auxiliary bishops of Havana, Alfredo Petit and Juan de Dios Hernandez.
At the end of the service Paya’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, thanked the “brothers of the opposition” for their company and collaboration following the death of the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, or MCL, as well as her companions in that organization and her work colleagues.
She also said that the documents and projects for unity created by Paya over the years add up to a “common base” and one of the possible paths to follow as part of the opposition’s struggle for democracy in Cuba.
Remains of the 60-year-old dissident were taken Monday to Havana by road from Bayamo, located some 750 kilometers (460 miles) east of the capital, where he and MCL colleague Harold Cepero were killed Sunday in a traffic accident.
In his sermon on Tuesday, Ortega said that Paya never strayed from his religion for the sake of his “obvious political vocation,” and supported the difficult task of being “a lay Christian with a political position completely faithful to his ideas without ever being unfaithful to the church.”
With Paya’s death, the Cuban opposition loses a leader who was highly respected both inside and outside the country.
Paya received the European Union’s Sakharov Prize in 2002 after promoting the Varela Project for the island’s transition to democracy, which he presented to the Parliament with the support of thousands of signatures.