Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cuba: Prominent dissidents nominated for Nobel honors

While dissidents in Cuba struggle against a crackdown led by the government, their cause may soon receive a very prestigious honor.

Along with Wikileaks and Middle Eastern democracy activists, Cuban opposition activists are among the record 241 nominations for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Among the dissident figures in the running for the famous honor is Oswaldo Paya, a very influential political activist who founded the Varela Project initiative. Paya, who has been previously nominated on multiple occasions, was reportedly “cited for uniting the opposition to the government in Havana.” Indeed, a 2007 U.S. diplomatic cable uncovered by Wikileaks cited Paya as one of the few dissidents with the “national recognition to mobilize a figure close to one million Cubans.“

Another possible winner is Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, a well-known Cuban political prisoner whose Nobel candidacy was presented by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Biscet is one of the so-called “Group of 75” dissidents imprisoned since 2003 and serving sentences of up to 28 years behind bars. While he has campaigned against abortion, Biscet has been an outspoken critic of the Castro regime and was also the founder the nongovernment Lawton Foundation.

Biscet’s nomination has received international support including from a pair of ex-Salvadoran presidents and several Hispanic members of the U.S. Congress. He has also received the backing of another famed dissident, Guillermo FariƱas, according to the El Nuevo Herald’s website:
“(Biscet) is one of the great symbols of rebellion he hopes for democracy for the Cuban people…I believe that he has put the interests of a nation ahead of his personal (views).”
Both Paya and Biscet have received several honors for their human rights efforts. Paya received the 2002 Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament while Biscet was awarded the U.S. Medal of Freedom in 2007.

Image- (“Cuban leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) and opponent of Fidel Castro, Oswaldo Paya (L), leaves the Cuban National Assembly, in Havana, 18 December 2007.”)
Online Sources- BBC Mundo, Wikipedia,, Global Voices Online, El Nuevo Herald, BBC News, USA TODAY, EPA

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