About the Event
Give Me Liberty: The True Story of Oswaldo Payá and his Daring Quest for a Free Cuba, a new biography from Simon and Schuster, examines the life of Oswaldo Payá, a dissident who dared to defy Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and inspired Cubans to fight for democracy. Founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, Payá devoted his career to opposing Cuba’s one-party rule and fighting for freedom of speech and other core political rights.
Payá is best known for his work challenging the Cuban government with the Varela Project, a citizen petition demanding free speech, free elections, freedom for political prisoners and other reforms. Thousands of Cubans signed the petition, an extraordinary protest against the dictatorship. The regime responded by refusing to consider the petition and jailing Payá’s followers. In 2012, Payá was killed in a suspicious car wreck, which many believe was orchestrated by the regime. Ten years later, Payá’s life and work remain influential within the Cuban pro-democracy movement.
The NED hosted a conversation with The Washington Post’s David E. Hoffman, author of Give Me Liberty, and Cuban democracy activist and daughter of Oswaldo Payá, Rosa María Payá Acevedo, to examine the life and work of Oswaldo Payá and how his legacy informs and inspires an new generation of Cuban democratic activists.
About the Speakers
David E. Hoffman is a contributing editor and member of the editorial board of The Washington Post. He was previously assistant managing editor, foreign editor, Jerusalem correspondent, Moscow bureau chief, and White House correspondent for the newspaper. He is the author of The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy, which won the Pulitzer Prize, The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal, a New York Times bestseller, and The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia.
Rosa María Payá Acevedo is a Cuban democracy activist and human rights defender. In 2015, she founded the citizen initiative Cuba Decide, a movement in favor of changing the political and economic systems in Cuba towards democracy, through a plebiscite. She is the daughter of the late Oswaldo Payá, the recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize and two-time nominee of the Nobel Peace Prize. Rosa María is a graduate of Physics at the University of Havana and of the Global Competitive Leadership program at Georgetown University. She has been a lecturer and guest of honor at various universities throughout the United States and Latin America, as well as at the UN, the Concordia Summit of the Americas, the Freedom Forum, the US Congress, and multiple parliaments in Europe and the Americas.
Damon Wilson is the president and chief executive officer of the National Endowment for Democracy. Prior to joining NED, Mr. Wilson was the executive vice president of the Atlantic Council, worked at the National Security Council (NSC) as the director for Central, Eastern, and Northern European Affairs from 2004 to 2006, special assistant to the president and senior director for European affairs at the NSC from 2007 to 2009, and as the executive secretary and chief of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Kenneth Wollack is the chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy. Wollack is co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, a member of the advisory committee for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the George W. Bush Institute’s Advisory Council on Human Freedom. He is also a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. For more than 25 years, he served as president of the National Democratic Institute.
Carl Gershman was the founding president of the National Endowment for Democracy. In addition to presiding over the Endowment’s grants program in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and Latin America, he oversaw the creation of the quarterly Journal of Democracy, the International Forum for Democratic Studies, the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program, and the Center for International Media Assistance. He also took the lead in launching the World Movement for Democracy in New Delhi in 1999.