Cuba and the Struggle for Freedom: A Book Talk with David Hoffman and Rosa Maria Payá

The author of Give Me Liberty and the Cuban democracy activist spoke with Eric Farnsworth about the island's fight for democracy.


  • David Hoffman, Author, Give Me Liberty; Contributing Editor and Member of the Editorial Board, The Washington Post
  • Rosa Maria Payá, Cuban human rights and democracy activist 
  • Eric Farnsworth, Vice President, AS/COA

"Oswaldo [Payá]'s story appealed to me because there were really millions of Cubans who, for decades, understood that something was wrong—red lines, lack of political freedom, repression—and over those years some people had stood up, but very few," said David Hoffman, author of Give Me Liberty. He joined Rosa Maria Payá, Oswaldo's daughter and a Cuban democracy activist, and Eric Farnsworth, AS/COA's vice president, for a conversation on the struggle for democracy in Cuba.

Hoffman described the events that led Oswaldo to challenge the Castro regime by creating the Varela Project, a one-page petition demanding free speech, a free press, freedom of association, freedom of belief, private enterprise, free elections, and freedom for political prisoners. The Castro regime ignored the petition and arrested Payá's followers, sending them to prison for years. "You know, he always said... 'we have to be the protagonist of our own history, not the spectators,'" said Hoffman of Payá.

"My brothers and I, we were able to grow up free persons in the midst of a big jail that is Cuba," said Rosa Maria Payá about her life as the daughter of Oswaldo Payá. She explained what the international community can do to support the Cuban people and honor the legacy of her father, calling for a coalition of nations in support of freedom. She spoke on the danger of the Cuban regime's alliance with Vladimir Putin's Russia and other authoritarians like Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.