Senate Passes Durbin, Cruz Bill To Rename Cuban Embassy Street After Murdered Dissident Oswaldo Payá

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) praised the Senate’s unanimous passage of bipartisan legislation they authored to rename the street outside of the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C. as “Oswaldo Payá Way” after the Cuban dissident leader who was murdered by the Cuban dictatorship.  Earlier this week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released its findings in the suspicious death of Payá that confirmed the Cuban government’s culpability. 

In addition to Durbin and Cruz, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) cosponsored the bill.

“With the recent findings from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, we finally have a clear verdict on what was suspected all along. After years of petty and cowardly harassment of Cuban patriot and democracy activist Oswaldo Payá, responsibility for his tragic death and that of his colleague, Harold Cepero, rests with the Cuban dictatorship,”said Durbin.  “Through passage of our bipartisan legislation to rename the street outside the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. ‘Oswaldo Payá Way,’ we are honoring Payá’s legacy and all the other Cubans who continue to aspire for a more open and democratic Cuba.” 

Cruz said, “Oswaldo Payá is a hero for oppressed Cubans, Cuban Americans, and defenders of freedom everywhere.  The Cuban government murdered him to try to silence him and his advocacy, and it is critical to ensure that they fail. Renaming the street in front of the Cuban embassy after him not only pays tribute to his heroism but will prevent the communist Cuban regime from being able to erase and ignore his legacy. I am proud to lead this bipartisan effort, and proud of my colleagues for unanimously passing this bill.”

Oswaldo Payá’s daughter, Rosa María Payá, said, “This momentous decision by the U.S. Senate is a remarkable tribute to my father’s fearless fight for democracy and human rights in Cuba.  It is powerful stand against oppression and impunity, right after the release of the ICHR's decision holding the Cuban regime accountable for his murder.  This victory brings his legacy to the forefront, serving as a reminder of our ongoing struggle for a free and democratic Cuba.”

In March 2023, Durbin and this bipartisan group of Senators urged the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to advance its efforts on this case without further delay.  In 2014, Durbin sent a letter to previous Commission Executive Secretary Emilio Icaza originally urging the Commission investigate Payá’s suspicious death.  Subsequent letters urging continued attention were sent in 2016 and 2021. 

In the late 1990s, Payá started the Varela Project that sought greater political freedom in Cuba through a peaceful petition drive and referendum process as allowed for in the Cuban constitution.  Not only did the Cuban government reject the historic effort and brazenly change the constitutional provision allowing such public avenue for change, but also began a decade of shameful harassment of Payá and his movement.   

In July 2012, this persecution culminated in his car being rammed from behind by a tailing government vehicle, resulting in the death of Payá and fellow passenger and youth activist Harold Cepero.  The Cuban government has yet to provide a credible explanation, accounting, or justice for this tragic incident.  

Durbin has long sought justice for the death of Payá.  In 2012, he joined with Senators Menendez, Rubio, and then-Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Richard Lugar (R-IN), and John Kerry (D-MA) in passing a resolution honoring the work of Payá and calling “on the Government of Cuba to allow an impartial, third-party investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Oswaldo Payá Sardiña.”