U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement regarding the death of Cuban dissident and pro-democracy advocate Oswaldo Payá. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"The sudden and tragic death of Cuban activist Oswaldo Payá is an overwhelming loss to the Cuban people and their struggle for democracy. His non-violent, peaceful demonstrations against the Castro regime will forever be remembered by not only the people of Cuba but his endless supporters around the world. In 2002, the international community recognized Payá's dedication to human rights by presenting him with the prestigious Sakharov Prize from the European Union. His leadership and passion within the Cuban dissident community will never be forgotten and will be a model for those who follow his path to a free and democratic Cuba.
"Although the circumstances of his death are unclear, the facts cannot be ignored that Oswaldo Payá had been harassed by Cuban state security authorities for decades. Payá, along with his fellow pro-democracy dissidents, symbolizes the struggle against the tyranny of the Castro regime and the oppression and cruelty that it embodies.
"Along with the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Juan Wilfredo Soto, Laura Pollán, and Wilman Villar Mendoza, the Cuban dissident community has suffered the loss of many great leaders and advocates. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Oswaldo Payá's wife and children and to the thousands of dissidents still fighting for a free and democratic Cuba."