CONVERSATIONAL transitions with David Moya often begin with the
words, "I'll tell you a short story...."
Like a grandfather telling grizzled tales of a hard life, the
recent Cuban exile answers direct questions with rambling yet
powerful descriptions of life as a human- rights activist on Fidel
Castro's island: months in prison without seeing sunlight, a family
divided by politics, and political beliefs that guaranteed him no
peace in a future with Fidel Castro.
Mr. Moya is just 25 years old. But he's been in Cuban prison for
most of the past 10 years. His "prisoner of conscience" rap sheet
reads like this: organizing students and his fellow prisoners,
printing a human-rights newsletter, trying to escape to Florida by
raft, promoting a plebiscite on Fidel Castro's rule, and organizing
a demonstration during the 1989 visit of Soviet leader Mikhail
One of an increasing number of dissidents the Cuban government
has chosen to expel, rather than put in jail again and again, Moya
is perhaps the youngest Cuban to emerge with such a notable record
of political and human- rights activity.
Rights work continued
m not an exception. What happened to me is more the rule," Moya
says repeatedly, when his stories - like his first run-in with the
Castro government when he objected to Marxist-Leninist literature
in school at age 13 - seem to amaze listeners.
But he continued his human-rights work in spite of repeated
arrests, torture, and the toll it took on his family: His mother
lost her job as a college professor and is now a farm laborer; his
father, a well-known Castroite interior ministry official, disowned
him. This commitment was unusual enough in a man of his age to win
him the 1990 Reebok Human Rights Award.
The $100,000 annual prize given by the Massachusetts-based
athletic footwear company is divided among several individuals who,
early in their lives and against great odds, have significantly
raised awareness of human rights and exercised freedom of
Giving Moya an option
While the Cuban government would not permit him to leave the
country to receive the award last December, it gave Moya the option
of leaving the country for good or serving out the 29 years, 6
months, and 2 days of various past sentences that had been
suspended. He arrived in Miami on July 31.
Moya and his 17-year-old wife of one year, Irlenne, were
recently in Washington on a United States tour to raise support for
democratic groups in Cuba. The timing of his exile was ironic, he
says, because it fell on the eve of the Soviet coup. With the
withdrawal of Soviet troops from Cuba, the coup has had a
destabilizing effect on Castro's rule.
"I regret not having been in my country at that moment because
this might have been the explosive we were looking for to lead us
to democracy," Moya says.
But even before the coup, he says, discontent among the youths
of his generation was swelling against Castro's oppressive politics
and troubled economy. …