Cuban Exile Recounts His Struggle David Moya May Be Youngest Person to Emerge with So Notable a Pro-Democracy Record. HUMAN-RIGHTS ACTIVIST

By Clara Germani, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 16, 1991 | Go to article overview

Cuban Exile Recounts His Struggle David Moya May Be Youngest Person to Emerge with So Notable a Pro-Democracy Record. HUMAN-RIGHTS ACTIVIST


Clara Germani, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


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 Gorbachev.

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 expression. 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. …

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