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Ruling in Bayamo

The lesser sentence handed down is a hint that Carromero will be allowed to leave Cuba

A Cuban court’s sentence of four years’ imprisonment for Ángel Carromero, a leader of the Popular Party’s youth wing, for negligent homicide, decides the Spanish politician’s fate for the time being, though the conviction is theoretically open to appeal. The fact that this constitutes a three-year reduction from the disproportionate sentence demanded by the prosecutor might be interpreted as a gesture of goodwill aimed at ironing out the wrinkles of a case that has already kept Carromero — considered guilty of speeding and reckless driving — in jail awaiting trial since July 22.

 Carromero’s accident would never have attained such notoriety if the driver had not been a member of a conservative political party objectionable to the Cuban regime, and if two members of the Cuban dissident movement had not perished, particularly Oswaldo Payá, the most internationally prominent of Cuban dissidents, whose family refuses to accept the official version of events. The resulting sense of expectation and the political dimensions of the case have been constant factors right up to the day of the trial — the EL PAÍS correspondent Yoani Sánchez was arrested and held for some hours by the police when she showed up to cover the proceedings. The trial was described by the Spanish consul in Havana as “correct, clean and procedurally impeccable.”

The three men’s presence together in the car was initially portrayed by the Cuban authorities as a sort of international conspiracy

The three men’s presence together in the car was initially portrayed by the Cuban authorities as a sort of international conspiracy against the regime, built around the anti-Castro activism of certain sectors of the Popular Party; and the “Carromero case” — just another accident on an ill-maintained Cuban highway — has given rise to much behind-the-scenes diplomacy. One example of this aspect was last month’s conversation in New York between the foreign ministers of both governments on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. It has no doubt helped that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is perceived by Havana as being less belligerent than his Popular Party predecessor José María Aznar.

If this diplomatic campaign goes smoothly, the most favorable outcome for Carromero would be his expulsion from Cuba (included in the regime’s Penal Code) before he serves out the sentence imposed on him. Failing this, the fact that the place of his imprisonment is not specified suggests the possibility that the Cuban authorities may allow the conservative politician to serve his sentence in Spain, under the terms of the bilateral treaty of 1998. In the light of what happened on the road near Bayamo, either of these options would be more fair and more reasonable than his imprisonment in Cuba.

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