LATIN AMERICA

US formally asks Cuba for “credible” inquiry into dissident’s death

Spanish driver of vehicle in which Payá was killed confesses that someone ran him off road

An image of the crashed vehicle in which Payá was riding.
An image of the crashed vehicle in which Payá was riding.efe

Just one day after assuming her duties at the United Nations, Samantha Power, the new US ambassador, met with her Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodríguez on Tuesday to formally ask that his government open “a credible” investigation into the death last year of dissident Oswaldo Payá.

The petition comes after a Popular Party (PP) youth leader, Ángel Carromero, who was driving the vehicle when Payá was killed on July 22, 2012, has admitted in recent interviews that someone had run him off the road. According to Carromero, Payá described a vehicle that was following them as belonging to Cuban security authorities after had glimpsed the license plate. The Spaniard then said he looked “through the rearview mirror and could see both occupants of the car staring at us aggressively.”

Carromero, who originally admitted to being responsible for what he described as an accident, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced by a Cuban court to four years. According to the official version, he was speeding and slipped off the road some kilometers outside the southeastern Cuban city of Bayamo.

Payá was one of the most respected dissidents in Cuba

A member of the PP’s youth organization Nuevas Generaciones, Carromero was allowed to return to Spain to serve out his sentence after secret negotiations between the Cuban and Spanish governments were hammered out. He is currently under supervised release.

Payá was one of the most respected dissidents in Cuba and was instrumental in organizing the Varela Project, a 2002 signatory drive to demand that Cuban authorities grant more political and economic freedoms to citizens. He was the founder of the conservative Christian Liberation Movement, and had been awarded the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov human rights prize.

The Varela Project collected 25,000 signatures across Cuba demanding that the communist National Assembly hold a referendum. In response, the Castro government arrested 72 dissidents, including 42 sponsors of the project.

Payá was 60 years old when and his assistant Harold Cepero died in the car accident from which Carromero escaped with light injuries.

Based on Carromero’s interviews with The Washington Post in March and the Spanish daily El Mundo last Sunday, Payá’s widow Ofelia Acevedo, who now lives in Miami, has asked for an international inquiry into her husband’s death.

The US Senate recently voted unanimously to demand an inquiry.

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