03/05/13 - Washington Post - An eyewitness to Oswaldo Payá's death speaks out
By Editorial Board
IN OCTOBER 2003, the Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá wrote a letter from
Havana to his mentor Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president and one-time
dissident playwright who fought to throw off communist rule. At the time,
Mr. Payá's hopes for greater freedom in Cuba were being crushed by Fidel
Castro in a wide-ranging crackdown. Dozens of his friends and colleagues
were being thrown in prison. "I still live in an environment formed by the
culture of fear that the communist regime generates throughout society,"
Mr. Payá lamented in his letter.
Nearly nine years later - on July 22, 2012 - Mr. Payá, 60, was killed in a
car accident in Cuba's eastern Granma province near the town of Bayamo,
along with another activist, Harold Cepero. Both were passengers in the
back seat of a rented vehicle. Mr. Payá's family has frequently challenged
the official version of the accident: The car was speeding and skidded into
a tree. Today, we publish answers to questions we posed to the man who was
at the wheel that day, Ángel Carromero, who was imprisoned and convicted of
vehicular homicide in Cuba after the crash. Mr. Carromero, 27, vice general
secretary in Spain's ruling Popular Party, was released to Spain in
December to serve out his term, and he speaks out here for the first time
since leaving Cuba.
His words are a testament to Cuba's enduring "culture of fear." Mr.
Carromero offers a grim, detailed account of how the car was rammed from
behind by a vehicle bearing Cuban government license plates; he says this
caused the fatal crash. Mr. Carromero alleges that he was then drugged and
interrogated and his life was threatened. Under duress, he appeared in a
video made by Cuban authorities. "No other vehicle hit us from behind," he
said on the tape. But the video was a sham. Mr. Carromero says he was
repeating words written in a notebook by a Cuban officer for him to read
and that he was forced to sign a confession that bore no resemblance to
The Carromero story is a nightmare: a sudden impact from behind, mysterious
injections, incarceration in a cell infested with cockroaches and stern
warnings to repeat official lies. Mr. Carromero says he had gone to Cuba on
his own and was driving that day to help a human rights champion, Mr. Payá,
who had won the European Union's Sakharov Prize and was nominated by Mr.
Havel for the Nobel Peace Prize. Now Mr. Payá's family has asked Mr.
Carromero to speak out. "When they asked me for the truth, I didn't want to
hide it," he told us. His decision is a courageous tribute to the
principles of Mr. Payá.
FROM HIS youth, Mr. Payá was independent of mind and spirit. He declined to
become a member of the Communist Youth League and in 1968 was alone in his
class in refusing to support the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to put
down the Prague Spring. That cost Mr. Payá three years in a labor camp, but
he never failed to be inspired by the example of Czechs and Slovaks, as
well as Poles and Hungarians, who resisted oppression. An engineer and a
Catholic, he visited Prague years later, after the end of Soviet
domination, and he recalled in the letter to Mr. Havel, "It was like
traveling to the future and finding proof that liberation is possible."
In search of that liberation, Mr. Payá pioneered the Varela Project, a
petition in 2002 seeking a national referendum to guarantee freedom of
expression and association, amnesty for political prisoners and free
elections. The petition drew more than 11,000 signatures and shook Mr.
Castro's regime to its core - resulting in a crackdown in which dozens of
signers of the petition were sent to dungeons. Mr. Payá was not imprisoned
then, but his family recalls he was under constant surveillance. Just two
months before he died, there was another suspicious accident in which a
car came out of nowhere in Havana and hit theirs. Mr. Payá was injured
Last summer, when the car Mr. Carromero was driving went out of control,
the Cuban authorities must have concluded that they had finally silenced
Mr. Payá and would hear no more about him. They probably figured they had
intimidated the young Spaniard into silence, too. But they failed. We now
have an eyewitness account that strongly suggests Mr. Castro's agents
sought to kill Mr. Payá and then attempted to cover up the murder.
The only proper course of action is to convene an international
investigation that can be truly independent and untainted by the Castros'
thuggish ways. The legacy of Mr. Payá must be to expose the truth of his
death, and to put that truth on display for all to see, especially the
people of Cuba, for whom Mr. Payá aspired to nothing less than the right to
live free from tyranny.
Visible links 1.
2. http://www.oswaldopaya.org/es/up/VARELA%20PROJECT.pdf 3.
Original Source / Fuente Original:
CUBA-L FAIR USE NOTICE
This server contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of Cuba's political, economic, human rights, international, cultural, educational, scientific, sports and historical issues, among others. We distribute the materials on the basis of a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. The material is distributed without profit. The material should be used for information, research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/ uscode/17/107.shtml.