Payá’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, told the Miami-based Radio/TV Marti that she learned of the crash when Iglesia called her from Madrid to report the car had been forced off the road and that three of the men were in a Bayamo hospital “but a fourth one was not.”
She dialed his cellular phone and a policeman answered. “He told me that the phone was ringing, and that he had taken it from the pocket of the fatality,” said Acevedo.
Two photos of Carromero’s car, a rented blue Hyundai Accent with license plate T31402, were published Tuesday in the Facebook page of David Rodríguez, a reporter for the government-owned Radio Bayamo.
One photo shows part of a body on a stretcher on the ground on the right side of the car. The other shows a severe impact on the car’s left rear door and roof. Payá, 60, and Cepero, 32, were believed to have been sitting in the back seat. It’s not known whether they were wearing seatbelts.
Payá, a fervent Catholic and one of Cuba’s best known dissidents — his Project Varela gathered 24,000 signatures in 2002 demanding a referendum on the government — had long complained he was constantly followed and threatened by State Security agents.
In one recent email to Miami supporter Julio Hernandez, he wrote that police were following him “step by step” and that “the vigilance of my house has grown” since June 2, when a car smashed into his 1964 Volkswagen bus in Havana. He and his wife were not killed in the “possible attempt” because “God wanted something else,” Payá added.
His brother Carlos, who lives in Madrid, told a Spanish radio station that “Oswaldo had been told clearly, ‘We are going to kill you.’”
Carromero and Modig, a leader of the Youth League of Sweden’s Christian Democratic Party, reportedly went to Cuba on tourist visas but intending to quietly deliver assistance to dissidents. Payá joined them in the trip to the Bayamo region to visit MCL activists there, according to his wife.
Payá’s funeral mass brought together members of Cuba’s many and often fractious dissident groups, and was celebrated by Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega, whom Payá had criticized as being too passive in the face of government human rights violations
Ortega praised him as a man and as a Christian — Payá “had a clear political vocation and as a good Christian, that did not distance him from his faith. To the contrary, he always looked within his Christian faith for the inspiration for his political option” — but Ortega made no direct reference to his dissident work.
At the end of the mass, Ortega also read a message from Pope Benedict XVI expressing his “spiritual proximity” to the family. Payá met with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 2002.
A story on his death in the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, was headlined “Catholic and Patriot,” and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar called him “an example of sacrifice and commitment to the cause of democracy.”