The widow of leading Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas Wednesday said a police investigator told her he died from a head trauma in a single-car accident, but gave her no evidence and declared that “the revolution does not murder anyone.”
Payá’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, also said a friend in Sweden told her that a survivor of the crash had sent text messages from his cellular phone reporting the car crashed after it was repeatedly rammed by another vehicle.
Payá and a member of his Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), Harold Cepero, died in the crash Sunday near the eastern city of Bayamo, while politicians Jens Aron Modig of Sweden and Angel Carromero of Spain suffered minor injuries.
Neither of the Europeans have spoken publicly since the accident, but Spanish news media have reported that Carromero, who was at the wheel of the car, admitted to police that he missed a signal to slow down at a curve, lost control and crashed into a tree.
Carromero is being “retained” in Bayamo by police investigating the crash, according to Havana human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz. Cuban laws call for prison sentences of one to 10 years for those convicted of causing fatal accidents.
Acevedo told El Nuevo Herald that she has received no official report on the crash, but spoke for 15 minutes Monday with a police crime investigator from Bayamo, a “Maj. Sanchez,” who accompanied the body to a forensic medicine center in Havana.
The officer reported that two witnesses to the crash, a tractor driver and someone on a bicycle, had declared the vehicle was travelling at a high rate of speed on a paved road when it hit a dirt section and flipped several times, Acevedo noted. Other witnesses have said the road around the crash was under repair and had been stripped down to the dirt.
Payá died immediately from head trauma and Cepero died shortly after he arrived at the Bayamo hospital, Acevedo quoted the officer as saying. Police shot video footage of the scene, but the case remains under investigation, the officer added.
“I told him I had no reason to accept that version because my husband had been threatened with death many times by State Security agents,” Acevedo told El Nuevo Herald Wednesday by phone from her Havana home.
The officer replied that he had been a criminal investigator for many years, apparently trying to underline that he did not work for State Security, she added, and then told her, “The revolution does not assassinate anyone.”
Acevedo also provided new details of how she, daughter Rosa Maria and son Oswaldo came to allege that the crash was caused by another vehicle that repeatedly rammed Carromero’s car and forced it off the road.
A Swedish friend in Stockholm told her by phone that Modig had sent text messages from his cellular phone to contacts in his home country reporting his vehicle had been rammed and forced into a crash, Acevedo note. She declined to identify the friend.
Regis Iglesia, an MCL member in Spain, also told her by phone that one of the two Europeans had phoned contacts in Madrid to report the ramming and fatal crash, the widow added.
Carromero is an official of the youth branch of Spain’s ruling Popular Party, and Modig is president of the Youth League of Sweden’s Christian Democratic Party. Both are 27 years old and are reported to have travelled to Cuba to assist dissidents.
Acevedo also said a friend in Bayamo told her he had seen the car after the crash, with its roof all but torn off. Photos of a car identified as Carromero’s and posted on the Facebook page of a radio journalist in Bayamo showed no such damage.
Payá’s widow said she has asked Spanish and Swedish diplomats in Havana to speak directly with the two Europeans. “I am not looking for guilty ones. I only want to know, in a trusted way, how my husband died.”
Meanwhile, the White House condemned the detention Tuesday of almost 50 dissidents who attended Payá’s funeral services.
“We call on the Cuban government to respect internationally recognized fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech, rather than arresting their citizens for peacefully exercising these universal rights that are protected and promoted by governments throughout the world,’’ the White House said in a statement. “We look forward to the day when the Cuban people can live in the free society Oswaldo Paya worked so hard to bring about throughout his lifetime.’’
Amnesty International also criticized the detentions. The human rights group said most of those detained have since been released.
“Tuesday’s events follow the pattern of short-term detention and imprisonment we’ve seen in Cuba time and again,” said Gerardo Ducos, Amnesty International’s Cuba researcher. “Indeed, it was the very kind of repression and intimidation which Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas dedicated his life to combating.”