CUBA

Cuban dissident’s family insists another car was involved in fatal crash

 

The family of the late Oswaldo Payá says a mysterious red Lada was at the site of the crash and refuses to accept the government’s finding the dissident was killed in a one-car crash

jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

The family of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá made fresh allegations Wednesday that another car was involved in the crash that killed him and insisted they will not accept the government version of a one-car accident until they speak with the survivors of the crash.

U.S. Senators, meanwhile, approved a resolution urging an independent investigation, and a Spanish politician said Angel Carromero deserves a “clear and transparent” legal process.

Payá and fellow dissident Harold Cepero died in the July 22 crash, while Carromero, vice president of the Madrid chapter of New Generations —the youth wing of Spain’s ruling Popular Party, and Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig suffered minor injuries. The Spaniard is jailed on suspicion of vehicular homicide, and Modig returned to Stockholm Tuesday.

Payá’s son, Oswaldo José, 24, said the family was told that a red Lada, the car often used by Cuba’s State Security agents, was very near Carromero’s rented Hyundai when it went off the road and hit a tree near the eastern city of Bayamo.

It was not clear if the two cars collided, but the Lada stopped at the site of the crash and one of its passengers helped Carromero out of the Hyundai. The Spaniard then asked “Who are you? Why are you doing this to us,” according to the son.

A passenger in the Lada then used his cell phone to summon an ambulance, showing he knew the phone number of someone with the authority to dispatch the vehicle, Oswaldo José told El Nuevo Herald.

He said the family received the information from friends at the Bayamo hospital, where Carromero and another survivor were treated after the crash. The friends claimed they overheard police Maj. Fulgencio Medina relay the information to other policemen.

“A red Lada. That’s what my friends said they heard, clearly heard him say,” Payá’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, told Spain’s COPE radio station earlier Wednesday. She repeated the allegation during a news conference at her Havana home later in the day. Both the son and the widow declined to identify the friends.

Cuba’s official version of the crash did not mention any other car and accused Carromero of speeding and causing the one-car crash. Both Europeans denied that a second vehicle was involved during a news conference in Havana Monday at the Foreign Ministry’s International Press Center.

Payá’s relatives insisted they cannot trust the official version of the crash until they can speak with the survivors, once they are far from possible government pressures, because state security agents had repeatedly threatened her husband’s life.

Beatriz Jurado, national president of New Generations told journalists in Spain that she hopes Carromero will receive a “clear and transparent” legal process “in which we will be able to defend him.”

Modig said he and Carromero traveled to Cuba to meet with Payá and deliver about $4,900 to Cuban dissidents, including Payá and members of his Christian Liberation Movement.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution late Tuesday honoring Payá for his “dedication to freedom and faith,” praising his bravery in the face of decades of government repression and offering condolences to his family.

The resolution also urges the Cuban government “to allow an impartial, third party investigation” of the fatal crash and called on the U.S. government to continue pressing for “religious freedom, democracy, and human rights in Cuba.”

Lech Walesa, a former dissident leader and president of Poland, issued a statement praising Payá as “a man of courage, determination and extraordinary fighting spirit … (and) one of the most important voices of freedom in Cuba.”

Although they never met, Walesa added, he hopes that some day he “will be able to stand in the cemetery in Cuba, saying goodbye to my friend and pay him the honor of a great and wise man.”

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