Cuba

OAS’ human rights branch asks Cuba about Payá’s death

 

jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

The human rights arm of the Organization of American States has formally asked Cuba for details of the disputed car crash that killed noted dissident Oswaldo Payá, his daughter, Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo, revealed Monday.

Payá Acevedo also told El Nuevo Herald and The Miami Herald that ruler Raúl Castro’s economic reforms amount to “fraud” and noted that “neither Castro nor (his hand-picked successor Miguel) Diaz-Canel were elected by the people.”

The 24-year-old physicist said she learned of the letter sent by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights to the Cuban government during a meeting in Washington last week with IACHR Executive Director Emilio Alvarez Icaza.

IACHR press office director Maria Isabel Rivero confirmed the letter was sent last week but said its text is confidential, like all exchanges between the commission and OAS member states.

“The Cuban Government has not replied to the IACHR in many years. The only letters … received from Cuba said that the OAS doesn’t have moral authority and the IACHR doesn’t have jurisdiction over Cuba,” Rivero added in an email to El Nuevo Herald.

Payá Acevedo said Alvarez, a Mexican sociologist, told her that Cuban authorities sometimes return IACHR letters unopened.

Cuban authorities also have never given her family a copy of the official police investigation of the crash, she added, even though Cuban law requires that those reports be provided to the families of traffic victims within 30 days.

IACHR officials have the power to investigate human rights violations in the 35 member-nations of the OAS, based on the “American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man,” signed by all member-states in 1948. Cuba remains a member, though its membership was suspended in the 1960s.

The Commission also can refer cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in Costa Rica, if the countries involved have ratified the American Convention on Human Rights and recognized the court’s jurisdiction. Cuba, along with the United States, Canada and nine other OAS members have not done so.

Payá Acevedo said Alvarez told her the letter to Cuba was triggered by a Washington Post report on March 5 alleging that Cuban security agents caused the July 22 car crash in eastern Cuba that also led to the death of fellow dissident Harold Cepero.

The Cuban government claims the crash was an accident caused by their driver, Spanish politician Angel Carromero. A Cuban court convicted Carromero of two counts of vehicular homicide and sentenced him to four years in prison.

Carromero asserted in the Washington Post interview that another vehicle, presumably driven by State Security agents who were tailing Payá, rammed his rented vehicle from behind and forced him off the road.

Payá Acevedo said Carromero gave her the same version of the crash when they met in Spain earlier this year. The Spaniard left Cuba in December under an agreement to serve the rest of his sentence in his home country.

Another passenger in the car, Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig, who was not injured, has said he was dozing at the time of the crash.

Payá Acevedo has been repeating her family’s demand for an independent investigation of Payá’s death throughout a two-month trip abroad that took her to Spain, Sweden, New York, Washington and now South Florida. She is expected to return to Cuba this week.

She also has been asking the OAS, United Nations and European Parliament to protect Cuban dissidents “and especially my family,” which has become a growing target of death threats and harassments by State Security agents since her father’s death.

“From our experience, we know they are not fooling around,” she said during her visit with the editorial board and reporters of El Nuevo Herald and The Miami Herald.

As for Castro’s economic reforms, she added, she prefers to call them “fraud-changes” because she does not believe that there have been real changes, and the level of repression against dissidents in fact increased under Raúl Castro.

Among other changes, the reforms allow more small-scale private businesses, make big cuts in the overstuffed public payrolls and trim government subsidies in areas such as health, education and welfare.

Payá Acevedo argued that the changes are designed only to “clean up” Cuba’s image so that the government can win economic concessions from the United States and Europe.

“It would be dangerous if they start to believe those changes,” she added.

Cuba’s best future, she noted, lies in the plebiscite on democracy and human rights that her father proposed under his Varela Project in 2002 — and backed up with 25,000 signatures with full names and national I.D. card numbers, she added.

That could lead to a dialogue between the government and its critics, and a “real transition,” Payá Acevedo added.

The Cuban government answered Project Varela with a harsh crackdown in 2003, known as Cuba’s Black Spring, that sentenced 75 peaceful dissidents to prison terms of up to 28 years. All were freed after serving up to eight years of their sentences.

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