August 5, 2013

Payá’s widow urges international inquiry into husband’s death

Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá’s widow reacts to Spaniard Angel Carromero’s latest statements about the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death.

The widow of Oswaldo Payá, a Cuban dissident killed in a car crash in Cuba last year, said in Miami on Monday that the driver’s statements over the weekend that Cuban secret services assassinated her husband make all the more relevant an international investigation of the tragedy.

The reason, said Ofelia Acevedo, is that in his statements to the Madrid newspaper El Mundo, Angel Carromero, the driver of the crashed car, said Payá and another dissident, Harol Cepero, were alive after the crash. This suggests, she added, that both were murdered later.

“This is why we must continue demanding and seeking support for an international investigation,” she said. “Both the people of Spain and the people of Cuba have the right to know how and where they were killed.”

The 30-minute interview with Acevedo provided the first comprehensive Payá family reaction to statements by Carromero to El Mundo that Cuba’s secret services murdered Payá. Carromero is a young politician who belongs to Spain’s ruling Popular Party (PP). After being arrested in Cuba, he was found guilty of vehicular homicide, but was released under an agreement with Spain that he would serve out his sentence in his home country. He is currently under supervised release.

Acevedo was quoted with a brief reaction in Monday’s El Nuevo Herald, but in the interview at her home she added details and provided her own analysis of Carromero’s statements, especially those in which he said Payá and Cepero survived the crash.

“For us this is all very hard,” said Acevedo. “Although one suspected from the start that this was not accidental, that someone confirms to you that your husband was alive when he was pulled from the car, is to say to me ‘your husband was murdered’ because the impact didn’t kill him.”

Acevedo said that crash last year of the car Carromero was driving was only the culmination of a long string of harassment incidents against her husband. She recalled that a month before the Carromero incident, a car crashed Payá’s car from behind and made it flip over, and that in previous years the lug nuts on the tires of Payá’s cars were loosened.

“I knew this was not just a casual accident,” said Ofelia Acevedo, Payá’s widow, during an interview at the family home in Southwest Miami-Dade. “I knew from the outset that [the government claim it was an accident] was false. When you analyze the official story, there are a thousand elements pointing to a total falsehood that it was just an accident.”

Carromero had indicated before that Cuban government agents were involved in the incident that led to his crashing the car he was driving and in which Payá and two other people were passengers. But the statements published in El Mundo over the weekend were Carromero’s most explicit in laying the blame for Payá’s death on the Cuban government.

The tragedy occurred on July 22, 2012 when Carromero was driving Payá to eastern Cuba Besides Payá, the other passengers were fellow Cuban dissident Cepero and Swedish political activist Jens Aron Modig.

At one point near Bayamo, about 500 miles east of Havana, Carromero’s car left the highway and slammed into a tree.

Cuban officials later said Carromero was driving at high speed through a stretch of the road that was under construction. All of that, Cuban officials said, contributed to the accident.

But in Miami, Acevedo recalled Monday that she knew the crash was no accident because early on she had become aware of text messages that Modig might have sent from the scene of the accident.

She told El Nuevo Herald from Cuba in late July 2012 that 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 that the vehicle had been rammed and forced into a crash.

On Monday, Acevedo said Carromero also had sent similar text messages to contacts in Spain before being arrested and charged.

Acevedo also said on Monday that she knew from early on that the official story about an accident was false was because Payá hated being in speeding vehicles.

While Carromero’s statements to El Mundo confirmed the Payá family’s suspicions, they also caused a controversy because of an apparent contradiction. In prior statements, Carromero had described a car that had been following them as red. But in the interview with El Mundo, Carromero described the car that forced them off the highway as blue.

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