U.S. Calls for Investigation of Cuban Catholic Opposition Leader’s Death
New evidence in the death of Oswaldo Payá last summer in a fatal car crash has links to the Castro regime.
WASHINGTON — When Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, 60, one of Cuba’s most famous — and intensely devout — Catholic activists was killed on July 22, 2012, his family, friends and human-rights advocates around the world considered the tragic death suspicious.Now the U.S. State Department has called for an independent, international investigation into the circumstances of the accident.
Payá founded the Christian Liberation Movement (CLM) in 1988 to advocate for free speech, freedom of association, more private property rights and the right to have a voice in government decisions through elections in Cuba. The Register profiled Payá in a lengthy interview in 2010.
Calling for a national referendum on these freedoms, in an effort known as the Varela Project, in honor of a 19th-century Cuban-born priest, Father Felix Varela, the CLM gathered more than 25,000 signatures and presented them to the Cuban National Assembly in 2002 and 2003. As a result, most of the movement’s leaders were jailed in the “Black Spring” of 2003.
Many were released into exile in 2010 as a result of a deal worked out between the Church in Cuba, the Castro regime and the Spanish government.
Payá, whose high profile probably protected him from outright imprisonment — he won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2002 from the European Parliament and was nominated by former President Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia for the Nobel Peace Prize — was continuously monitored and harassed over the 10 years preceding his death.
Payá, together with a young associate, Harold Cepero Escalante, died in the back seat of a car that crashed on a deserted stretch of straight highway in Bayamo, Cuba.
Now, the car’s driver, Angel Carromero, 27, a conservative political party official from Madrid, claims the fatal crash was caused by another car, bearing official license plates, that rammed the democracy activists from behind. Further, some have questioned whether Payá died in the car accident or while under the control of state agents after the crash.
Carromero says he made false statements in Cuba while under arrest and drugged. He said then that he was at fault for losing control of the vehicle with no mention of another car. But at the time, he says, he was threatened and tortured, both in a hospital after the crash and later in jail.
A Swedish Christian Democratic youth leader, Aron Modig, 27, who was sitting next to Carromero in the passenger seat, claims he slept through the events prior to the crash and consequently remembers nothing.
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