Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Up to 50 arrested at Payá funeral, family and supporters insist his death was no accident

Posted on Tuesday, 07.24.12

Up to 50 arrested at Payá funeral, family and supporters insist his
death was no accident

The family and supporters of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, who was
buried Tuesday, continue to allege that the auto crash that claimed his
life was no accident.
By Juan O. Tamayo

Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá was buried Tuesday as police dragged off
and allegedly beat at least 40 supporters who shouted "Freedom!" after
his funeral mass, in a clash watched by a large and impassive crowd in

Relatives and supporters voiced new allegations that Payá was killed in
a car crash caused by another vehicle, but a Madrid newspaper reported
the Spaniard at the wheel of the car carrying the dissident told police
the accident was his fault.

Police detained 40 to 50 dissidents, and beat some of them severely, as
more than 300 people left the El Salvador del Mundo church Tuesday
morning and started the funeral procession to the Colón Cemetery, said
Havana human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez..

Among those reported "brutally beaten" was dissident Guillermo Fariñas,
winner of the 2010 European Parliament's Sakharov price, which Payá won
in 2002. Several had been released by Tuesday evening, Sánchez told El
Nuevo Herald.

A video of the confrontation showed hundreds of passersby watching in
stony silence. One woman is heard off-camera shouting "Viva Fidel!" But
she does not get the usual "Viva!" response from the crowd and someone
tells her, "No one is paying attention to you."

During the funeral mass, Payá's daughter, Rosa Maria, declared that she
holds the Cuban government responsible for any harm that comes to her
family "because of the repeated threats against the life of my father"
over the years. A mass was also held for Payá late Tuesday at Ermita de
la Caridad, known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, in Miami.

Payá and another Cuban dissident, Harold Cepero, were killed and two
European politicians — Angel Carromero of Spain and Jens Aron Modig of
Sweden — suffered minor injuries in a crash Sunday near the eastern city
of Bayamo.

The Cuban government described it as a one-car accident and Spain's El
Mundo newspaper reported Tuesday, without identifying its sources, that
Carromero, who was at the wheel, told Cuban police he missed a sign to
slow down on a curve, lost control and went off the road.

Payá's son Oswaldo told journalists Tuesday, however, that the Europeans
phoned their bosses in Sweden and Spain Sunday "to say that a truck hit
them, crashed into them, rammed them several times until it drove them
off the road."

Carromero also called one of his supervisors hours before the crash to
report he was being "pursued" by another vehicle, said Regis Iglesia,
the Madrid representative of Payá's Christian Liberation Movement (MCL).
Iglesia told El Nuevo Herald he spoke with the Carromero supervisor, in
the youth wing of the ruling Popular Party.

Carromero was being held in Bayamo on Tuesday and could face charges in
the fatal crash. Modig gave a deposition Monday and was in Havana on
Tuesday trying to a get a seat on a plane to Europe, a European diplomat
in the Cuban capital told El Nuevo Herald.

The truth of the crash will not be known until Modig and Carromero go
home and offer "an objective and irrefutable testimony" free from
possible Cuban government pressures, said Sánchez, whose own preliminary
inquiry tended to support the government version.

Payá's widow, Ofelia Acevedo, told the Miami-based Radio/TV Marti that
she learned of the crash when Iglesia called her from Madrid to report
the car had been forced off the road and that three of the men were in a
Bayamo hospital "but a fourth one was not."

She dialed his cellular phone and a policeman answered. "He told me that
the phone was ringing, and that he had taken it from the pocket of the
fatality," said Acevedo.

Two photos of Carromero's car, a rented blue Hyundai Accent with license
plate T31402, were published Tuesday in the Facebook page of David
Rodríguez, a reporter for the government-owned Radio Bayamo.

One photo shows part of a body on a stretcher on the ground on the right
side of the car. The other shows a severe impact on the car's left rear
door and roof. Payá, 60, and Cepero, 32, were believed to have been
sitting in the back seat. It's not known whether they were wearing

Payá, a fervent Catholic and one of Cuba's best known dissidents — his
Project Varela gathered 24,000 signatures in 2002 demanding a referendum
on the government — had long complained he was constantly followed and
threatened by State Security agents.

In one recent email to Miami supporter Julio Hernandez, he wrote that
police were following him "step by step" and that "the vigilance of my
house has grown" since June 2, when a car smashed into his 1964
Volkswagen bus in Havana. He and his wife were not killed in the
"possible attempt" because "God wanted something else," Payá added.

His brother Carlos, who lives in Madrid, told a Spanish radio station
that "Oswaldo had been told clearly, 'We are going to kill you.'"

Carromero and Modig, a leader of the Youth League of Sweden's Christian
Democratic Party, reportedly went to Cuba on tourist visas but intending
to quietly deliver assistance to dissidents. Payá joined them in the
trip to the Bayamo region to visit MCL activists there, according to his

Payá's funeral mass brought together members of Cuba's many and often
fractious dissident groups, and was celebrated by Cuban Cardinal Jaime
Ortega, whom Payá had criticized as being too passive in the face of
government human rights violations

Ortega praised him as a man and as a Christian — Payá "had a clear
political vocation and as a good Christian, that did not distance him
from his faith. To the contrary, he always looked within his Christian
faith for the inspiration for his political option" — but Ortega made no
direct reference to his dissident work.

At the end of the mass, Ortega also read a message from Pope Benedict
XVI expressing his "spiritual proximity" to the family. Payá met with
Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 2002.

A story on his death in the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano,
was headlined "Catholic and Patriot," and former Spanish Prime Minister
Jose Maria Aznar called him "an example of sacrifice and commitment to
the cause of democracy."

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