Friday, March 22, 2013

CARDENAS: Exposing a shady cover-up in Cuba

CARDENAS: Exposing a shady cover-up in Cuba
The truth about dissidents' killings confronts the U.N.
By Jose R. Cardenas
Thursday, March 21, 2013

More than 60 dignitaries and pro-democracy advocates from around the
world have signed an open letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
requesting that the world body conduct an investigation into the tragic
deaths of Cuban dissidents Osvaldo Paya and Harold Cepero in an
automobile accident in July 2012. It's the least anyone can do.

The letter was prompted by a tour of European capitals by Paya's
daughter, Rosa Maria, and the blockbuster revelations by Spanish
political activist Angel Carrameo, who was with Paya and Cepero at the
time of the accident. Now out of Cuba, Mr. Carrameo went public with the
truth that the accident was caused by a Cuban state security vehicle
that rammed the car in which they were riding, forcing it off the road
into a tree. The two Europeans survived, but Paya and Cepero, sitting in
the back of the car, were killed.

Since Paya's death, his family has maintained the Castro regime was
behind his death, which is hardly surprising to anyone with a sober
understanding of the nature of that government. However, the regime
moved quickly to silence Mr. Carrameo and another European activist who
was present, Aron Modig, by setting up a kangaroo court, in which they
were held responsible for Paya and Cepero's deaths.

The regime's machinations fooled no one, except the legions of Castro
regime apologists who have aped the party line from the get-go: that
unprompted by anything, the car that Mr. Carrameo was driving spun out
of control on a lonely country road.

Mr. Carrameo was convicted by a Cuban court of "vehicular homicide" and
sentenced to four years in prison, but the quiescent Spanish government,
playing along with the farce, nevertheless managed to persuade the
Cubans after several months to allow him to serve out his sentence under
house arrest in Spain. Both sides underestimated the power of human
nature to want to speak the truth.

After witnessing the abuse heaped on Paya's daughter in Europe by
pro-Castro mobs, Mr. Carrameo said he finally decided to speak out,
despite death threats and the "nightmare" that his life had become. He
said he "could not hide the truth any more" because "the most important
thing for me is that the Paya family always has defended my innocence,
when they are the most injured by this tragedy."

Mr. Carrameo's testimony once on free soil is a dismal reminder of the
Cold War, in which he recounts a Kafkaesque nightmare of druggings and
intimidation by Cuban authorities to ensure his complicity in this Big
Lie that he was responsible for the deaths of Paya and Cepero. He was
held incommunicado in a dark, roach-infested prison cell without a
working toilet. He said he was subjected to constant threats and was
told that his account of what happened on that lonely road had not
happened and "that I should be careful, that depending on what I said,
things could go very well or very badly for me." He was then presented a
statement for him to sign admitting his culpability, saying his
"speeding" caused the accident.

Mr. Carrameo, who said he still suffers from memory lapses owing to the
unknown drugs he was given by the Cuban authorities, said he thought
going along with the charade was his best chance of getting out of Cuba
— which, ultimately, proved to be the case.

Given the United Nations' historical indulgence of the Castro regime, it
is not likely that it would ever conduct any investigation of the Paya
affair, which is a tragedy in itself. Individuals like Osvaldo Paya
represented the future of Cuba, and only a few of them come along every
generation. He was independent, beholden to no one, and rock-sure of his
principles. He found an unusual strength in the rightness of his cause
that allowed him to be unintimidated by the Castros' thuggish ways.

Sadly, it is more likely that the deaths of Paya and Cepero at the hands
of Cuban state security will be quietly swept under the carpet. That's
because their deaths are mortal threats to the current propaganda
campaign that Cuba under Raul Castro is "reforming," and that the United
States should normalize relations with the country as a result. The
killings of dissidents thus present most inconvenient facts to those
dogged policy critics who will stop at nothing to have the United States
recognize that brutal dictatorship. That's why it is up to decent people
to keep Osvaldo Paya's and Harold Cepero's memories alive for the sake
of Cuba's future.

Jose R. Cardenas was acting assistant administrator for Latin America at
the U.S. Agency for International Development in the George W. Bush
administration and is an associate with Vision Americas.

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