Sunday, March 31, 2013

Crash that Killed Cuban Democracy Advocate Still Shrouded in Mystery,Photos posts Photos

Crash that Killed Cuban Democracy Advocate Still Shrouded in Mystery
Photos posts Photos
Posted 30 March 2013 12:00 GMT
Written byEllery Roberts Biddle

The car accident that killed democracy advocate Oswaldo Payá has been
shrouded in mystery and misinformation since it happened in eastern Cuba
last July.

Payá, who dedicated his life to promoting human rights and democratic
governance in Cuba, died along with his colleague, advocate Harold
Cepero. Angel Carromero and Jens Aron Modig, European politicians who
were visiting Cuba to support Payá's efforts, survived the crash.
Oswaldo Paya, at his home. Screenshot from video by Tracey Eaton, taken
with photographer's permission.

Oswaldo Paya, at his home. Screenshot from video by Tracey Eaton, taken
with photographer's permission.

While state press and Cuban officials [es] reported that Carromero, who
was at the wheel, lost control of the car and hit a tree, rumors of a
second car began to circulate. Though the two Europeans survived the
crash, weeks passed before either survivor gave an account of the
accident. Having endured decades of harassment and threats on her
father's life, Payá's daughter Rosa Maria publicly stated that she
suspected foul play. Cuban authorities charged Carromero with vehicular
manslaughter; he was put on trial in October, found guilty, and
sentenced to four years in prison. Carromero also delivered a statement,
before the press, confirming authorities' version of the story.

Given that the passengers killed in the accident were in the back seat
of the car, the claim that the car crashed into a tree seems unlikely.

This month, Angel Carromero, who served jail time in Cuba and was then
(with assistance from the Spanish government) granted permission to
complete his sentence in Spain, gave an interview to The Washington
Post. The newspaper's website does not specify who conducted the interview.

In this new account of the accident and its aftermath, Carromero
describes being followed by a series of strange cars, the last of which
crashed into the back of the car, killing Payá and Cepero, who were
riding in the backseat. Carromero recalls being taken to a hospital and
later asked to sign the "official" account of the accident and recite
the account before members of the press.

Carromero says that military officers intimidated him, suggesting that
he would face further trouble if he did not stick to the official
version of the story.

One of them told me that what I had told them 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 also describes meager prison conditions and claims that while he was
in the hospital, personnel unnecessarily sedated him. He believes this
may have caused his memory of the incident to lapse.

Phil Peters, US-Cuba policy expert and author of The Cuban Triangle, is
doubtful that those following the case will find Carromero's account

…[Carromero's] conduct to date has frustrated those that most want
to pin Paya's death on the Cuban government, and the presentation of the
case – slow, late, and piecemeal, with Modig consistently useless – has
limited its impact. My strong guess is that skeptics of both accounts
are not going to get satisfaction.

Carromero claims that when they saw a vehicle following them, Paya and
Cepero said it was "from 'la comunista.'" Peters notes that this
doesn't sound right — Cubans do not colloquially refer to authorities
this way. "La comunista" would be a pretty general way to refer to just
about anyone in Cuba, a Communist country.

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo says he has no
reason to believe Carromero. Spanish daily El Pais notes that the
Spanish government has handled the case delicately, likely in the
interest of preserving Cuba-Spain relations and protecting other Spanish
citizens who are awaiting trial in Cuba.

Havana Times reports that García-Margallo has said that Carromero should
present this information before the court. At his trial, Carromero gave
what he now claims was a false description of the accident.

Havana Times blogger Harold Dilla also expressed skepticism about
Carromero's account. He noted that people on all sides of the incident
seem to have given accounts and spread information that is not entirely
truthful– the lack of impartial, thorough reporting on the incident has
made the situation all the worse. Dilla wrote,

The unfortunate death of Oswaldo Paya is another example of the
morbidities that come with the lack of information openness in Cuba and
the lack of independent response channels.

Although the Cuban government acted to provide rapid and
technically supported information on the facts of the incident, I don't
think it was sufficient for anyone, if we consider that Paya was always
considered an enemy and harassed accordingly.

Dilla also supported the Paya family's request for an independent
investigation of the case and argued that "the Cuban government should,
in the name of decency, be obligated to allow that."

Many have called for an independent investigation of the accident; the
Payá family has sought assistance on the matter from the United Nations.
But even this may be a challenge. Agustín López casts doubt [es] on the
efficacy of such an effort

¿Qué tribunal internacional tendrá la suficiente potestad para
realizar una investigación imparcial y por qué métodos obtendrán pruebas
periciales que no sean fraudulentas? ¿Se dignara algún cubano que
conozca la verdad a arriesgar la vida en una transparente declaración?

What international court will have sufficient power to conduct an
impartial investigation and what methods will be used to obtain credible
evidence that will not be fraudulent? Will any Cuban who knows the truth
to deign to risk his or her life by making a transparent statement?

In the wake of the accident, a diverse range of Cuban voices — even
those who didn't agree with Payá — expressed appreciation for his
efforts to push for reform on the island. Payá was internationally
recognized as one of Cuba's most pragmatic, forward-thinking advocates
for freedom of expression, freedom of association, and other fundamental
rights on the island. For Payá's family and those who supported his
work, it is unfortunate that his death has been marked on all sides by
layers of misinformation and mistrust.

No comments:

Post a Comment