Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Eight senators demand investigation of Payá's death

Eight senators demand investigation of Payá's death
By Editorial Board, Wednesday, March 27, 1:00 AM

THE CAR crash that killed dissident Oswaldo Payá and the youth activist
Harold Cepero in eastern Cuba last July was on a rural road. As with any
wreck in which passengers die or are knocked unconscious, there was some
confusion. In the front of the rental car, on the passenger side, sat
Jens Aron Modig of Sweden, president of the youth league of Sweden's
Christian Democratic Party. He has said he was asleep at the moment of
impact. The driver, Ángel Carromero, a leader of the youth wing of
Spain's ruling party, has told us the car was hit from behind by a
vehicle bearing Cuban government license plates. They both survived; Mr.
Payá and Mr. Cepero, in the back seat, did not. Mr. Carromero said that
after the crash he was imprisoned and subjected to intimidation and
threats by Cuban authorities, who attempted to cover up their role in
the deaths. Cuba convicted Mr. Carromero of vehicular homicide,
transferred him to Spain and declared the case closed.

But it must not be closed. Mr. Carromero and Mr. Modig carried cell
phones. Text messages were sent to friends and relatives abroad
immediately after the wreck. These messages cannot be manipulated or
suppressed. Although not the whole story, they must be taken seriously
as important contemporaneous evidence. The text messages are one reason
why the questions about Mr. Payá's death will not go away.

It is not known precisely what happened on the road, but the messages
offer clues. One was sent from Mr. Modig's phone to a recipient in
Sweden, according to screenshots provided to us. It says: "We've
crashed. Traveling in an ambulance now. I do not have my passport. Not
in grave danger." A subsequent message reports that Mr. Modig and Mr.
Carromero are in a hospital in the town of Bayamo "and OK."

Then Mr. Modig adds: "Ángel said that someone had tried to run us off
the highway."

Who? And why? If the wreck was — as Cuba has claimed — an accident
caused by reckless driving, why would one of the survivors have said
they were run off the road? These and other suspicions about the death
of Mr. Payá need to be addressed. Mr. Payá's family, including his
daughter Rosa Maria, have demanded an international and independent probe.

On Monday, eight U.S. senators from both parties asked for such an
investigation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, part
of the Organization of American States. The signers are Sens. Richard J.
Durbin (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Mark
Kirk (R-Ill.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Robert
Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) They say Mr. Carromero's
account has raised "deeply troubling questions that Payá's car was
deliberately targeted by Cuban government officials well known for their
harassment of Payá." Only a serious investigation will put this matter
to rest. It seems like the very minimum necessary for a man who
championed the cause of freedom in Cuba.

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