Late Cuban dissident's family doubts crash report
HAVANA, Cuba (AP) — The family of late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya cast doubt on the official explanation of the car crash that killed him and another government opponent, asking the international community yesterday for help getting an independent investigation.
Speaking to foreign journalists at the family home in Havana, Paya's widow said she can't trust the same authorities who have long monitored, intimidated and harassed her family and other dissidents.
"We do not accept the explanation of what happened that was aired on television," Ofelia Acevedo said.
She spoke a day after Cuban authorities, who call the small opposition "counterrevolutionaries" and "mercenaries" paid by the US government and anti-Castro Cuban exiles, announced that a Spanish man was being charged with vehicular manslaughter in connection with the crash.
His testimony and that of the crash's other survivor should lay to rest any theories about foul play, Communist Party newspaper Granma said in an editorial.
But Paya's daughter Rosa Maria said family friends who were at the hospital after the July 22 crash in eastern Cuba overheard a police captain telling fellow officers that a red car was at the scene of the crash and its occupants supposedly made the emergency call.
According to those accounts, the captain also said that Angel Carromero, the Spaniard who was driving the vehicle carrying Paya, emerged from their rental car yelling at the red vehicle: "Why are you doing this to us?"
Rosa Maria Paya questioned what Carromero would have been referring to, why there was no mention of a red car in the official report and why a coroner was purportedly in the ambulance when it first responded.
Rumors of a second vehicle's alleged involvement in the crash swirled among dissidents and some foreign media soon after the crash, with some suggesting the rental vehicle carrying Paya was being followed or even forced off the road.
Cuban authorities have insisted all along that it was a single-car incident, and some dissidents discount "conspiracy theories" while saying the investigation has not been entirely transparent.
On Monday, authorities released videotaped testimony from Carromero saying no other vehicle was involved, and the crash happened when he lost control after braking suddenly in an unpaved stretch of roadwork. Carromero faces one to 10 years in prison if convicted, though prosecutors have not specified what sentence they will seek.
Jens Aron Modig, a Swedish citizen riding in the passenger's seat, also said there was no second vehicle, though he was dozing off at the time.
Acevedo said she has not been able to talk independently to the two Europeans, who were the only survivors. Carromero is in police custody, and Modig returned to Sweden on Tuesday.
"I am not going to accuse anyone, nor am I looking for guilty parties," Acevedo said. "I simply want the facts to be cleared up."
Carromero and Modig, both members of conservative political parties in their home countries, said they came to Cuba to help the dissidents organize youth movements and lend other support.
They said they brought US$4,900 for Paya's organisation, though Acevedo said Paya never got any money from the Europeans.
Cuban state media published a lengthy editorial Tuesday complaining about a series of foreign-funded attempts to undermine the government, including new revelations about eight Mexican youth allegedly trying to incite protests during Pope Benedict XVI's visit in March, at the behest of a Cuban exile group.
Tuesday's editorial in Granma also excoriated the "fistful of slanderers" who called for a transparent investigation of the crash that killed Paya.
Acevedo alleged a pattern of intimidation and threats against the family, saying the lug nuts on their car have repeatedly and mysteriously come loose, and that an old classic car rammed their Volkswagen minibus in June.