Spaniard charged with Cuban dissident’s killing

A SPANISH politician who was involved in a car accident in Cuba in which a prominent anti-Castro activist was killed has been held on suspicion of manslaughter, Guy Hedgecoe reports for The Irish Times.

Ángel Carromero, a member of the conservative Popular Party’s youth wing, could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty. On July 22nd the hire car he was driving crashed into a tree at the side of the road, killing two passengers: Oswaldo Payá, a well-known critic of the Castro regime, and another dissident, Harold Cepero. The crash took place in Bayamo, about 800km from Havana.

A fourth man in the car, Jans Aron Modig, a young Swedish politician, suffered minor injuries. Mr Carromero was also relatively unhurt, but after being discharged from hospital was arrested for his alleged role in the accident.

“The Spaniard Ángel Carromero Barrios has been arraigned for manslaughter,” Tuesday’s editorial in Cuban state newspaper Granma said. He is being held in Havana.

The case has stirred up conspiracy theories on both sides, with the family of Mr Payá calling for a full investigation into the accident and hinting that the Cuban government had deliberately caused it.

“I cannot accept such a simplistic answer,” said Mr Payá’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, after the Cuban government announced that excess speed had caused the car to crash.

Mr Payá’s brother, Carlos, said: “They had told him many times before that they were going to kill him.”

Mr Payá was one of Cuba’s best-known dissidents. He organised the Varela project, which saw Castro opponents gather thousands of signatures in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to change Cuba’s one-party political system.

The US government, which maintains a five-decade trade embargo against the island, has paid tribute to Mr Payá and also called for a full probe into the accident, with Republican challenger Mitt Romney echoing the Obama administration’s position.

But the government of Raúl Castro hit back via the state newspaper, its traditional mouthpiece.

“The US Republican candidate, the department of state and, curiously, the spokesperson for the Chilean government were among a handful of slanderers who asked for ‘a transparent investigation’,” the Granma editorial said.

The article then queried the actions of Mr Carromero and Mr Modig, stating they arrived in Cuba on tourist visas despite then carrying out “exclusively political activities” which it linked to international groups who want to unseat the island’s communist government.

Mr Modig, of Sweden’s Christian Democratic Party, returned to his country after giving a press conference in which he said he had gone to Cuba to meet dissidents and give money to Payá. He apologised for breaking the law.

In Spain, Mr Carromero’s Popular Party has long been openly critical of the Castro government, particularly under former prime minister José María Aznar.

However, on Monday Mr Carromero backed the Cuban government’s version of events in a filmed interview shown to foreign press, insisting no other vehicle had been involved in the accident.

“I ask the international community to please focus on getting me out of here and not to use a car accident, which could have happened to any other person, for political gain,” he said.

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