Washington Post OP/ED: A Pawn in Cuba’s Power Game 1

By Editorial Board, Tuesday, October 16, 7:05 PM

ANGEL CARROMERO, a 26-year-old youth leader in Spain’s ruling Popular Party, was the driver of a car that ran off a rural road in Cuba and crashed on July 22, killing one of the country’s leading dissidents, Oswaldo Payá, as well as another activist. Mr. Carromero denies he was at fault; a surviving passenger, a young Swedish activist, has said that “it’s wrong to accuse” him of culpability. The families of the two dissidents agree and declined to press charges against him.

Nonetheless, on Oct. 5 a Cuban court convicted the Spaniard of vehicular homicide. On Monday, he was sentenced to four years in prison. Mr. Payá‘s family was excluded from the brief trial; 42 dissidents were detained on the day it was held. The blogger Yoani Sanchez, who had driven to the town of Bayamo in order to cover it, was arrested and jailed for 30 hours.

Why did Cuban authorities respond in this way to what they describe as a one-car accident? Mr. Payá’s widow believes she knows the answer: The authorities, she charges, are trying to cover up what really happened in the crash. Family members have received accounts that the sedan Mr. Carromero was driving may have been forced off the road by another vehicle. They have called for an independent investigation with international ­involvement.

Spanish observers have their own suspicions. The regime of Raúl Castro, they say, is likely seeking to punish the ruling Spanish party for supporting the Cuban opposition. In a news conference orchestrated by Cuban authorities, Mr. Carromero and the Swedish activist said they had brought money for Mr. Payá and were helping to organize a youth movement.

Mr. Carromero’s sentence will come as no surprise to the family of Alan Gross, an American development contractor who has been a prisoner in Cuba since 2009. Mr. Gross was arrested for supplying computer equipment to Cuba’s tiny Jewish community under a U.S. aid program. Sentenced to 15 years, he has become a pawn in a gambit by the Castro regime to secure the return of five acknowledged Cuban spies who were captured and convicted of espionage in the United States.

Mr. Carromero may be in prison as a way of preventing the true story of Mr. Payá’s death from emerging, as his family believes. Or he may be a victim of a crude attempt by the Castro regime to extort concessions from the Spanish government. Spain is still attempting to obtain Mr. Carromero’s release — just as the Obama administration has tried, so far in vain, to free Mr. Gross without meeting the regime’s demands.

What’s sure is that Mr. Carromero should not be in prison because of Mr. Payá’s death. That he is offers a clear answer to those who wonder whether the Castro regime is changing for the better.


One comment

  1. The true intentions of the Cuban regime in sentencing Angel Carromero to 4 years in jail will soon be revealed after the sentence handed down in Bayamo is confirmed.

    According to Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García Margallo, if by October 29 Carromero´s lawyer and his family do not appeal the sentence, it will be confirmed as final and then the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs will enter negotiations with its Cuban counterpart in order to bring Carromero to Spain and serve his sentence in a Spanish prison, as there is an agreement between Spain and Cuba in this respect.

    When negotiations begin, Cuba will have to make its position crystal clear. If the Communist regime is trying to prevent Carromero from disclosing the truth behind the accident and/or punish the Spanish Popular Party for its support for the dissident movement, there will be a lot of foot dragging and the Cuban government will make up a lot of pretexts for not complying with the treaty they have signed with Spain and the talks will go on for ever. This will show the whole world that Carromero is no ordinary offender who was involved just once again in one of his well known cases of careless driving and the implementation of the bilateral treaty is not a matter of simple routine between Cuba and Spain.

    Anyone who is familiar with repressive regimes throughout the world will not believe so easily that the Cuban G-2 did not keep tabs on Carromero from the very beginning he set foot in Cuba, did not monitor his meeting with dissident Oswaldo Payá and did not have at least one car following Carromerom and the 2 Cuban dissidents all the way from Havana to Granma province. As revealed by the arrest of Yoani Sánchez on the day of Carromero´s trial, tens of G-2 agents, cars and safe houses are being used against so few opponents and the same methods were deployed against Carromero and Oswaldo Payá: G-2 cars relaying each other every few kilometers so as not to make themselves too conspicuous, other vehicles driving along the same road as well as fixed observation points and aerial means.

    All Cuban dissidents agree in their media that the G-2 tried somehow to prevent Oswaldo Payá and Carromero from visiting hotbeds of dengue and cholera in the area and the accident occurred during such an attempt..

    So from October 29 on the things will be looking a bit easier to understand. Keep an eye open on both the diplomatic negotiations, Cuban government propaganda and attempts by fellow travelers in other country to discredit Carromero and the dissidents.

    Sergio Klein

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