Washington Post OP/ED: Who Will Stand up for Oswaldo Payá? 4

By Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editorial Page Editor

Two weeks ago a brave young leader of Spain’s ruling Popular Party stepped forward to offer a sensational, firsthand account of how one of Cuba’s leading dissidents, Oswaldo Payá, was killed last summer. Ángel Carromero said a car that he was driving in which Payá was a passenger was rammed from behind by a vehicle bearing official Cuban license plates. He said he was then jailed in inhuman conditions, drugged and threatened by Cuban authorities with death if he did not tell a false story about what happened.

Naturally, Spanish journalists quickly approached Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margello, Mr. Carromero’s comrade in the Popular Party, to ask for his reaction. One might have expected an expression of shock at the revelation that the Castro regime might have deliberately killed one of the world’s best-known advocates of peaceful democratic change, a winner of the European Union’s Sakharov Prize, and then abused and framed a prominent Spanish citizen.

Nope: Garcia-Margello didn’t hesitate to throw the leader of his party’s youth wing under a bus. The foreign ministry, he primly told the reporters, “didn’t have evidence” of Carromero’s account. “The only evidence” it had, he added, was an agreement between the Cuban government and Spain allowing the repatriation of Carromero, which “recognized . . . the legitimacy of the verdict” of a Cuban court that found him guilty of negligent homicide.

In other words, the Spanish foreign minister was saying he thought the Cuban state security service was more credible than a 27-year-old leader of his own party who spoke out, at the risk of his career and his conditional release from prison, because, as he put it in an interview with The Post, “I could not live, being complicit through my silence.”

It’s worth considering why the Spanish government, like the Obama administration and Latin America’s democracies, ignored Carromero’s allegations. If legendary dissident Andrei Sakharov himself had died in a suspicious car accident in the Soviet Union, and a credible Western witness had then offered testimony like Carromero’s, it’s hard to imagine that Ronald Reagan and former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez would have remained silent.

But first let’s examine the supposed lack of evidence. Carromero, Payá, Cuban Harold Cepero and Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig were driving down a rural road in eastern Cuba last July 22 when the crash occurred. The two Cubans riding in the back seat died, while Carromero and Modig in the front survived.

Carromero says the car was followed from the moment it left Havana; as anyone familiar with Cuba and its secret police knows, that is routine for dissidents such as Payá. Here’s a question for the Spanish foreign ministry: Is it credible that a vehicle bearing dissidents and two Western politicians would not be followed on a road trip? Right. So where are the occupants of the two cars, one with official plates, described by Carromero?

The Cuban version says Carromero’s car struck a tree. But the photo authorities released shows a sedan clearly smashed from behind. Unless the Spaniard somehow accelerated backward into the tree, the picture belies the official story. Then there are the texts: Payá’s family say they have SMS messages that Carromero and Modig sent to friends in Europe soon after the crash, saying they had been hit from behind and run off the road. And there is Modig himself: The young Swede, who was also detained for a time in Cuba, told Swedish radio last week that he did send the reported texts, and that while he did not remember the accident, “I don’t have any doubts about what is now revealed.”

Finally there is this: The crash marked the second time Payá had been in an accident in two months. In Havana, a car he was driving was also struck by a suspicious vehicle, injuring him slightly. His family says he regularly received telephone calls with death threats.

Perhaps the Spanish foreign minister disrespects Carromero enough to conclude that he is lying in spite of all the indications that he is not. Or perhaps he feels compelled to bow to political considerations: the Spanish government’s cultivation of the Castro regime, its gratitude for the release to Spain of several score Cuban political prisoners, its hopes that four Spaniards in Cuban custody will, like Carromero, be freed. Other Western governments desperately want to believe that Raul Castro is a reformer who is slowly liberalizing Cuba.

All these calculations assume that the possibility that the regime deliberately targeted and killed Payá is ultimately unworthy of international attention; that impunity for such a crime is a regrettable necessity; or that the case says nothing about the Castros’ real intentions. Were they alive, Andrei Sakharov and Oswaldo Payá would surely disagree.


  1. With all due respect, ladies and gentlemen, that’s a bunch of mularky. Carromero is a despicable coward, since he could easily have told his version at trial and received visit of the Spanish consul while in prison. But I’m afraid he is also a vulgar liar, since the next move in this case is well-known: bringing the case to a Spanish court.

    • The Real liar is Fidel Castro and his alcoholic brother Raul. They have been murdering Cubans for the last 54 years. When Castro took power he said he was not a communist and then he betrayed the Cubans and brought communism to the Island,Please don’t mention the word liar without mentioning Castro’s name. They come together.

  2. Carromero is saying the truth,What can we be expecting of an inhuman Tyranny that has play a policy of Political Intimidation,terror and Political Black mail,The world should know the truth of the serious violations of Human rights
    in Castro’s Cuba.Good for Carromero! Let’s denounce every murder committed by the Castro Regime so the world
    get an opportunity to Know who are the Castro Brothers.

  3. The problem with Christian Democrats like Carromero is that they lack testosterone at the crucial moment. He knew that Cuba is a brutal repressive regime but went there, as if on holiday, totally unprepared for the rigors he would face. The dictatorship has employed for more than half a century the tactic of telling the accused to appear before TV cameras and recant, or be executed. Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo recanted in 1965 and denounced his comrades but Comandante Yarey, when given the same options in 1969 replied “I am not a TV actor,” and was executed. Carromero put on a show like Menoyo and now his party has abandoned him. If he had any dignity, he would tell party leaders to support him, or otherwise leave the party.

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