Take Cuba Off the State Sponsors of Terrorism List? 7

 FARC and government negotiators at a news conference in Havana on 16 May, 2014


FARC and government negotiators at a news conference in Havana on 16 May, 2014

By George Phillips, InterAmerican Security Watch

Let us not give Castro the resources he needs to continue his regime’s 56-year reign of terror on his own people, and his continued support for terrorists and terrorist states.

To enrich and solidify that dictatorship at this time only prevents the Cuban people from being able to forge a better life through elections in a few years, now that they are finally “on the one-yard line,” when the Castro brothers, now in their eighties, could simply be left to their natural, un-bankrolled, ends. In a dictatorship such as this, only the dictators benefit.

As Sonia Alvarez Campillo was leaving Catholic Mass on July 14, 2013 with fellow members of Ladies in White, her pro-democracy organization, she was assaulted by Raul Castro’s agents.

These “security” agents broke Alvarez Campillo’s wrist as well as her husband’s ribs in their attack on her and other members of her group.

Sunday after Sunday in Cuba, the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) — members of a movement started in 2003 by wives and other female relatives of jailed dissidents in Cuba — have peacefully demonstrated for freedom and human rights in cities across Cuba. They have continually been harassed, beaten, and imprisoned in Raul Castro’s Cuba.

In an attack just two months ago, Lady in White member Digna Rodriquez Ibañez was pelted with tar by agents of the regime.

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation – an organization of Cuban dissidents that the Castro regime claims is illegal — reported that in 2014 alone, 1,810 members of the Ladies in White were detained. The detentions of these extraordinary women are among the total of 8,899 detentions evidently designed to crush political dissent. That figure represents a 27% rise from the previous year.

Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero were leaders of the Christian Liberation Movement, a political party opposed to Castro’s Communist Party.

In July of 2012, Cuban state security agents allegedly murdered Paya and Cepero by ramming into their car and running them off the road, where they crashed and died.

The Cuban government officially claims the crash was an accident. But, as documented in the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report for 2013, when David Gonzalez Peres, another leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, was arrested, Cuban officials at the jail warned him about what happened to Paya.

Paya and Cepero were most likely murdered for trying to change a system in which all 612 candidates in a recent Cuban election were members of the Communist Party and ran unopposed, and in which all other candidates had been rejected by the regime.

Article continues here:  Terror List

 

 

 

 

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Cuban Defector Says He Has Information About Payá’s Death 1

DTI identity document (Courtesy America TeVe)

DTI identity document (Courtesy America TeVe)

By Juan O. Tamayo, Miami Herald

An officer in Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior who claims to be related to former MININT chief Jose Abrantes and to have valuable information has defected and is being held in a migrant detention center in the Bahamas.

Ortelio Abrahantes Bacallao, 42, claims that fellow counterintelligence agents told him that dissident Osvaldo Payá was killed when intelligence agents rammed his car in an attempt to stop and search it, and not in a one-car accident as the Cuban government claims.

None of the claims could be independently confirmed. But he has documents identifying him as a member of MININT’s Technical Investigations Directorate, a police-like unit that investigates common crimes, and a graduate of MININT’s law school.

Abrahantes Bacallao told El Nuevo Herald he held the rank of major in MININT’s Directorate of Counterintelligence (DCI) and was last in charge of all the ministry’s land and sea transportation operations in the province of Ciego de Avila, in central Cuba. The powerful ministry is in overall charge of the island nation’s domestic security.

The defector said he launched his escape March 24 from a key off the northern coast of the province aboard a MININT-owned sailboat, but was picked up three days later by the U.S. Coast Guard and was taken to the Bahamas. He is being held at the Carmichael Road migrant detention center in Nassau.

Bahamian police and United Nations officials have interviewed him for his application for political asylum, Abrahantes Bacallao said. But he fears he will be murdered if the Nassau government repatriates him to Cuba before the application is processed.

“I know too much. They would love to have me in their hands,” Abrahantes Bacallao told El Nuevo Herald. His Miami lawyer, David Alvarez, said he “faces being executed if he returns to Cuba because he was involved in the military.”

The defector said his father was a cousin of Interior Minister Gen. José Abrantes, who was arrested in 1989 and charged with failing to stop the drug trafficking and corruption that led to the execution of Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa and three others that same year. He was serving a 20-year prison term when he died in 1991 in what friends described as mysterious circumstances.

Although Abrahantes Bacallao spells his surname differently from Jose Abrantes, he has claimed that his birth certificate spells it the same way and that the “h” was added when he joined the MININT. Official Cuban records often contain misspellings.

The defector said he heard details about the Payá case during a party with other DCI officers about one month after his death on July 22, 2012, in what Cuban officials portrayed as a one-car accident caused by his driver, Spanish politician Angel Carromero. The Spaniard has insistently alleged that he was rammed from behind by another vehicle.

Feature continues here:  Did DCI Murder Payá?

 

Cuban Government Supporters ‘Repudiate’ the Ladies in White 2

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

Cuban police and a pro-government mob Monday shut off the area around the Havana home where the dissident Ladies in White were marking the anniversary of the death of their founder, and police reportedly detained 22 group members who tried to reach the home.

“The government brings the mob, paid by them, to silence our words,” Ladies in White leader Berta Soler said by phone from the home of founder Laura Pollán, which became the group’s office after her death on Oct. 14. 2011 at the age of 63.

Loud music and chanting could be heard in the background, coming from the loudspeakers set up by government officials to amplify the shouts by the more than 100 government supporters crowded since 2 p.m. just outside the front doors of the home on Neptuno Street.

About 50 Ladies in White were gathered in the home to mark Pollán’s death but another 22 were detained by police Monday to keep them from attending the ceremony, Soler said. Such detentions are usually ended after an event ends.

Police closed off the one block of Neptuno in front of Pollan’s house to vehicular and pedestrian traffic since early Monday and installed a “large stage” for the event against the women, according to a report by the Spanish EFE news agency.

At least six police vehicles and several police agents, most of them women, could be seen on Aramburen street, on one end of the closed-off block of Neptuno street, EFE added. The Cuban government regularly organizes such “acts of reputation” to harass and intimidate dissidents and to prevent them from staging street protests against the island’s communist system.

Soler said the Ladies in White gathered in the home had no intention of going out into the street and hoped simply to mark Pollan’s death by showing a video celebrating her life and reading some of the letters she wrote giving her support and encouragement to other dissidents.

Another 82 members of the Ladies in White were detained around the island over the weekend as they tried to reach ceremonies honoring Pollán, Soler said. All were believed to have been released by Sunday night.

Pollán was one of the main founders of the group, made up of the wives, mothers and daughters of 75 dissidents jailed in a 2003 crackdown known as Cuba’s “Black spring,” to demand the release of their male relatives.

Some of the 75 were released early for health reasons, and the last of the men still in prison were freed in 2010 and 2011 by the Raúl Castro government after meetings with leaders of Cuba’s Catholic Church. All but a dozen or so went directly from prison to the Havana airport for flights to exile in Spain.

The Cuban government reported Pollán died from a heart attack, brought on by a respiratory crisis complicated by a bout with dengue fever and her diabetes. Some of her followers have said they suspect she was poisoned but offered no evidence.

Pollán died nine months before another top dissident, Oswaldo Payá, and supporter Harold Cepero were killed in what Cuban officials called a traffic accident. Payá’s family maintains the fatal crash was caused by a State Security vehicle that rammed their car.

Spanish Judge Throws Out Payá Family Lawsuit 6

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

A Spanish judge has rejected a lawsuit against Cuban security officials filed by relatives of the late Havana dissident Oswaldo Payá, arguing that Spanish politician Angel Carromero already has declared himself responsible for the death of the democracy activist.

Judge Eloy Velasco also ruled that the death of Payá, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, in a car crash last summer did not amount to a crime against humanity, and that the Spanish government also had already accepted that the crash was an accident.

Payá’s brother Carlos, a Madrid doctor, said Monday that he could not comment on the ruling until he consulted with the family lawyer. Velasco’s decision was published in several Madrid news outlets, apparently before lawyer Francisco Andujar Ramírez received a copy.

The lawsuit alleges that a Cuban State Security vehicle rammed a car driven by Carromero and forced it to crash, killing Payá and fellow dissident Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012. Carromero and Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig suffered minor injuries.

A Cuban court found Carromero was speeding, lost control of his rented car and crashed on his own. He was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to four years in prison, but was freed in December to serve the rest of his sentence in Spain.

Velasco ruled that Carromero accepted the Cuban version in a pre-trial video and during his one-day trial, and that the Spanish government had “explicitly recognized” the verdict as part of the bilateral agreement that allowed Carromero to fly home.

The allegation that the crash was caused by State Security “cannot be verified,” the judge wrote, adding that Carromero’s driving record was full of infractions and noting that Modig, who claimed to have been asleep before the crash, was not “alerted or woken up … even though (Carromero) claims they were being chased.”

The lawsuit argued that the Spanish court had jurisdiction over Payá’s death because he was a Spanish citizen and his death was a crime against humanity, due to its political overtones, but Velasco ruled the case did not meet any of the requirements for a crime against humanity.

Trying Payá’s death again before a Spanish court would amount to a kind of double jeopardy, the judge wrote in his ruling, and to having a Spanish court “review” the Cuban court’s sentence just because Payá had Spanish citizenship.

The lawsuit was filed by Payá’s widow and daughter and specifically named State Security Lt. Col. José Águilas, chief investigator for crimes against the security of the state, and a Col. Llanes, identified as the officer in charge of monitoring Payá’s dissident activities.

Velasco’s ruling closely paralleled the recommendations sent to the judge Sept. 13 by prosecutor Teresa Sandoval, who argued that the lawsuit should be spiked because both Carromero and the Spanish government had already accepted that the death was accidental.

Carromero, a Madrid leader of the youth branch of Spain’s ruling Popular Party, went to Cuba with Modig, head of the youth branch of Sweden’s Christian Democratic Party, to deliver 8,000 Euros to democracy activists on the island on behalf of a Swedish foundation.

Washington Post OP/ED: Spain’s ‘Universal’ Obligation to Pursue Cuban Dissident’s Death 6

By Editorial Board

THE MYSTERIOUS car wreck that took the life of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payáand his associate Harold Cepero last year occurred on an isolated road outside Bayamo, in Cuba’s eastern Granma province. Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero were heading to Bayamo to meet with members of the Christian Liberation Movement in a blue 2010 Hyundai Accent, a rental car driven by a young Spanish politician, Ángel Carromero, who was visiting Cuba to support Mr. Payá and his movement. Mr. Carromero survived, as did Jens Aron Modig, of Sweden’s Christian Democratic Youth movement, who had joined him on the trip to Cuba.

The official Cuban version of the accident was that Mr. Carromero was driving too fast, lost control and hit a tree. But a detailed complaint filed by Mr. Paya’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, and his daughter, Rosa Maria, before the Spanish National Court earlier this month tells a different and more ominous story.

They say that when Mr. Carromero and Mr. Modig met in Havana with Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero on July 20, 2012, they were monitored and followed by Cuban security agents. They were followed again when they departed Havana for Bayamo two days later. On the road, the Hyundai was rammed from behind “premeditatively, deliberately and following the plan orchestrated by the authorities,” which was to kill all four of them, the complaint says. Mr. Carromero told us in March that the vehicle that rammed the Hyundai had government license places. Soon after the crash, the ramming was reported to a person in Sweden by a text message sent from Modig’s cell phone.

The ramming was not part of the Cuban official version. Mr. Carromero’s “confession” that he was at fault was coerced by the Cuban authorities, according to the complaint. Two Cuban security agents, identified as Col. Salinas and Col. Llanes, pressured Mr. Carromero “in a direct, deliberate and conscious way” to falsify testimony during a subsequent trial that was a “farce,” according to the complaint. Mr. Carromero was convicted of vehicular homicide; he later was released to serve out his sentence in Spain. In his comments to us, Mr. Carromero recalled a nightmarish aftermath of the crash in which he was drugged, interrogated and forced to make a videotaped confession in which he read words written out for him by a Cuban security agent.

The Spanish National Court, La Audiencia Nacional, is empowered to order investigations abroad under the concept of “universal jurisdiction,” that some crimes are so egregious they must be pursued across borders, including genocide and crimes against humanity. Spain has an obligation to Mr. Payá, who was a Spanish citizen; his family argues the Castro regime has not only silenced a critic but attempted to wipe out his movement. The Spanish court ought to order an investigation. It is unlikely that the thugs who rammed Mr. Payá’s car will be called to account, but an investigation would show the world, and the Castro brothers who rule Cuba, that a beacon of hope like Mr. Payá cannot be simply extinguished in a violent car wreck on a lonely road.

Carromero Says Cuban Officer Forced Him to Change Crash Story 7

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

Angel Carromero says a Cuban officer slapped him “a couple of times” to dissuade him from insisting that the death of leading dissident Oswaldo Payá was caused by State Security agents and was not an accident.

The evidence also led him to conclude that Payá and another dissident, Harold Cepero, survived a car crash and were murdered later by State Security, Carromero told El Nuevo Herald Tuesday during his most detailed recounting yet of the crash.

The Spaniard’s comments by phone from Madrid shed new light on a fatal incident that has led the Payá family, the U.S. and other governments and many human rights activists around the world to demand an independent investigation of the deaths.

Carromero said he is now speaking at length about the crash and its aftermath to help Payá’s relatives — he is eager to testify at any lawsuit they file against Cuba, he noted — and to mark the anniversary of the deaths on July 22.

Cuba’s version is that he was driving a rented Hyundai too fast and hit a tree near the eastern city of Bayamo. Payá died on the spot and Cepero later at a hospital. Another passenger, Jens Aron Modig of Sweden, was not injured. Carromero was convicted of vehicular homicide and was freed to serve his four-year prison sentence in Spain.

Carromero says that a Cuban man in military uniform “slapped me around a couple of times” to persuade him that he was wrong when he insisted on saying that a car with government license plates had rammed his vehicle from behind and caused the crash.

“That did not happen. Slap. Slap,” he recalled the officer saying. “It wasn’t a beating. A couple of slaps because they wanted me to change my version of events.”

Carromero said his car had been tailed by three different government vehicles, including one marked police cruiser, from the time the foursome left Havana the morning of July 22 to visit dissidents in eastern Cuba. The two Europeans were members of conservative political parties that often support the island’s opposition.

Evidencing the intensity of the government’s interest on Payá and the Europeans, “Yohandry Fontana,” widely believed to be a front for State Security operations, tweeted six hours before the crash that Payá was on his way to the beach resort of Varadero.

Carromero said they never drove to Varadero. But on the previous day, he added, he had exchanged 4,000 Euros into Cuban currency in Havana. When the teller asked him why he was changing so much, he replied that he was going to Varadero.

The police cruiser that initially tailed them gave way to an old red Lada as they made their way east, he said, and shortly before the crash was replaced by a newer blue car, also with clearly visible blue license plates and with two men aboard.

That car kept getting closer and Payá told him to maintain his normal speed of about 50-60 kph, the Spaniard said. But he grew scared, “It’s terrifying to look at the rear view mirror and see the eyes of the person that is looking at you.

“I felt the impact and lost control,” he said. He fainted and does not recall hitting a tree, certainly not with the kind of impact that would have killed two people. He never saw the blue car or its passengers again.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/13/3560796/carromero-says-cuban-officer.html#emlnl=The_Americas#storylink=cpy

Andres Oppenheimer: U.S. Should Press Harder on Payá’s Death 3

By Andres Oppenheimer, AOppenheimer@MiamiHerald.com

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power deserves credit for asking Cuba’s foreign minister to launch a credible investigation into the suspicious death of leading Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, but she should have gone a step further.

Early last week, Power tweeted that she had just raised with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez the need for a serious investigation into the mysterious 2012 car accident in which Payá lost his life.

The prominent Cuban dissident, founder of Cuba’s Christian Liberation Movement, was known worldwide for having organized a petition that gathered more than 25,000 signatures on the island asking for a referendum on whether the Cuban government should allow freedom of speech, and a multi-party democracy.

Payá, whom I had the honor of interviewing many times, was Cuba’s Mahatma Gandhi. He never raised his voice, and consistently preached a message of non-violence and national reconciliation. Many of us saw him as Cuba’s best hope for a post-Castro era.

His death took place on July 22, 2012, after the car in which he was traveling crashed against a tree in Cuba’s countryside.

Payá, 60, and fellow Cuban Harold Cepero, 32, both of whom were in the back seat, were pronounced dead hours later. The car’s driver, Spanish Popular Party politician Angel Carromero, 27, and Swedish political activist Jens Aron Modig, who was seated next to him, survived the wreck.

Carromero was arrested on charges of “vehicular homicide,’’ spent five months in a Cuban prison, and was released on condition of serving the remainder of his sentence in Spain.

After the crash, Payá’s daughter Rosa María Payá told reporters that a Cuban government car had been following the group and repeatedly slammed into Payá’s car from behind, driving it off the road and into a tree. She said the two European visitors had sent text messages to friends in Europe from the site of the accident, telling them that their car was being followed.

But her story could not be backed up by hard evidence at the time. The two Europeans were kept at a Cuban prison, away from reporters, and Carromero had signed a Cuban government affidavit backing the government’s version of events.

Worse, Carromero had a history of bad driving: he had accumulated 45 traffic tickets in Spain over the 15 months before his trip to Cuba. And Modig told reporters that he had been asleep when the accident occurred.
But the Payá family’s story began looking much more credible a few months later when, back in Spain, Carromero told The Washington Post on March 5 that he had signed the Cuban affidavit under duress, and that Cuban secret police cars — with their blue license plates that characterize them — “were following us from the beginning.”

Carromero said that the last time he had looked back in the mirror before losing consciousness, “I realized that the car had gotten too close — and suddenly I felt a thunderous impact from behind.”

In a subsequent interview with the Spanish daily El Mundo last week, Carromero said that Payá and Cepero had survived the crash and were taken to a hospital, where “Cuba’s secret services killed him.”

Adding to the latest revelations, El Mundo published pictures of the original text messages sent by the two Europeans from the site of the accident. Payá’s daughter Rosa María posted the pictures at her father’s website, OswaldoPayá.org.

In a telephone interview, Rosa María Payá told me that her family has requested an international investigation by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial killings, and the Organization of American States’ Human Rights Commission. It is also pursuing the case in Spanish courts, since Payá also held Spanish citizenship.

Asked about Power’s request to the Cuban foreign minister, Rosa María said it’s a “good first step, but the Obama administration should take the petition to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and to the U.N. Special Rapporteur of extrajudicial killings. As far as I know, they have not done that yet.”

My opinion: I agree — Power should be commended for raising this issue. But instead of requesting a credible investigation to the Cuban foreign minister — we all know how that will end — she should take it to the U.N., the Organization of American States and other international institutions. There are now too many pieces of evidence, including the original text messages and two eyewitnesses, to close the book on the highly suspicious death of one of Latin America’s biggest civil rights heroes.

U.S. Administration Calls for Investigation of the Death of Cuban Oswaldo Payá 1

By Juan O. Tamayo, jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

The Obama administration has joined growing calls for an independent investigation into the deaths of Cuba’s most respected dissident Oswaldo Payá and a fellow dissident in a car crash that some allege was caused by state security agents. “The United States supports the calls for an international investigation with independent international observers” into the deaths of Payá and Harold Cepero, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday. “The people of Cuba and the families of these two activists deserve a clear, credible accounting of the events that resulted in their tragic deaths,” Nuland said during a news briefing.

Nuland’s comments came amid growing calls for an independent investigation into the July 22 car crash that killed Payá and Cepero, an activist in Payá’s Christian Liberation Movement.
The Cuban government says Spanish politician Angel Carromero caused the deaths when he accidentally slammed the car into a tree in eastern Cuba. Payá and Cepero were passengers. Carromero and Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig survived.

A Cuban court sentenced Carromero to four years in prison for vehicular homicide. He returned to Spain in December under a bilateral agreement that allows each country’s citizens to serve sentences in their own country. Carromero now says his rented car was rammed from behind and forced to crash by a red vehicle with government license plates, and that he had been followed by state security vehicles from the time the four men left Havana.

A bipartisan group of six U.S. senators signed a letter earlier this week requesting that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a part of the Organization of American States, investigate the deaths. “Recent interviews published in Spanish news media indicate that… Carromero is innocent and that the vehicle carrying Payá was deliberately attacked by Cuban government officials,” said the letter.

Sent to ICHR executive secretary Emilio Alvarez Icaza, it was signed by Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, his Republican counterpart Marco Rubio, Arizona Republican John McCain, Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia and Illinois Republican Mark Kirk. “Oswaldo Payá was a brave man trying to peacefully advocate for greater political freedoms for his Cuban brothers and sisters,” the letter noted. “It increasingly looks like he paid for that effort with this life. “His memory and family deserve an honest and independent accounting of what happened,” the senators concluded.

Payá’s relatives have repeatedly demanded an independent investigation of the crash, and several Spanish and other European politicians, mostly conservatives, have followed suit. His daughter, Rosa Maria, has said the family might also file a lawsuit against Cuba in Spanish courts because her father had Spanish citizenship.

Washington Times OP/ED: Exposing a Shady Cover-up in Cuba 3

The truth about dissidents’ killings confronts the U.N.

By Jose R. Cardenas

More than 60 dignitaries and pro-democracy advocates from around the world have signed an open letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requesting that the world body conduct an investigation into the tragic deaths of Cuban dissidents Osvaldo Paya and Harold Cepero in an automobile accident in July 2012. It’s the least anyone can do.

The letter was prompted by a tour of European capitals by Paya’s daughter, Rosa Maria, and the blockbuster revelations by Spanish political activist Angel Carrameo, who was with Paya and Cepero at the time of the accident. Now out of Cuba, Mr. Carrameo went public with the truth that the accident was caused by a Cuban state security vehicle that rammed the car in which they were riding, forcing it off the road into a tree. The two Europeans survived, but Paya and Cepero, sitting in the back of the car, were killed.

Since Paya’s death, his family has maintained the Castro regime was behind his death, which is hardly surprising to anyone with a sober understanding of the nature of that government. However, the regime moved quickly to silence Mr. Carrameo and another European activist who was present, Aron Modig, by setting up a kangaroo court, in which they were held responsible for Paya and Cepero’s deaths.

The regime’s machinations fooled no one, except the legions of Castro regime apologists who have aped the party line from the get-go: that unprompted by anything, the car that Mr. Carrameo was driving spun out of control on a lonely country road.

Mr. Carrameo was convicted by a Cuban court of “vehicular homicide” and sentenced to four years in prison, but the quiescent Spanish government, playing along with the farce, nevertheless managed to persuade the Cubans after several months to allow him to serve out his sentence under house arrest in Spain. Both sides underestimated the power of human nature to want to speak the truth.

After witnessing the abuse heaped on Paya’s daughter in Europe by pro-Castro mobs, Mr. Carrameo said he finally decided to speak out, despite death threats and the “nightmare” that his life had become. He said he “could not hide the truth any more” because “the most important thing for me is that the Paya family always has defended my innocence, when they are the most injured by this tragedy.”

Mr. Carrameo’s testimony once on free soil is a dismal reminder of the Cold War, in which he recounts a Kafkaesque nightmare of druggings and intimidation by Cuban authorities to ensure his complicity in this Big Lie that he was responsible for the deaths of Paya and Cepero. He was held incommunicado in a dark, roach-infested prison cell without a working toilet. He said he was subjected to constant threats and was told that his account of what happened on that lonely road had not happened and “that I should be careful, that depending on what I said, things could go very well or very badly for me.” He was then presented a statement for him to sign admitting his culpability, saying his “speeding” caused the accident.

Mr. Carrameo, who said he still suffers from memory lapses owing to the unknown drugs he was given by the Cuban authorities, said he thought going along with the charade was his best chance of getting out of Cuba — which, ultimately, proved to be the case.

Given the United Nations‘ historical indulgence of the Castro regime, it is not likely that it would ever conduct any investigation of the Paya affair, which is a tragedy in itself. Individuals like Osvaldo Paya represented the future of Cuba, and only a few of them come along every generation. He was independent, beholden to no one, and rock-sure of his principles. He found an unusual strength in the rightness of his cause that allowed him to be unintimidated by the Castros’ thuggish ways.

Sadly, it is more likely that the deaths of Paya and Cepero at the hands of Cuban state security will be quietly swept under the carpet. That’s because their deaths are mortal threats to the current propaganda campaign that Cuba under Raul Castro is “reforming,” and that the United States should normalize relations with the country as a result. The killings of dissidents thus present most inconvenient facts to those dogged policy critics who will stop at nothing to have the United States recognize that brutal dictatorship. That’s why it is up to decent people to keep Osvaldo Paya’s and Harold Cepero’s memories alive for the sake of Cuba’s future.

Jose R. Cardenas was acting assistant administrator for Latin America at the U.S. Agency for International Development in the George W. Bush administration and is an associate with Vision Americas.

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.