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Miguel Perez
Miguel Perez
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Accidental Death or State-Sponsored Murder?

Comment

If it were another country that was running out of ways to cover up its own government-sponsored murders, world outrage and condemnation would be huge and to be expected.

But since it's happening in Cuba, where getting away with murder has become routine for more than five decades, the elimination of a top dissident goes mostly unnoticed. You hear few complaints.

Last summer, when Cuban authorities claimed that dissidence leader Oswaldo Paya, 60, was killed in a single-car accident — that he was a passenger in a speeding car that spun our of control — the whole story seemed hard to swallow.

Yet we were expected to believe it, especially because even the car's driver, Angel Carromero, was accepting guilt and confirming the Cuban government's version of the "accident."

And yet given that government's history of propaganda and deception, something smelled very fishy about the way Paya died — especially since there were rumors that the car had been rammed off the road by another vehicle.

Carromero is a Spanish politician who was in Havana to support Cuban dissidence. And although he admitted that he was speeding, that he ignored road construction warning signs and that he caused the accident by breaking abruptly, it was an unconvincing mea culpa. Skeptics rightfully wondered whether his confession was coerced.

After all, he was stuck in a Cuban prison, facing charges of negligent homicide and a seven-year sentence for allegedly causing the crash where Paya and another Cuban dissident, Harold Cepero, were killed. He wasn't going to say anything that would hamper his chances of getting out of prison and out of Cuba. Another passenger in the car, Swedish citizen Jens Aron Modig, claimed he was sleeping when the crash occurred and was allowed to leave Cuba. But it was clear that he could not speak freely while his friend Carromero was still being held in Cuba.

At that time, this column warned that the truth would not be known until Cuba released the driver. Well, guess what?

Thanks to a prisoner exchange with the Spanish government, Carromero is back in Spain. And he is confirming the worst fears of those who felt he had been coerced by the Cuban government.

He says Paya's death was no accident, that the rented car he was driving was struck deliberately by a government vehicle and forced off the road and that his false confession in Cuba was a deal he had to cut with the devil.

"The trial in Bayamo was a farce, to make me the scapegoat, but I had to accept the verdict without appeal in order to have the minimal possibility to get out of that hell," Carromero told the Washington Post.

Now under a custody agreement that allows him limited freedom in Spain, Carromero told the Post that he was instructed by Cuban officials to deny his own version of the crash.

"One of them told me that what I had told them 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," Carromero told The Post.

He said he was told to repeat only "the official version of what had happened," and that "If I went along with it, nothing would happen to me."

He said he was so heavily sedated that, "it was hard for me to understand the details of the supposed accident that they were telling me to repeat," and that he was asked to sign a statement "that in no way resembled the truth."

Although a Cuban kangaroo court convicted Carromero of negligent homicide, he was allowed to leave Cuba in December to serve the rest of his sentence in Spain.

But now that he is finally able to speak freely, now that the truth about state-sponsored murder in Cuba is finally being exposed, where is the outrage and world condemnation that other countries would rightfully receive for murdering the opposition?

Almost a year after Paya's death, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is calling for an investigation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States.

" Oswaldo Paya was a brave man trying to peacefully advocate for greater political freedom for his fellow Cuban brothers and sisters," the senators noted in their letter to the Commission. "It increasingly looks like he paid for that effort with his life. His memory and his family deserve an honest and independent accounting of what happened. We urge the Commission to undertake this investigation without delay."

Really? Is that enough?

As the leader of a human rights movement known as the Varela Project, Paya had gained so much international fame that he was believed to be protected from the incarcerations and much heavier punishment endured by unknown dissidents. And yet the Castro Communist dictatorship still found a way to silence him — and to avoid the media attention and world condemnation these state-sponsored murders deserve.

To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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