The Human Rights Foundation has published a report on the mysterious death of Cuban democratic dissident Oswaldo Payá in 2012. He was the leader of Cuba’s Christian Liberation Movement. The report "suggests" that the communist government of Cuba has "direct responsibility" in his death. The report was released at a press conference on the Washington D.C. campus of Georgetown University on July 22. Fellow Cuban dissident Harold Cepero also died in the same incident in 2012. The Cuban government blamed their deaths on an automobile collision.
 
Payá’s daughter, Rosa María Payá, was present for the release of the report. She said, “The power in Havana believed it was necessary to destroy my father. But this report will be an important tool against the impunity of that power," said the daughter of the activist.
 
Payá and Cepero were being driven by Ángel Carromero, a Spaniard who belonged to the youth movement of Spain’s Popular Party. According to the Cuban government, their vehicle slid on a loose gravel and then struck a tree, killing the two dissidents. Carromero, once he was released from prison, told a distinctly different story. See here.
 
The HRF report provided testimony and discusses physical evidence that were discovered following the incident. These were not considered by the Cuban  court that convicted Carromero and sentenced him to four years in prison. HRF concluded that this evidence, “which was deliberately ignored,” shows that the dissidents died in a crash directly caused by agents of the Cuban state. The report said, "Specifically, the evidence suggests that their deaths were the result of a car crash directly caused by agents of the state, acting with the intent to kill Oswaldo Payá and the passengers in the vehicle (in which) he was riding, with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm to them, or with reckless or depraved indifference to an unjustifiably high risk to their lives," said HRF general counsel Javier El-Hage.
 
El-Hage concluded that there is considerable evidence that Payá’s car was rammed by another vehicle. However, it remains unclear whether the two men died as a result of the impact or were dragged from the car and then beaten to death. HRF also said that the Payá family was not allowed to participate in the investigation and trial. In addition, young Carromero was not given adequate legal counsel. Carromero was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to four years in one of Cuba’s notorious jails. However, Cuba released him to Spain, where he served out his sentence. He was released on parole in May 2015.
 
“Oswaldo Payá was the most prominent Latin American pro-democracy activist of the last twenty five years and he was killed under suspicion of foul play in the Western Hemisphere’s only totalitarian country. Yet, few mainstream politicians, media, and NGOs around the world have cared enough to insist on an independent investigation into Payá’s death,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen in advance of the report’s release. “With the publication of this thorough report, which brings to light evidence that has been purposefully obscured by Cuba’s repressive apparatus, HRF hopes to fill this vacuum and help the Payá family in their search for truth and justice,” said Halvorssen.
 
On December 29, 2012, Carromero returned to Spain under a diplomatic agreement. Soon after his arrival, he retracted all of his statement that were made under duress in Cuba. He recounted his ordeal in a book entitled, “Death Under Suspicion.” HRF’s legal report concludes that Carromero was forced to record a self-incriminating video that was broadcast domestically and internationally, and that the Cuban prosecution ignored the complaints made by the Payá family and barred them from the court proceedings. To date, the victims’ family still do not know complete, public truth as to what happened. “The best available evidence, which was deliberately ignored by Cuba’s judiciary, strongly suggests direct government responsibility in the deaths of Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero,” said HRF general counsel El-Hage, in a statement. Specifically, the evidence suggests that their deaths were the result of a car crash directly caused by agents of the state, acting with the intent to kill Oswaldo Payá and the passengers in the vehicle he was riding, with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm to them, or with reckless or depraved indifference to an unjustifiably high risk to their lives,” said El-Hage. 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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