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    Cuba charges Spaniard in dissident Paya’s death

    Posted on Tuesday, 07.31.12

    Cuba charges Spaniard in dissident Paya's death
    Associated Press

    HAVANA -- Cuba has charged a Spanish citizen with the equivalent of
    vehicular manslaughter in a car accident that killed prominent dissident
    Oswaldo Paya and another government opponent, official media said Tuesday.

    Angel Carromero, who was driving the car carrying Paya when it crashed
    in eastern Cuba July 22, "has been accused of the charge of homicide
    while driving a vehicle on public roads," Communist Party newspaper
    Granma said.

    Under the penal code, a person convicted of violating traffic laws or
    rules resulting in the death of another can be sentenced to one to 10
    years in prison.

    In videotaped testimony played for journalists Monday, Carromero said he
    lost control of the car when it suddenly entered an unpaved area of road
    under construction and he slammed on the brakes, causing it to skid.

    An investigation found that Carromero was speeding and failed to heed
    traffic signs warning of the construction. Cuban authorities had hinted
    earlier that charges might be forthcoming.

    The next step is for prosecutors to formally say what sentence they will
    seek, according to a Spanish Embassy spokesman. He said Carromero was
    transferred to Havana and received a consular visit there on Monday.

    "He is in good health and calm," spokesman Francisco de Borja said.

    Granma said Carromero and Swedish citizen Jens Aron Modig, who was also
    riding in the car, entered the country July 19 on tourist visas and, "in
    violation of their migratory status, got involved in clearly political
    activities contrary to the constitutional order."

    Both Carromero and Modig are affiliated with conservative political
    parties in their home countries. They said they brought 4,000 euros
    ($4,900) for Paya's organization and helped organize dissident youth wings.

    Cuba's government considers the small opposition to be subversive, and
    objects to foreign-based efforts to support them.

    Granma pointedly said that Modig was allowed to return to Sweden "in
    spite of the illegal activities he carried out."

    Modig tweeted Tuesday that he was back in Stockholm and needed rest.
    "Have European soil under my feet. So nice!"

    "I'm very happy that Aron Modig is now in Sweden again and is resting
    with his family," Christian Democrats party leader Goran Hagglund said
    in a statement. "It's been a period of great worry after this horrific
    accident. ... We're proud of (Modig's) efforts for democracy and freedom."

    Elizardo Sanchez, a de-facto spokesman for the Cuban opposition,
    insisted that doubts will remain until both Europeans are able to speak
    from their own countries.

    "Whatever they say while in the hands of police or the government of
    Cuba is necessarily skewed, contaminated, due to the lack of
    guarantees," Sanchez said. "The Swede can't speak freely because his
    friend is still prisoner in Cuba."

    In the long, unsigned editorial titled "Truth and Rightness," which took
    up half of the newspaper's first two pages, Granma railed against a
    series of "counterrevolutionary" attempts against its sovereignty,
    blaming foreign interests in Madrid, Stockholm, Washington and Miami.

    "They dream of destabilizing the country, creating conditions to repeat
    what happened in Libya and Syria and provoking a U.S. military
    intervention," the newspaper said.

    The editorial ticked off a list of purported attempts to stir unrest and
    foment dissent through social media and cellphones, and longtime
    complaints about U.S. contacts with the dissidents and USAID
    democracy-building programs.

    Since 2009 Cuba has held American citizen and USAID subcontractor Alan
    Gross, sentenced to 15 years under a statute governing crimes against
    the state after he was discovered importing communications equipment
    onto the island and setting up satellite Internet networks.

    Granma also alleged that in March, eight Mexican youth traveled to Cuba
    on tourist visas with the intention of distributing propaganda, inciting
    protest and disrupting Pope Benedict XVI's visit.

    Later Tuesday, Cuban state television aired a 15-minute program
    including video of four Mexicans who were detained. They told the
    cameras their objective was to distribute "subversive" material
    including flyers and to deliver computing equipment, cell phones, memory
    sticks and documents to dissidents. They said they wanted to encourage
    dissidents to occupy churches, protest in the streets and generally make
    the Cuban government look bad and "provoke" a reaction.

    The Mexicans were subsequently deported. Four others apparently came and
    left unbothered.

    The program said they were "recruited" by anti-Castro groups in Florida
    and a man identified by Granma as Rene Bolio Hollaran, a former member
    of Mexico's conservative National Action Party, or PAN.

    The mini-documentary offered few and confusing details of the purported
    operation and did not explain clearly the links between those involved
    or how they were recruited, nor did it say why the information was being
    unveiled four months after Benedict's March 26-28 visit.

    Rodrigo Ivan Cortes, the PAN's secretary for international affairs, said
    someone with the name of Rene Bolio Hollaran apparently belonged to the
    party at one point, but no longer, and brushed off the allegation.

    "This is a smoke bomb to distract attention from the core problem, which
    is an authoritarian regime that does not respect fundamental rights like
    association and expression," Cortes said. "This has no substance or

    Granma also criticized the U.S. State Department, Republican
    presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the Chilean presidency for being
    among a "handful of slanderers" who called for a transparent probe of
    the crash.

    Soon after the July 22 accident, speculation spread that a second
    vehicle was pursuing the car carrying Paya and might even have run it
    off the road, leading dissidents and others to demand transparency.

    Carromero and Modig said no other car was involved, but Paya's family
    said it reserved the right to doubt the official account and asked to
    speak independently with the witnesses.


    Associated Press writers Andrea Rodriguez and Anne-Marie Garcia in
    Havana, Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm and E. Eduardo Castillo in Mexico
    City contributed to this report.