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    Bill Nelson: U.N. must investigate Oswaldo Payá’s death

    Posted on Sunday, 03.24.13

    Bill Nelson: U.N. must investigate Oswaldo Payá's death


    Like so many of her followers, we've been watching Yoani Sánchez's

    international speaking tour. Just this month, the well-known Cuban

    opposition blogger came at my invitation to our nation's capital, where,

    in a rare appearance, she shared her views on life inside today's Cuba.

    During her hour-long visit, she met with members of Congress from both

    sides of the political aisle.

    And her message was bell-clear: The Cuban people are still struggling

    for freedom and democracy — and, they need our help.

    Despite Cuba's incredibly restrictive laws governing free speech and

    freedom of the press, Yoani has found a way to stay connected with the

    world, via the Internet. Millions of people now follow her on Twitter

    and read her blog, Generation Y.

    She's illustrative of how the social media are slowly overtaking the

    repression and control of authoritarian regimes everywhere, including

    communist Cuba. Sánchez fittingly summarized the situation last week,

    saying: "It took me a full 10 years to see images from the fall of the

    Berlin Wall. But my son was able to witness the images from Tahrir

    Square almost exactly as they were happening."

    Still, we must remember that some of her fellow dissidents have been

    silenced — some forever.

    It was just 10 years ago this month that the regime conducted one of its

    severest crackdowns of democracy activists and journalists, known as

    Cuba's "Black Spring."

    And, of course, there's still one of our own — Maryland native [and

    USAID worker] Alan Gross — languishing in a Cuban jail for nearly four

    and a half years now. We must remain unrelenting in our calls for his

    release and safe return home.

    More recently, new details emerged in The Washington Post regarding the

    death last summer of popular Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá. From

    the safety of his native Spain, Ángel Carromero, the driver of Payá's

    car the day Payá died, finally gave his version of events leading up to

    the mysterious crash that killed Payá and fellow Cuban activist Harold


    Their vehicle, according to Carromero, was being followed by another car

    with government plates, before it was suddenly hit with a "thunderous

    impact from behind" and run off the road. Payá, the man who had

    orchestrated the largest democratic petition drive in Cuban history, was

    killed. Carromero's detailed account of the July 22 crash matches that

    of other witnesses.

    Given this new information, and my discussion with Yoani Sánchez, I have

    now asked the head of the United Nations to direct a thorough

    independent investigation of the events leading up to Payá's death. Such

    an investigation should begin immediately.

    Payá will forever be remembered as one of Cuba's best known dissidents.

    But the causes that he championed — freedom of speech, press and

    enterprise — continue to elude the Cuban people. That's why this

    investigation is critical. Without it, further reform is easily

    undermined or avoided, altogether.

    Meantime, Yoani's visit to the United States is a welcome development

    that indicates some seeds of change are beginning to take root on the


    On an 80-day world tour of a dozen countries, after a decade of being

    barred from leaving Cuba, Sánchez next plans to visit Miami. On April 1,

    she'll speak at the iconic Freedom Tower — significant because that's

    the site where many Cuban exiles were processed upon their arrival in

    the United States.

    I'm planning to join her there in support of her call for democratic

    reforms in Cuba. These, I believe, must include the release of Gross and

    the investigation into Payá's death.

    Bill Nelson is Florida's senior U.S. senator.