HAVANA – The widow of prominent Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya said she does not accept the official government statement on the cause of the car crash that killed her husband and is demanding to meet with the two survivors of the accident.
“I’m not going to accept the version the government’s giving. In no way do I accept it,” Ofelia Acevedo said on Friday after Cuban state television made public an Interior Ministry note on the accident.
Paya, the 60-year-old leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, and 31-year-old Harold Cepero, also a member of that dissident organization, died in the accident last Sunday near Bayamo, a city 800 kilometers (500 miles) east of Havana.
The driver of the vehicle, Spain’s Angel Carromero, an activist with the youth wing of his country’s governing conservative Popular Party, and Sweden’s Jens Aron Modig, chairman of the Christian Democrat Youth League, were slightly injured.
The Cuban government said in its note – released Friday – that speeding on a highway where roadwork was being done caused the deadly accident.
“Until I’m able to speak with Angel and Aron, the last two people who saw my husband alive, have access to the expert reports and have the advice of people independent of the Cuban government, I can’t have an idea of what really happened that day. I have to meet with those boys.”
Both young men are in custody in Cuba. The Spaniard is being held at a police station in Bayamo and the Swede by immigration authorities in Havana.
“I learned of that version of the events on television. The right thing would have been to inform the family beforehand so I could express my doubts. They have all the information and can prepare the vision of the accident they want (to convey),” Acevedo said.
“There are a lot of things to clarify with respect to that version. Just listening to it a series of questions came to me. I have to learn the truth because what was reported on television is not the truth and I’ll keep demanding that the Cuban government allow me to meet with those boys they have under investigation. It’s my right,” she said.
“I’m not going to discuss the details because I’m not an expert in forensic matters. But I know that my husband wouldn’t allow them to speed, that he was always alert and responsible for those accompanying him in the car, even if he wasn’t driving and knew the road very well,” Acevedo said.
The investigation into the accident and the “criminal case” are ongoing, although the official note did not indicate if formal charges have been filed against Carromero.
According to expert analysis, the scene of the accident was a straight road with good visibility and with a sign warning that roadwork was being done there.
Cuban law says that in such situations vehicles may not exceed 60 kph (37 mph).
After coming onto that stretch of road going too fast and braking suddenly, the driver lost control of the vehicle which spun on its left side for 63 meters (207 feet) until it hit a tree on the right-hand side of the highway, the statement said.
Paya died instantly from a severe head
wound, while Cepero passed away in Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Hospital in Bayamo from a pulmonary blood clot.
Carromero, who is being held in Bayamo, said, according to the official note, that he did not remember seeing the sign about the roadwork and could not say how fast he was going.
Modig, meanwhile, said he was asleep when the accident happened.
Paya was the promoter of the so-called Varela Project, which he presented to Cuba’s legislature in 2002 along with some 11,000 signatures to propose a referendum on a democratic and peaceful transition on the Communist-ruled island.
The petition was rejected by the Castro regime, but Paya emerged as the leading advocate of peaceful democratic change in Cuba.