HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s Ministry of Interior issued a formal report on the investigation of the accident that killed two opposition figures, one of whom was Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, the largest dissident group in the country.
The account confirmed that “this past July 22, at 2:50 p.m., a Hyundai Accent automobile with license plates T31402 went off the road and hit a tree along a stretch of the Las Tunas-Bayamo highway in the town of Las Gabinas, in Granma Province.”
The statement said the vehicle was driven by Spanish citizen Angel Carromero, while a young Swedish man (Jens Aron Modig) was sitting beside him. In the back seat were the two Cuban dissidents — Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero — who both died in the accident.
The report asserts that the Spaniard came onto to an unpaved stretch of the road at “120 kilometers per hour [74 mph] and that a lack of attention in controlling the vehicle, excessive speed and the incorrect decision of applying the brakes suddenly on an unstable surface were the causes of this tragic accident that killed two human beings.”
The communiqué from the Interior Ministry said “the stretch of road where the accident occurred is undergoing repair and for about a mile was not paved (…), which turned it into a dirt road with plenty of gravel, and therefore it was very unstable.”
However, experts assure that “the stretch is a straight road with good visibility and that there was a sign indicating that maintenance work was underway, preceded by similar ones that warned drivers of the sections under repair.”
In his statements to the police, Carromero was reported to have said he “didn’t see the signs warning about the condition of the road. He added that he hit the brakes on the dirt stretch at a speed that he couldn’t specify since he wasn’t looking at the speedometer.”
The Spaniard had told the authorities that “upon realizing that he was driving on gravel, he attempted to slow down by braking suddenly and the car began to slide sideways until it hit the tree.”
According to local expert Captain Jorge Mendoza Fonseca: “The driver applied the brakes in an abrupt manner eighty meters after entering the unpaved segment. The vehicle lost control and the car spun toward its left side.”
The vehicle continued to slide “for about 63 meters, veering such that the front was toward the shoulder and the rear was near the center of the road, until impacting a tree off to the right side of the road, which confirms the extreme speed at which the car was being driven.”
Investigators said that “the vehicle had a dent that was 67 inches wide and 45 inches deep on its left rear (…) characteristics and dimensions that correspond to the trunk of the tree in question.”
Three witnesses confirm what happened. These included Jose Duque, an area resident who was traveling by bicycle on the road; and tractor driver Lazarus Wilber Parra Rondon, who was driving in the opposite direction. Parra Rondon said, “When I was approaching, I saw the car was losing control and then it slammed into a tree on the shoulder.”
Accident or conspiracy?
Dissident bloggers immediately began spreading the story that the car had been run off the road after being hit by a truck. The Oswaldo Paya family too doubted that it was a simple accident and requested a full investigation into the incident.
Nevertheless, up until now there’s nothing that can hold weight concerning a plot to murder the dissident. Even the photos circulated online were of a wrecked vehicle whose color, model and license plates didn’t match the one involved in the accident.
With the confirmation that the deaths of Paya and Cepero resulted from the violation of traffic laws committed by Angel Carromero, he will undoubtedly face criminal charges, and if convicted he will have to serve a sentence that can range from one to ten years in prison.
The issue is further complicated because both the Spaniard and the Swedish citizen, Jens Aron Modig, are youth leaders of right-wing parties in their respective countries. They came to Cuba supposedly as tourists but were actually performing tasks in support of the dissident movement.
(*) An authorized Havana Times translation of the original posted by Cartasdesdecuba.