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Cuba death crash PP official blames Castro regime for road ramming

Repatriated Spaniard says official vehicle caused accident that killed dissidents

The road traffic accident that cost the lives of Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero in July last year was not chance but caused by a vehicle driven by supporters of the regime that crashed into the back of the automobile containing the two men. The revelation was given in an interview with The Washington Post by Ángel Carromero, the leader of the governing Spanish Popular Party's youth wing who was driving the vehicle at the time of the crash and was subsequently sentenced to four years in prison by a Cuban court.

"The last time I looked into the rear-view mirror I noticed that the vehicle that was behind us was very close and all of a sudden I felt a deafening crash from behind. I lost control of the car and also consciousness, or at least that's what it felt like, because from that moment my memory is not very clear, maybe because of the drugs I was given [after the crash]." When Carromero came round, he was already in the back of an ambulance on his way to the hospital.

According to the politician's account, the vehicle in pursuit was a Lada with a blue license plate, which are for official vehicles in Cuba, Payá and Cepero had told him. The origin code on the plate indicated that the vehicle had followed that driven by Carromero from Havana. "I was scared, but Oswaldo told me not to stop unless they ordered me to. I was driving with a lot of care so as not to give them any reason to stop us."

Carromero claims that in contrast to the official report on the accident there was no dangerous curve in the road, which was amply wide without any gradient and he was driving at 70 kilometers an hour. His defense said it had not been allowed to examine the vehicle after the crash while prosecutors claimed, after analyzing the scene and collating witness reports, that Carromero was driving at 120kmp/h.

I was scared, but Oswaldo told me not

to stop unless they ordered me to"

Payá's family maintained after the accident that the crash was provoked and was not a one-car incident. The dissident's son said that his father, who had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and was the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement pushing for reforms in the Communist country, had received numerous death threats.

The version of events laid out by Carromero in the interview is radically different to that he gave in the Cuban courtroom, where he only contested the speed he was driving at, the state of the road and the lack of proper road signs. Jens Aron Modig, of the Swedish Christian Democrats, who was also a passenger in the car but escaped with light injuries, said he was asleep at the time of the crash and did not remember the accident.

Carromero, who was repatriated to Spain to serve his sentence under a bilateral penal agreement between the two countries, said that he felt obliged to pander to the official version devised by the Cuban authorities in order to be able to leave the island. He termed the judicial procedure a "farce."

Carromero returned to Spain in December and is currently on a partial release whereby he is required only to spend nights in custody. The Popular Party was instrumental in securing an open regime for its protégé.

Former Madrid regional premier Esperanza Aguirre visited Carromero in the Segovia penitentiary and he was retained in his previous employment as a local administration advisor to the party. Aguirre said that Carromero told her during the visit that he had only been allowed to leave his Cuban jail cell once every 15 days. The party heavyweight also said she believed he had been tortured while in custody in Cuba.

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo has said that he has no knowledge of the new claims made by Carromero.