Human-rights group asks Cuba for details of dissident’s death
Human-rights group asks Cuba for details of dissident's death
Posted: Monday, April 15, 2013 4:52 pm
The human rights arm of the Organization of American States has formally
asked Cuba for details of the disputed car crash that killed noted
dissident Oswaldo Paya, his daughter, Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo, revealed
Paya Acevedo also told El Nuevo Herald and The Miami Herald that ruler
Raul Castro's economic reforms amount to "fraud" and noted that "neither
Castro nor (his hand-picked successor Miguel) Diaz-Canel were elected by
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The 24-year-old physicist said she learned of the letter sent by the
Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, or IACHR, to the Cuban
government during a meeting in Washington last week with IACHR Executive
Director Emilio Alvarez Icaza.
IACHR press office director Maria Isabel Rivero confirmed the letter was
sent last week but said its text is confidential, like all exchanges
between the commission and OAS member states.
"The Cuban government has not replied to the IACHR in many years. The
only letters … received from Cuba said that the OAS doesn't have moral
authority and the IACHR doesn't have jurisdiction over Cuba," Rivero
added in an email to El Nuevo Herald.
Paya Acevedo said Alvarez, a Mexican sociologist, told her that Cuban
authorities sometimes return IACHR letters unopened.
Cuban authorities also have never given her family a copy of the
official police investigation of the crash, she added, even though Cuban
law requires that those reports be provided to the families of traffic
victims within 30 days.
IACHR officials have the power to investigate human rights violations in
the 35 member-nations of the OAS, based on the "American Declaration on
the Rights and Duties of Man," signed by all member-states in 1948. Cuba
remains a member, though its membership was suspended in the 1960s.
The commission also can refer cases to the Inter-American Court of Human
Rights, based in Costa Rica, if the countries involved have ratified the
American Convention on Human Rights and recognized the court's
jurisdiction. Cuba, along with the United States, Canada and nine other
OAS members, have not done so.
Paya Acevedo said Alvarez told her the letter to Cuba was triggered by a
Washington Post report on March 5 alleging that Cuban security agents
caused the July 22 car crash in eastern Cuba that also led to the death
of fellow dissident Harold Cepero.
The Cuban government claims the crash was an accident caused by their
driver, Spanish politician Angel Carromero. A Cuban court convicted
Carromero of two counts of vehicular homicide and sentenced him to four
years in prison.
Carromero asserted in the Washington Post interview that another
vehicle, presumably driven by State Security agents who were tailing
Paya, rammed his rented vehicle from behind and forced him off the road.
Paya Acevedo said Carromero gave her the same version of the crash when
they met in Spain earlier this year. The Spaniard left Cuba in December
under an agreement to serve the rest of his sentence in his home country.
Another passenger in the car, Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig, who
was not injured, has said he was dozing at the time of the crash.
Paya Acevedo has been repeating her family's demand for an independent
investigation of Paya's death throughout a two-month trip abroad that
took her to Spain, Sweden, New York, Washington and now South Florida.
She is expected to return to Cuba this week.
She also has been asking the OAS, United Nations and European Parliament
to protect Cuban dissidents "and especially my family," which has become
a growing target of death threats and harassments by State Security
agents since her father's death.
"From our experience, we know they are not fooling around," she said
during her visit with the editorial board and reporters of El Nuevo
Herald and The Miami Herald.
As for Castro's economic reforms, she added, she prefers to call them
"fraud-changes" because she does not believe that there have been real
changes, and the level of repression against dissidents in fact
increased under Raul Castro.
Among other changes, the reforms allow more small-scale private
businesses, make big cuts in the overstuffed public payrolls, and trim
government subsidies in areas such as health, education and welfare.
Paya Acevedo argued that the changes are designed only to "clean up"
Cuba's image so that the government can win economic concessions from
the United States and Europe.
"It would be dangerous if they start to believe those changes," she added.
Cuba's best future, she noted, lies in the plebiscite on democracy and
human rights that her father proposed under his Varela Project in 2002 —
and backed up with 25,000 signatures with full names and national I.D.
card numbers, she added.
That could lead to a dialogue between the government and its critics,
and a "real transition," Paya Acevedo added.
The Cuban government answered Project Varela with a harsh crackdown in
2003, known as Cuba's Black Spring, that sentenced 75 peaceful
dissidents to prison terms of up to 28 years. All were freed after
serving up to eight years of their sentences.