Human Rights in Cuba

Time To Change

Waiting for help
Waiting for help

A pawn in Cuba's power game

By Editorial Board, Wednesday, October 17, 1:05 AM

ANGEL CARROMERO, a 26-year-old youth leader in 's ruling Popular

Party, was the driver of a car that ran off a rural road in Cuba and

crashed on July 22, killing one of the country's leading dissidents,

Oswaldo Payá, as well as another activist. Mr. Carromero denies he was

at fault; a surviving passenger, a young Swedish activist, has said that

"it's wrong to accuse" him of culpability. The families of the two

dissidents agree and declined to press charges against him.

Nonetheless, on Oct. 5 a Cuban court convicted the Spaniard of vehicular

homicide. On Monday, he was sentenced to four years in . Mr.

Payá's family was excluded from the brief trial; 42 dissidents were

detained on the day it was held. The Yoani Sanchez, who had

driven to the town of Bayamo in order to cover it, was and

jailed for 30 hours.

Why did Cuban authorities respond in this way to what they describe as a

one-car ? Mr. Payá's widow believes she knows the answer: The

authorities, she charges, are trying to cover up what really happened in

the crash. Family members have received accounts that the sedan Mr.

Carromero was driving may have been forced off the road by another

vehicle. They have called for an independent investigation with

international ­involvement.

Spanish observers have their own suspicions. The regime of Raúl Castro,

they say, is likely seeking to punish the ruling Spanish party for

supporting the Cuban opposition. In a news conference orchestrated by

Cuban authorities, Mr. Carromero and the Swedish activist said they had

brought money for Mr. Payá and were helping to organize a youth movement.

Mr. Carromero's sentence will come as no surprise to the family of Alan

, an American development contractor who has been a in

Cuba since 2009. Mr. Gross was arrested for supplying computer equipment

to Cuba's tiny Jewish community under a U.S. aid program. Sentenced to

15 years, he has become a pawn in a gambit by the Castro regime to

secure the return of five acknowledged Cuban spies who were captured and

convicted of espionage in the United States.

Mr. Carromero may be in prison as a way of preventing the true story of

Mr. Payá's death from emerging, as his family believes. Or he may be a

victim of a crude attempt by the Castro regime to extort concessions

from the Spanish government. Spain is still attempting to obtain Mr.

Carromero's release — just as the Obama administration has tried, so far

in vain, to free Mr. Gross without meeting the regime's demands.

What's sure is that Mr. Carromero should not be in prison because of Mr.

Payá's death. That he is offers a clear answer to those who wonder

whether the Castro regime is changing for the better.

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