Washington Post Angel Carromero confirma que muertes de O.Payá y H.Cepero no fue por accidente

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The last time I looked in the mirror, I realized that the car had gotten too close — and suddenly I felt a thunderous impact from behind.

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Ángel Carromero, a leader of Spain’s ruling party, was visiting Cuba last July when a car he was driving crashed, killing Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero. Mr. Carromero was convicted of vehicular homicide; in December, he was released to Spain to serve out his term. This week he agreed to be interviewed by The Washington Post about the crash. Mr. Carromero, 27, holds a law degree and has taken a business course at Fordham University in New York.

Oswaldo Payá asked me to take him to visit some friends, since he didn’t have the means to travel around the island. There were four of us in the car: Oswaldo and Harold Cepero in the back, [Jens] Aron Modig [of Sweden] in front, and me driving. They were following us from the beginning. In fact, as we left Havana, a tweet from someone close to the Cuban government announced our departure: “Payá is on the road to Varadero.” Oswaldo told me that, unfortunately, this was normal.

But I really became uneasy when we stopped to get gas, because the car following us stopped, waited in full view until we were finished and then continued following. When we passed provincial borders, the shadowing vehicle would change. Eventually it was an old, red Lada.

And then another, newer car appeared and began to harass us, getting very close. Oswaldo and Harold told me it must be from “la Comunista” because it had a blue license plate, which they said is what the government uses. Every so often I looked at it through the rearview mirror and could see both occupants of the car staring at us aggressively. I was afraid, but Oswaldo told me not to stop if they did not signal or force us to do so. I drove carefully, giving them no reason to stop us. The last time I looked in the mirror, I realized that the car had gotten too close — and suddenly I felt a thunderous impact from behind.

I lost control of the car, and also consciousness — or that is what I believe, because from that point my memories are unclear, perhaps from the medications they gave me. When I recovered consciousness, I was being put into a modern van. I don’t know how it had gotten there, but neither Oswaldo nor Harold nor Aron was inside. I thought it was strange that it was only me, and I figured that the rest of them didn’t need to go to the hospital.

I began to yell at the people driving the van. Who were they? Where were they taking me? What were they doing with us? Then, woozy, I again lost consciousness.

What happened after that?

The next time I awakened, I was on a stretcher, being carried into a hospital room. The first person who talked to me was a uniformed officer of the Ministry of the Interior. I told her a car had hit our vehicle from behind, causing me to lose control.

She took notes and, at the end, gave me my statement to sign. The hospital, which was civilian, had suddenly been militarized. I was surrounded by uniformed soldiers. A nurse told me they would put in an IV line to take blood and sedate me. I remember that they kept taking blood from me and changing the line all the time, which really worried me. I still have the marks from this. I passed the next few weeks half-sedated and without knowing exactly what they were putting in me.

Some text messages were sent from the scene, and there have been reports of others, not yet disclosed. Do you know about them?

They took away my mobile phone when they took me out of the car. I was only able to use Aron’s mobile phone the time we were together in the hospital. I didn’t remember the messages until I arrived in Spain and I read them, asking for help and saying that our car was hit from behind.
They began to videotape me all the time, and they kept doing so until the last day I was jailed in Cuba. When they questioned me about what happened, I repeated what I told the officer who originally took my statement. They got angry. They warned me that I was their enemy, and that I was very young to lose my life. One of them told me that what I had told them had not happened and that I should be careful, that depending on what I said things could go very well or very badly for me.

Then came a gentleman who identified himself as a government expert and who gave me the official version of what had happened. If I went along with it, nothing would happen to me. At the time I was heavily drugged, and it was hard for me to understand the details of the supposed accident that they were telling me to repeat. They gave me another statement to sign — one that in no way resembled the truth. It mentioned gravel, an embankment, a tree — I did not remember any of these things.

The hit from the back when we left the road didn’t need to be hard, because I remember that there was no curb or incline. The pavement was wide, with no traffic. I especially did not agree with the statement that we were traveling at an excessive speed, because Oswaldo was very cautious. The last speed I saw on the speedometer was approximately 70 kilometers per hour [about 45 miles per hour]. The air bags did not even deploy during the crash, nor did the windows shatter, and both I and the front-seat passenger got out unhurt.

A video of you describing the accident was shown to journalists by Cuban authorities. Under what circumstances was it made?

Once I left the hospital, they took me to a jail in Bayamo. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever lived through. I was held incommunicado, never seeing the light of day. We walked among cockroaches until they put me in the infirmary cell, along with another Cuban prisoner. The conditions were deplorable. A stream of water fell from the roof once a day, the toilet didn’t have a tank, and you could use it only when you had a bucket of water that you could throw afterward into the bowl. The cell was full of insects that woke me up when they fell on my body. Although I remember almost nothing specific from those days, images come to me — and I only wish they were nightmares, and not memories.

The video that the authorities made public was recorded under these conditions. As viewers can see, my face and my left eye are very swollen and I speak like I am drugged. When an officer gave me a notebook in which the official Cuban government account was laid out, I limited myself to reading statements from that notebook. In fact, you can see me reading Cuban expressions I didn’t know, like “transit accident” (in Spain it’s “traffic accident”) , and you can see me direct my gaze to the right corner, which is where the officer stood who held the notes. I hoped that no one would think that the video was freely recorded, or that what I said there corresponded to what really happened.

What do you think about the trial in Bayamo?

The trial in Bayamo was a farce, to make me the scapegoat, but I had to accept the verdict without appeal in order to have the minimal possibility to get out of that hell. However, I decided at the last minute to not declare myself guilty, thinking of Alan Gross [an American contractor sentenced to 15 years in prison for bringing communications equipment into Cuba illegally].

As for the Spanish authorities, I can only thank them for managing to repatriate me. I don’t want to cause any more problems. I want to get my previous life back. I even understand that, even though I am innocent, I have to continue with my liberty restricted due to the bilateral accord between Cuba and Spain. I only hope that this unjust situation will not last for long.

Despite the accusations to which I am daily subjected by the press and by the defenders of the Castro dictatorship, it’s not my intention to go on talking about this traumatic experience. I’ve received death threats in Spain, and I have had to testify before a notary so that at least the truth would be known if something happened to me.

Why are you speaking out now?

The most important thing for me is that the Payá family always has defended my innocence, when they are the most injured by this tragedy. That’s why, when I met Rosa Maria [Payá’s daughter] this week, I could not hide the truth any more. I am not only innocent — I am another victim, who might also be dead now. I know that this decision could result in more brutal media attacks against me from Cuba, but I don’t deserve to be considered guilty of involuntary homicide, and, above all, I could not live, being complicit through my silence.

I don’t know what they gave me in the intravenous line, but I continue to have large memory lapses. What they didn’t manage to make me forget is that Oswaldo is one of the people who most impressed me in my life. He is the true protagonist of this nightmare. He was an exceptional person, and I will never forget him.

The interview has been translated from Spanish.

Read more on this subject from PostOpinions:

The Post’s View: An eyewitness to Oswaldo Payá’s death speaks out

Jackson Diehl: The Oswaldo Payá mystery continues

The Post’s View: Getting at the truth of the car crash that killed Oswaldo Payá

The Post’s View: A pawn in Cuba’s power game

Carl Gershman: Who killed Oswaldo Payá?

Ángel Carromero ha roto su silencio para dar su versión del accidente en el que murieron los disidentes cubanos Oswaldo Payá y Harold Cepero. El joven dirigente de las Nuevas Generaciones del PP en Madrid ha asegurado por primera vez que el vehículo en el que viajaban fue embestido violentamente por otro coche, lo que hizo que perdiera el control y chocara, provocando la muerte casi en el acto de los dos activistas cubanos.

En una entrevista publicada por ‘The Washington Post’, el español explica que Oswaldo Payá le pidió que lo llevara a visitar a unos amigos. Desde el principio del recorrido, varios coches se fueron relevando paraseguirlos. El último de ellos, un vehículo con placa azul -un distintivo que utiliza el Gobierno cubano, según le explicó el propio Payá- les embistió y provocó el fatal desenlace.

“Tenía miedo, pero Oswaldo me dijo que no me detuviera a menos que ellos me obligaran a hacerlo. Conduje con cuidado, sin darles motivos para que nos pararan. La última vez que miré por el espejo retrovisor, me di cuenta de que el coche se había acercado demasiado y de repentesentí un golpe muy fuerte atrás“, escribe Ángel Carromero.

“Perdí el control del coche, y también la conciencia, o eso es lo que creo, porque a partir de ese momento mis recuerdos no son claros, tal vez por los medicamentos que me dieron”, asegura. La siguiente imagen que recuerda es la de su traslado en una furgoneta donde no estaban ninguno de sus tres acompañantes. Ni Payá, ni Cepero ni el político sueco Jens Aron Modig. “Pensé que ellos no necesitaban ir al hospital”, cuenta.

Sobre las circunstancias que rodearon al accidente, Carromerodesmiente que fuera a una velocidad excesiva. “La última marca que vi en el velocímetro era de unos 70 kilómetros por hora. Los ‘airbags’ no llegaron a saltar, las ventanas no se rompieron y tanto mi copiloto como yo salimos ileso”.

Carromero también deja claras sus dudas sobre la atención médica que recibió en los días siguentes. Asegura que el centro hospitalario, que era civil, de repente se había llenado de militares y también recuerda que las enfermeras le sacaban sangre continuamente y le inyectaban sedantes. “Pasé las siguientes semanas medio sedado y sin saber exactamente lo que estaban poniéndome”, dice, y reconoce que a día de hoy aún sigue sufriendo las consecuencias. “No sé lo que me dieron por vía intravenosa, pero sigo teniendo grandes lapsus de memoria”.

Su declaración

Entre las incógnitas que rodean al caso se encuentra la teoría de que Carromero había viajado a Cuba con alguna ‘misión política’encomendada por su partido, el PP. El joven miembro de las Nuevas Generaciones ‘populares’ niega este punto y asegura que “nadie me envió a Cuba” y que los dirigentes de su formación no estaban al tanto de su viaje. “Viajé allí por mis vacaciones de verano, como tantas otras personas, porque admiro a los defensores pacíficos de la libertad y la democracia, como Oswaldo, que era muy conocido en España”.

Sobre las presiones que podría haber recibido desde que sucedieron los hechos, Carromero no duda en resaltar las amenazas que ha sufrido, especialmente de parte del régimen castrista. Asegura que tras contar su versión de cómo ocurrió el accidente, “se enfadaron. Me advirtieron de que era su enemigo y de que yo era muy joven para perder la vida. Uno de ellos me dijo que lo que había contado, no había ocurrido y que debía tener cuidado, pues dependiendo de lo que declarara, las cosas podrían ir muy bien o muy mal para mí”.

Llegaron a asegurarle que si respaldaba la versión oficial del Gobierno de la isla no le pasaría nada. Y así lo hizo, aunque aclara que cambió su declaración en medio de un profundo estado de sedación.

También le pareció una farsa el juicio al que fue sometido en Bayamo, “pero tuve que aceptar el veredicto sin apelación, a fin de tener la más mínima posibilidad de salir de aquel infierno”, explica.

Una vez en España, donde fue repatriado para cumplir la condena de cuatro años por homicidio imprudente, mira el futuro. Reconoce que sólo pretende recuperar su vida anterior y que no quiere seguir hablando de lo sucedido. “He recibido amenazas de muerte y he declarado ante un notario para que se sepa la verdad si algo me sucede”.

Además, Carromero manifiesta el aprecio que siente hacia la familia de Oswaldo Payá, “que siempre ha defendido mi inocencia, a pesar de que ellos han sido los más perjudicados por la tragedia”. Asegura que lareciente visita de una de las hijas de Payá, Rosa María, ha sido definitiva para hacer pública su versión y reivindica su condición de “víctima que también podría estar muerto ahora”.

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