Latin America & Caribbean

Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya's death 'an accident'

Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig
Image caption Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig said he took money to dissidents in Cuba

The two foreigners who survived the car crash in Cuba in which well-known dissident Oswaldo Paya was killed have dismissed reports that their vehicle had been pushed off the road.

Spanish politician Angel Carromero said he lost control of the car in a bad stretch of road in eastern Granma province on 22 July.

An official report blamed the driver for the accident.

Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig said he had no memory of a car hitting them.

The family of Mr Paya had suggested that the human rights campaigner had been killed for his political activities in Cuba.

His widow, Ofelia Acevedo, said she had rejected the official account of the crash until she heard from the two survivors.

According to an official report released on Friday, the investigation team's own calculations showed Mr Carromero must have been driving at more than 120km/h (75mph).

The report added that the vehicle hit a tree, killing Mr Paya and the young opposition activist Harold Cepero, both of whom were seated in the back of the car and not wearing seat belts.

Cuban officials said the driver was speeding when the car hit an unpaved stretch of road and spun out of control.

'Free to leave'

Mr Carromero appeared in a video played by the authorities at the beginning of the conference.

"No vehicle hit us from behind. I was driving and hit a pot hole, braked lightly. I didn't look at the speed limit. I lost control of the car and don't remember anything more," he said.

In the video, he also asks the international community to focus on getting him out of Cuba and makes a pledge for the accident not to be used "for political ends".

The two foreigners were detained by the Cuban authorities after the crash.

Image caption Mr Paya's widow, Ofelia Acevedo, said she had not been allowed access to the two survivors

Mr Modig, a member of Sweden's Christian Democratic Party, was brought out of custody and attended a news conference in Havana.

He said he was asleep at the time and had little recollection of what happened, but had no memory of a second vehicle hitting them.

He also admitted to taking some 4,000 euros ($4,900; £3,100) for Oswaldo Paya and other dissidents, which is illegal in Cuba. He apologised for breaking the law.

After the news conference, Mr Modig's party said he had been released from custody and was free to leave Cuba.

Oswaldo Paya, 60, was best-known as the founder of the Varela project, a campaign begun in 1998 to gather signatures in support of a referendum on laws guaranteeing civil rights.

In May 2002, he presented Cuba's National Assembly with a petition of more than 10,000 signatures calling for an end to four decades of one-party rule.

The Cuban government described Mr Paya as an agent of the US who was working to undermine the country's revolution.

But the anti-Castro opposition in the US criticised him for being too moderate.

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