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Ángel Carromero, Driver of the Car in Which Payá and Cepero Died, Charged With Murder

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A lengthy editorial in Granma on Tuesday marked the beginning of legal proceedings for murder against Angel Carromero. The 27-year-old Spaniard, deputy secretary general of The People's Party New Generation, Carromero was driving the car in which the regime opponent Oswaldo Paya and the activist Harold Cepero were killed. Also slightly injured in the crash was the Swedish citizen Aron Modig, who returned to his country Tuesday morning.

The accident happened near the city of Bayamo, in the eastern province of Granma. According to official experts and the testimony of three witnesses present, the driver lost control of the vehicle due to excessive speed and lack of attention, while driving on a road under repair. After sliding on the gravel surface of the highway, the Hyundai Accent in which they were traveling hit a tree on its left side, right at the back seat where the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) was sitting.

Despite the detailed report provided by Cuban authorities and the statements of the two survivors, Oswaldo Payá's family has doubts about what happened. On Monday, at a press conference before local and international media, Aron Modig reaffirmed that he had no memory of "there having been another car involved in this accident." Subjected to several questions from the correspondents present, the president of the Christian Democratic Youth of Sweden (KDU) expanded on the reasons for his trip to the largest of the Antilles.

According to his answers, he was the bearer of some four thousand euros to deliver to the MCL, and was to provide advice to create a youth group of that organization. Visibly nervous and with brief responses, Modig apologized for not knowing in advance the illegal character of these actions.

A few hours later he was authorized to leave the island. No sooner had his plane landed on the old continent than he Tweeted, "European soil under my feet, I'm so relieved!" Family members as well as colleagues and friends of Oswaldo Payá are waiting, now that the Swedish politician can give his testimony more freely and without fear.

The Cuban government also released a video with statements from Ángel Carromero where he asked the international community to focus on getting him out of Cuba and "not using a traffic accident, that could have happened to anyone, for political reasons." In his statement he emphasized that "no vehicle hit us from the rear... simply I was driving and I took the precautions of any driver which is to lightly touch the brake. The car lost control, I don't remember signs."

His words -- without being self-incriminating -- reflected a clear responsibility for what happened. He faces a legal process that could lead to a prison term of 10 years. According to Article 177 of the current Criminal Code, "the driver of a vehicle who, breaking the laws and rules of transportation, causes the death of a person, incurs the penalty of privation of liberty for from one to ten years." For its part, Section 183 refers to the appropriateness of sanctions taking into account "the degree of seriousness of the offense that produced the damaging event."

By now the Spanish Embassy in Cuba has helped to hire an attorney to represent him, although the starting date of the trial has not been published. However, the Criminal Procedure Act provides for the possibility that, in exceptional circumstances, a summary process can be undertaken to reduce the length of time before coming to court.

The tone of the editorial in Granma points, also, to an increase in verbal escalation against the Spanish government. Asked about it, several opponents were alarmed about the fate of Ángel Carromero. Elizardo Sánchez, who heads the Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), told El Pais newspaper that "the more the government tries to clarify what happened, the more confusing it all is in relation to the accident that killed Paya and Cepero. For us the case is open until the truth is known and that includes the two witnesses being able testify without being under pressure. The CCDHRN is following this and from the first moment representatives of our organization have appeared at the scene."

The political background of this case is no help to Ángel Carromero who, in the coming weeks, could become a bargaining chip for the Havana government vis-à-vis Madrid.