Surprising Sentence for Angel Carromero for the Deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero in a Car Crash

10/16/2012 11:51 am ET | Updated Dec 16, 2012
  • Yoani Sanchez Publisher of 14ymedio, independent newspaper in Cuba

Angel Carromero has been sentenced to four years in prison for the traffic accident that killed two opponents of the regime, Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero. The Granma Provincial Court issued the sentence Monday, October 15, after the public trial which took place on October 5. According to the official website Cubadebate, the leader of New Generations of Spain's ruling Popular Party is considered guilty of the crime of manslaughter while driving a vehicle on the public right-of-way.

This case, which has kept Cuban and Spanish public opinion guessing, now enters the appeal phase after the court ruling. Both the defense and the prosecutor can challenge the decision before the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court. It is expected that once confirmed or reduced, the Havana government will proceed to apply the treaty on serving of sentences signed by both countries. In which case, Angel Carromero could serve his sentence in some Spanish prison.

This young man of 26 has been judged according to article 177 of the existing Criminal Code, in which it is established that "the driver of a vehicle who, violating traffic laws or regulations, causes the death of a person, incurs the sentence of privation of liberty of from one to ten years." Initially the prosecutor demanded a sentence of seven years, which has been reduced by three in the sentence dictated by the court. However, the family of the Oswaldo Paya, the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, demanded an independent investigation of the facts of that Sunday in July near the city of Bayamo.

Of the four involved in that unfortunate event, two died and the Swedish Jens Aron Modig returned to his country without any charges being presented against him. Angel Carromero was involved in a police investigation that has had wide repercussions, including in the official Cuban press. Many said that the case has been used by the island's government against the internal opposition, and has even served as a mechanism to pressure Spain's Popular Party administration. As of today, a new scenario opens for all parties.

According to the official version of events, Carromero was driving at an excessive speed and lost control of the car on a road under repair. With improper use of the brakes, the car left the highway and crashed into a tree. The official note released this Monday asserted that the trial had analyzed "wide material evidence" and had complied with "the established legal safeguards, in accordance with the seriousness of the facts." However, at that trial held over a week ago, Oswaldo Paya's children along with dozens of activists who tried to reach the court, were not allowed access. Arrests, home detentions and threats marked the day during which the trial was held, which Granma newspaper itself had previously announced would be "oral and public."

The Spanish government, for its part, on hearing the sentence, has reaffirmed that its main motivation continues to be that Angel Carromero "return as soon as possible" to his homeland. "Right now there is a process of analysis and study (of the sentence), with the objective that he will return here as soon as possible," a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed to the AFP press agency. For its part, the Cuban Consulate welcomed "with relative satisfaction" the "sensible reduction" of the sentence the prosecutor had asked for against the young man. The Consul General on the Island, Tomas Rodriguez-Pantoja, explained that by not exceeding five years the sentence left a "range of options" to implement the bilateral convention on the serving of sentences.

However, for both the defense and for many Cuban dissidents, the sentence is excessive. Elizardo Sanchez, president of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, expressed himself opposed. "I expected absolution due to the extenuating circumstances that were present in this case. Among them the bad conditions of the highway and the worse road signage," the activist said. For their part, many official voices -- many of which are anonymous or using pseudonyms -- commented on Cubadebate and other websites that the sentence seemed "too short."

Along with the extenuating circumstances raised by Human Rights activists on the Island is added the fact that the families of those killed in the accident did not themselves file charges against Angel Carromero. An element which has led many to believe that the sentence imposed on Angel Carromero would be minimal and symbolic. Thus, the announcement this Monday has unpleasantly surprised those who supported the idea of a possible acquittal.

Once the sentence was announced, Ofelia Acevedo, Oswaldo Paya's widow, confirmed her opinion that Carromero "should have been at home a long time ago. Perhaps he will not have to serve the sentence in Cuba and will be expelled from the country."