From the Washington Post :
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.
What happened that day?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How was your statement obtained?
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
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 0
kilometers per hour [about 5 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
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
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
Who sent you to Cuba? Why did you travel
Nobody sent me to Cuba, and I didn’t even tell my boss about
my trip. I traveled there during my summer vacation, like so many other
supportive people — because I admire the peaceful defenders of liberty and
democracy like Oswaldo, who is very well known in Spain.
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 5 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.
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.