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Spaniard’s account of crash that killed Cuban dissident adds to mystery

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A Spanish politician who was convicted of vehicular manslaughter for his role in a crash that killed two Cuban dissidents in July said in an interview with The Washington Post that the car he was driving was struck from behind just before the accident and that he was heavily drugged when he appeared to admit to reckless driving.

Angel Carromero, a member of the youth wing of Spain’s ruling conservative Popular Party, was at the wheel of a rental car when it crashed in eastern Cuba about 500 miles from Havana, killing Oswaldo Paya, a leading dissident, and Paya’s colleague Harold Cepero.

Carromero, who was slightly injured, was sentenced to four years in prison but was repatriated to Spain in December to serve out his time there. Another passenger, Jens Aron Modig, a Swedish politician who was sitting in the front, survived uninjured and said he was asleep when the accident occurred.

A Cuban inquiry found that Carromero, 27, was speeding when he lost control of the car and crashed down a gravel embankment into a tree.

Paya’s family questioned the official version of events, and Carromero, in his first media interview, told The Post that the four men were followed by a succession of cars from the moment they left Havana. He said the car that eventually hit them had been driving too close and harassing his vehicle.

“I drove carefully, giving them no reason to stop us,” Carromero said. “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.”

Carromero said he lost consciousness and thinks his memory of the events was affected by drugs administered while he was in the care of Cuban authorities. He said that he told investigators that his car was struck from behind and that they were angered by his statement.

“They warned me that I was their enemy and that I was very young to lose my life,” he said. “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.”

Carromero said he was driving no faster than 45 mph on a road with no curb or incline when the accident occurred. “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,” he said.

The Cuban government has said that Paya died instantly and that Cepero died a few hours later at a hospital. Their families have been unable to obtain autopsy reports.

In January, Spain’s prison service placed Carromero on a form of day release that allowed him to resume work at Madrid’s town hall. A Post editorial page editor, who secured the interview, declined to say how or where it was conducted.

“The most important thing for me is that the Paya family always has defended my innocence, when they are the most injured by this tragedy,” Carromero said. “That’s why, when I met Rosa Maria [Paya’s daughter] this week, I could not hide the truth anymore. I am not only innocent — I am another victim, who might also be dead now.”

© The Washington Post Company