Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas died yesterday in a car accident when his car collided into a tree. There is reason to suspect foul play,
Rosa Maria Paya, the dissident’s daughter, told CNN en Espanol that Paya was traveling near Bayamo, the capital city of Granma province, with a fellow dissident, Harold Cepero, when their car was struck by another vehicle. “There was a car (that) was trying to take them off the road, crashing into them at every moment. So we think it’s not an accident,” she said. “They wanted to do harm and they ended up killing my father.”
Babalu Blog is on top of the story and has a roundup of international news coverage:
Paya, an electrical engineer, gained international fame as the top organizer of the Varela Project, a signature gathering drive asking authorities for a referendum on laws to guarantee civil rights such as freedom of speech and assembly.
Shortly before former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s visit to Cuba in May 2002, Paya delivered 11,020 signatures to the island’s parliament seeking that initiative. He later delivered a second batch of petitions containing more than 14,000 signatures to the National Assembly, Cuba’s parliament, posing a renewed challenge to the island’s socialist system.
The Varela Project was seen as the biggest nonviolent campaign to change the system the elder Castro established after the 1959 Cuban revolution.
The government set aside the first batch of signatures and launched its own, successful petition drive to enshrine the island’s socialist system as “irrevocable” in the Cuban constitution.
Paya continued his efforts, saying it was more important to mobilize Cubans to demand human rights than to win government acceptance of the project. However, his influence waned notably in his final years as younger activists and bloggers like Yoani Sanchez gained international headlines.
His family attests that he was constantly harassed and vilified.
Dissident Laura Pollán, who died last year, was in a car that was struck by another car while giving an interview to Italian TV (4:20 into the video):