Obama administration joins congressional call for probe into deaths of Cuban activists
The Obama administration supports the growing calls for an international probe into the deaths of two Cuban democracy activists last year, the State Department said Thursday.
The declaration follows growing pressure from Congress for an investigation into the death of Oswaldo Payá, who was killed along with fellow activist Harold Cepero in a July 22 car wreck. The driver, Spaniard Ángel Carromero, was charged with vehicular manslaughter before being released to Spain; he has since declared that he was forced off the road by a car with government license plates.
“The United States supports the calls for an international investigation with independent international observers into the circumstances leading to the deaths of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero in Cuba,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday. “The people of Cuba and the families of these two activists deserve a clear, credible accounting of the events that resulted in their tragic deaths. The United States will continue to advocate for the rights of all Cubans to speak out of defense of human rights and democracy.”
“We have been supporting this privately,” she added. “We had not had a chance to make a public statement that we are supportive of this. As you know, a number of human rights groups are coming out publicly. We thought we should add our voice to it as loudly and clearly as possible.”Eight senators from both sides of the aisle sent a letter to the Organization of American States last week urging such a probe.
“Oswaldo Payá was a brave man trying to peacefully advocate for greater political freedom for his fellow Cuban brothers and sisters,” the senators wrote in a letter to Emilio Álvarez Icaza, the executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. “It increasingly looks like he paid for that effort with his life. His memory and his family deserve an honest and independent accounting of what happened.
“We urge you for your consideration and stand ready to work with you on this important matter.”
Separately, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging an investigation two weeks ago after meeting with activist Yoani Sánchez on Capitol Hill.