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Swede in Cuba car crash worried about driver

February 16. 2013 2:53PM
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(AP) A young Swedish politician who survived a car crash in Cuba that killed dissident Oswaldo Paya and another government opponent has described an intense five-day grilling about why he was in the country and said he is deeply worried about the fate of his Spanish colleague who was charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Aron Modig said in an interview published Friday that he doesn't remember anything about what led to the crash, recalling only fragments of how the car suddenly swerved off the road and how he regained consciousness in an ambulance. He said he fears for Angel Carromero, who was driving the rental car when it crashed on July 22 and could face up to 10 years in a Cuban jail.

"Nobody knows what's happening to him there," he said.

Paya's family has said it has doubts about the official explanation by Cuban authorities. In videotaped testimony, Carromero said he lost control of the car when it suddenly entered an unpaved area of road under construction and he slammed on the brakes, causing it to skid. A Cuban investigation found that Carromero was speeding and failed to heed traffic signs warning of the construction. Paya and a second dissident were riding in the back and not wearing seatbelts.

Prior to leaving for Cuba, Carromero had been fined for speeding and Spanish authorities have been in the process of revoking his license since May.

Modig, the 27-year-old head of the youth party of Sweden's conservative Christian Democrats, returned home on July 31 after what he said were days of high-pressure questioning in a windowless room in Havana by Cuban police.

"The questions are always the same: 'Why are you here? Who sent you?' They switched between asking questions and scolding: 'Don't come to our country and interfere'," Modig told the daily Dagens Nyheter in the interview. "In a dictatorship that's no good, of course I got worried."

No questions were posed about the accident, he said.

Cuban media has reported that Carromero and Modig entered the country on July 19 on tourist visas and brought 4,000 ($4,900) for Paya's organization and helped organize dissident youth wings, though Paya's family denies that he received any money from the Europeans. The government considers the small opposition to be subversive and objects to foreign-based efforts to support them.

"I went there with good intentions to contribute to a freer Cuba, but was jailed and questioned. Cubans are treated like that every day," he said.

The car crash happened while the four were on their way to Santago de Cuba, the island's second largest city. Soon after the accident, speculation spread that a second vehicle was pursuing the rented car and might even have run it off the road.

Carromero, an activist with a conservative Spanish party, and Modig have both said no other car was involved, but Paya's family has asked for an independent investigation.

Modig's party had initially scheduled a news conference upon his return to Sweden two weeks ago, but canceled it in the last minute, citing the ongoing legal process in Cuba. The interview in Dagens Nyheter is the first he has given since his return; he was not immediately available for more comment.

Associated Press

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