Monday, July 23, 2012

HAVANA — Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, a winner of the Sakharov human rights prize who challenged the island’s communist regime for decades, has died in a car accident.

Mr. Paya, 60, died Sunday on the road linking the city of Las Tunas to Bayamo, in Granma province about 465 miles east of Havana.

Gustavo Machin, an official in Cuba’s International Press Center, a department of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said another Cuban died in the accident that claimed Mr. Paya’s life. A Spanish national and a Swedish national were injured and were receiving medical assistance at a hospital, he said.

Mr. Paya, an engineer specializing in medical equipment, was the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement advocating political change in Cuba.

He began his dissident activities in the wake of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, designed to put an end to the so-called “Prague Spring” movement to ease the communist grip on the Central European state.

Mr. Paya earned international attention in 2002 when, on the eve of the arrival of a visit by former President Jimmy Carter, he presented parliament with more than 11,000 signatures of support for the Varela Project, an initiative calling for change in Cuba, then run by Fidel Castro.

Mr. Carter mentioned the Varela Project in his televised speech at Havana University, prompting the Czech president and human rights champion, Vaclav Havel, to nominate Mr. Paya for the Nobel Prize. Later that year, Mr. Paya won the European Parliament’s Sakharov prize, named for the late Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov.

National Assembly weighs taxes, budget

HAVANA — Cuba’s National Assembly gathered Monday for a twice-a-year legislative session, with the country’s economic reform plans on the agenda.

Communist Party newspaper Granma says lawmakers also are considering a new tax system and the budget.

Cubans will be looking for action on long-promised measures such as the easing of travel restrictions, increasing private farming of state-controlled land or the approval of cooperative businesses.

President Raul Castro’s economic changes have legalized the sales of homes and cars and paved the way for hundreds of thousands of Cubans to go into business for themselves, but the pace of reform has stalled this year.


Chavez vows more marathon TV talks

CARACAS — Hugo Chavez says he will not stop seizing control of the airwaves to give marathon television and radio addresses, despite complaints from his challenger, who says Venezuela’s autocratic president has an unfair advantage during the country’s election campaign.

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has demanded that election officials prevent Mr. Chavez from taking political advantage of his special broadcasts ahead of the Oct. 7 election.

Directors of the National Electoral Council have approved campaign regulations that prohibit TV and radio messages that favor a presidential candidate to run longer than three minutes.

However, it is unclear whether the regulations will limit the president’s frequent and lengthy use of special broadcasts known as “cadenas,” which all networks are required to air under Venezuelan law.

Mr. Chavez vowed Sunday to continue using the broadcasts.


Report questions cause of cholera epidemic

PORT-AU-PRINCE — The death rate from the Haiti cholera epidemic that has killed more than 7,000 people over the past two years has ebbed, but the debate about the source of the disease has grown more heated.

That renewed controversy came into sharp focus after the release of a study led by a University of Maryland cholera researcher renowned in the scientific community.

Challenging prevailing wisdom, report author Rita Colwell, a former director of the U.S. National Science Foundation, found that Haiti had not just one cholera strain but a second one that may have been lurking undetected before the arrival of a U.N. peacekeeping battalion from Nepal.

Many finger the battalion as the chief culprit for a disease that has sickened more than a half-million people. The study fell short of explicitly blaming the epidemic on the newly discovered strain but said it was a factor.

It was enough to reignite discussion about the disease and heighten political tensions between two camps that have argued over whether it was humans or the environment that could have introduced cholera to Haiti.


Thousands protest election of Pena Nieto

MEXICO CITY — Thousands marched through downtown Mexico City on Sunday to protest what they called the “imposition” of the candidate of the old ruling party as the country’s new president.

Protesters carried signs accusing presumed President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto of electoral fraud and Mexico television giant Televisa of being a “factory of lies.” Opponents say Mr. Pena Nieto’s party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, won the July 1 election through vote-buying and overspending, including paying major media outlets such as Televisa for favorable coverage.

The PRI has vehemently denied the charges and on Friday accused losing leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of trying to “disqualify the entire electoral process with lies.” Televisa also has denied charges of being paid for positive coverage.

Mexico City authorities did not immediately release an official crowd estimate, but the march appeared to draw far fewer people than similar protests before the election with as many as 90,000 participants. A July 7 march, the first after the election, drew 50,000.

From wire dispatches and staff reports