- - 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.

VENEZUELA

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.

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