Spain grants citizenship to family of late Cuban dissident

Madrid, Oct 11 (EFE).- Spain's government granted citizenship Friday to the widow and two children of late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya.

The beneficiaries of the royal decree are Ofelia Acevedo Maura and Rosa Maria and Oswaldo Jose Paya Acevedo.

The younger sibling of Rosa Maria and Oswaldo Jose, Reinaldo Paya, acquired Spanish citizenship before his father's death.

Oswaldo Paya died in a traffic accident on July 22, 2012, and the visiting Spanish political activist who was driving the car carrying the dissident was convicted in Cuba of vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to prison, though he was subsequently returned to Spain and is free on probation.

The Cuban dissident had Spanish nationality since April 2009 and wanted his family to acquire it too. He always maintained a particularly close relationship with Spain.

Paya was one of the outstanding defenders of fundamental human rights and freedoms in Cuba, the Spanish Justice Ministry said in proposing to extend citizenship to his family.

The civic movement in favor of making changes in Cuba's constitution, known as the Varela Project, earned Paya the 2002 Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament.

"In the name of the family I have sent the government a message of gratitude" for the grant of citizenship, Carlos Paya, Oswaldo's brother, told Efe.

"We no longer have any family left in Cuba, they've all had to leave due to pressures and threats following the death of my brother," according to Carlos, who has lived in Spain for 27 years.

While Oswaldo's family has made their home in Miami, with Spanish nationality they can come to Spain more frequently and travel in Europe without needing visas, Carlos Paya said.