Autopsy, family say Cuban dissident wasn't beaten

A medical examiner and relatives of a late Cuban dissident have concluded that he died of natural causes and showed no signs of being beaten, as some government opponents have claimed, Cuba's official news media said Thursday.

Juan Wilfredo Soto's sister and other relatives who accompanied him to the hospital said he did not mention any police abuse, the Communist Party newspaper Granma reported.

"It's a big lie that he was beaten," Rosa Soto Garcia was quoted as saying. "He did not have a single mark on him."

Other Cuban dissidents have accused police of hitting Soto when they detained him May 5 in the central city of Santa Clara. They say the beating aggravated his serious health issues, including heart problems and diabetes, and brought about his death Sunday from pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas.

"The more the government tries to clear up the situation, the more doubts we have," said Elizardo Sanchez, leader of the dissident Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation. "We maintain our theory of a cause and effect between the beating and the death of Soto."

He said he feared that Soto's family and witnesses were being intimidated and called for a transparent investigation. He added that he spoke with Soto's daughter on the weekend, though they did not talk about the alleged attack.

There was apparently no phone number for the family in Santa Clara, about 200 miles (300 kilometers) east of the capital.

The government strongly denies that its agents struck Soto.

Granma said a forensic examiner who performed an autopsy found no trace of external or internal injury and his death was determined to have been produced "by previous pathologies."

Any trauma that could have triggered acute pancreatitis would have left visible evidence, Dr. Ricardo Rodriguez Jorge was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Granma also said flower vendors and other witnesses reported Soto was detained without violence.


Associated Press writer Andrea Rodriguez contributed to this report.