HAVANA - Cuban dissidents say prominent fellow government opponent Oswaldo Paya has died in a car crash. He was 60 years old.
Dissident Elizardo Sanchez says he confirmed Paya's death on Sunday with associates in the city of Bayamo, 500 miles east of the capital.
At Paya's home in Havana, a woman who answered the door said there had been an accident but they were awaiting details. It was not immediately clear why Paya was in Bayamo.
The circumstances of Paya's death are in dispute. His daughter said Paya's vehicle was forced off a road and into a tree by another vehicle.
Paya, a journalist, gained international fame in the 1990s as the organizer of the Varela Project, which gathered signatures to urge authorities to change the constitution to allow multiple political parties and private enterprise.
While he was a thorn in the side of the Castro government, Paya was also a vocal critic of U.S. aid and the trade embargo, a position that put him at odds with Cuban hardliners in South Florida.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, called on the international community, including the U.S. government, to launch an investigation into Paya's death.
"Whatever differences we may have had, no one ever criticized his motivation. No one ever criticized what he wanted to do. We all agreed that the end goal is a free and democratic Cuba," Ros-Lehtinen said.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, released a statement saying, "Paya is one of many heroes on the island who has exposed the myths and failures of the Cuban revolution and challenged its habitual violation of human rights. It's important that anyone with knowledge about this car crash be protected and allowed to share what they know."
Ros-Lehtinen said she plans to contact the U.S. Department of State in the hope of gathering more information about what happened to Paya.
Copyright 2012 by Post Newsweek. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.