Cuban opposition figure Oswaldo Payá, one of the most popular and best-known leaders of the internal dissident movement on the communist island, died Sunday in a traffic accident in the eastern province of Granma, various sources reported.

An employee at Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Hospital in the city of Bayamo confirmed to Efe via telephone that Payá had died, and this was also reported on Twitter by well-known regime critic and blogger Yoani Sánchez and by the pro-government blogger Yohandry.

In addition, a spokesman for the Havana Archbishopric told Efe that Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega spoke Sunday afternoon with Payá's wife and she confirmed the tragic news.

Many additional details of the accident are not yet known, but the sources consulted by Efe said that Payá died after being involved in a car crash near the city of Bayamo. He was reported to be riding in a vehicle with three other people at the time.

Apparently, one of the other people in the vehicle also died, and the other two were injured.

The Miami Herald reported that Payá's official website says that he went "missing" and directly blames Cuban President Raúl Castro for the popular dissident's death.

Payá, a 60-year-old medical equipment engineer, was the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and one of the most prominent and internationally known members of Cuba's internal dissident movement.

He was the promoter of the so-called Varela Project, which he in 2002 presented in the Cuban legislature along with some 11,000 signatures to propose a referendum on a democratic and peaceful transition on the island. The petition was rejected by the Castro regime, but Payá emerged as the leading advocate of peaceful democratic change in Cuba.

Thereafter, Payá continued to call for a national dialogue among all Cubans, including Communist Party members and leaders, to discuss the peaceful transition to democracy.

In October 2002, the European Parliament awarded Payá the Sakharov Prize in recognition of his peaceful struggle for human rights and a democratic transition in Cuba. He had also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

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