Gutierrez Menoyo, guerrilla turned anti-Castro fighter, dies

27 Oct

Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, a former commander of the Cuban Revolution who later led a failed guerrilla movement against the Castro regime, has died in a Havana hospital, an activist and a blogger said Friday. He was 77.

“Menoyo was very ill for some time and died during the night, according to his family,” said Elizardo Sanchez, who heads the illegal but tolerated Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Blogger Yohandry Fontana, known for reflecting the views of authorities, confirmed the passing of Menoyo, who turned against Fidel Castro’s regime in the 1960s and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

“In very fragile health,” Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo “died in Havana’s Almeijeiras hospital” in the Cuban capital, Yohandry confirmed in a tweet.

Born in Madrid in 1934, Menoyo attained the rank of revolutionary commander fighting alongside Castro in the 1950s guerrilla war that toppled the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.

He left Cuba in 1961 amid a difference in views with the Cuban leadership’s socialist orientation.

After exile in Florida, he returned to Cuba in 1964 at the head of an armed anti-Castro group, was captured and sentenced to three decades behind bars. He was freed in 1986 after mediation by the Spanish government.

From Miami, he founded the opposition group Cambio Cubano (Cuban Change), advocating a national reconciliation between Cuba and its diaspora. Allowed to return to Cuba several times, he even spoke directly with Fidel Castro.

In 2003, during one of his visits, he incurred the wrath of the anti-Castro community in Florida when he announced that he would not remain in exile.

Since then, he lived amid discrete surveillance from authorities but without engaging in political activities, in eastern Havana’s Alamar neighborhood.

In a final “testament” published in Spain’s El Pais newspaper Friday, Menoyo lashed out at Cuban authorities.

“The Cuban government leaves no doubt about its inability to create progress,” Menoyo wrote.

“The constitution doesn’t work. The judicial system is a joke. The division of powers is not even a dream. Civil society remains, like progress, a dream postponed for fifty years,” said the text, which Menoyo penned shortly before his death and sent to the newspaper by his daughter.

“Today, without losing my faith in the Cuban people, I maintain that this noble enterprise (the Cuban Revolution), full of generosity and lyricism, which should have placed Cuba at the forefront of progressivism, has exhausted its ability to be transformed into a viable project,” Menoyo concluded.

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