Huber Matos, a former Cuban revolutionary who fought alongside Fidel Castro but later turned against him and was jailed before going into exile, died in Miami on Thursday, aged 95.
Matos, who was hospitalised on Tuesday after suffering a major heart attack, asked doctors to turn off his breathing apparatus a day later, according to a statement issued by Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), the political party he led in exile.
The day before he died Matos spoke to supporters in Cuba, the statement said, adding that his last words were: "The struggle continues, long live a free Cuba."
Matos supported the Castro revolution against Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s, flying weapons to Cuba from Costa Rica before joining Castro's Rebel Army in the Sierra Maestra mountains.
After Batista fled the island, Matos rode into Havana on a tank at Castro's side in January 1959. He was later named army commander in the province of Camaguey, but soon resigned in protest over Castro's communist tilt, arguing that the leadership was both communist and dictatorial in its behaviour.
Matos was arrested and tried for treason in December 1959. Sentenced to 20 years in jail, he was released in 1979 and returned to Costa Rica to join his wife and children, before moving to Miami.
He requested to be buried in Costa Rica, but also asked to have his remains reburied alongside his parents in his Cuban hometown of Yara, when "Cuba is free," the family said.
Matos left a political will and letter to the Venezuelan people, though its details were not released.
Venezuela – a close ally of Cuba – is currently experiencing a wave of anti-government protests, provoked by public anger at high inflation, basic goods shortages, rising crime and corruption.
Cuba, now run by Fidel's brother Raul Castro, is the Americas' only one-party regime.
There will be a wake for him in Miami on Sunday.
(FRANCE with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-02-28