Harry Villegas, Che Guevara loyalist, dies at 81

Havana (AFP) –


Harry Villegas, a Cuban guerilla who served under Che Guevara in his doomed Bolivia campaign and subsequently walked in his funeral procession, has died in Havana, state television reported on Sunday.

The cause of death for the 81-year-old Villegas was multiple organ failure, the report said.

Nicknamed "Pombo," Villegas served in the guerilla force iconic Argentine-born revolutionary leader Guevara commanded for Cuba in Congo in 1965 and then in Bolivia between 1966 and 1967.

He was one of the five guerrillas -- three Cubans and two locals -- who escaped the Bolivian military siege that annihilated the rebels and led to Guevara's death.

After returning to Cuba in 1968, Villegas held senior military posts and served in two military missions during the Angolan civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1991.

A retired brigadier general, Villegas had received the honorary title of Hero of the Republic of Cuba.

In announcing his death, state media celebrated Villegas's boundless commitment to the regime, and his loyalty to longtime President Fidel Castro.