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October 28, 2012

Cuban revolutionary figure dies at 77

Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, who fought against the Batista dictatorship in Cuba, then spent 22 years in prison for fighting the Fidel Castro dictatorship and finally returned to the island for a controversial attempt at dialogue, died Friday in Havana.

Gutierrez Menoyo, 77, suffered from an inoperable aneurysm and died at the Hermanos Amejeiras Hospital, said his longtime friend Max Lesnik, a Miami radio commentator visiting Havana at the time.

In his last commentary on Cuba, dictated to a daughter when he knew he was dying, the controversial fighter defended his history and wrote that the Castro revolution, while it was initially “marked by poetry,” had now “run out of steam.”

“I served Cuba in different stages, beyond the errors of my authenticity, of any lack of vision on my part or of any stubbornness on the road,” he wrote. “If I offended anyone . . . I ask for benevolence, just as I forget those who may have judged me too quickly.”

Gutierrez Menoyo’s daughter Patricia wrote that her father “died where he wanted to and where he had to be.”

Gutierrez Menoyo was born in 1934 to a family of militant Madrid socialists.

An older brother died fighting for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and the family moved to Cuba one year after the end of World War II.

Another brother, Carlos, died leading a failed attack on the presidential palace in Havana to oust dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1957. Gutierrez Menoyo was part of the attack group, but he escaped.

Seven months later, he founded the Second National Front of the Escambray mountains in central Cuba, a guerrilla force independent of Castro’s rebels in the Sierra Maestra to the east that eventually gathered 300 fighters.

Among them were Lesnik and William Morgan, a U.S. citizen executed by Castro in 1961.

Olga Morgan, the widow of William Morgan and herself a veteran of the Escambray fighting, praised Gutierrez Menoyo as “a leader who was not a leader, but a brother.” As for his policies, she added, “each person takes their own road.”

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