Huber Matos: Cuban revolution leader dies in Miami

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Huber Matos died at 95 maintaining his opinion that Cuba's regime was a "dictatorship"

The only exiled dissident among the original leaders of the 1959 Cuban revolution, Huber Matos, has died in Miami at the age of 95.

He was arrested in 1960 and sentenced to 20 years in jail for sedition.

Human rights groups campaigned for his case until his release and expulsion from Cuba in 1979.

Mr Matos eventually settled in Florida after a period in Costa Rica, where his remains are to be taken after a funeral in Miami.

Mr Matos fought the troops of general Fulgencio Batista in 1959 alongside Fidel Castro but later fell out with the communist leader.

A statement released by relatives said Mr Matos had died on 27 February at Miami's Kendall Regional Hospital of a massive heart attack he had suffered two days earlier.

'Return to Cuba'

The former revolutionary fighter's funeral will be in Miami on Sunday before his remains are taken to Costa Rica, as he had wished.

"I want to make my return trip to Cuba from the same land whose people have always showed me solidarity and care. I want to rest in Costa Rican soil until Cuba is free before I go to Yara, to join my mother and father and other Cubans," he had said.

Born in Yara in 1918, Huber Matos graduated as a teacher in Santiago, before pursuing a PhD in the capital, Havana.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Huber Matos (R) was one of the 1959 main leaders, alongside Camilo Cienfuegos (L) and Fidel Castro (C)

The first time Costa Rica welcomed him was in 1957, when he had to leave Cuba because of his opposition of the rule of Gen Fulgencio Batista.

He is thought to have been instrumental in the Cuban insurrection by Fidel Castro's Sierra Maestra rebels by smuggling the weapons they used from Costa Rica

But when Mr Matos stepped down as a rebel military commander, Fidel Castro ordered his arrest.

Sentenced to 20 years in prison for sedition, he was released in 1979 and immediately left for San Jose, Costa Rica.

In an interview with the BBC, Andy Gomez, a former University of Miami scholar and friend of the former revolutionary, said that Mr Huber had suffered terrible torture during his jail term.

But he also added that the prison sentence itself was a testament to how close Mr Matos must have been to Fidel Castro.

"Many people claim that when Huber Matos fell out of favour, Fidel put him in jail and did not kill him... he assassinated other people that were close to him," he said.

Mr Matos eventually settled in Miami, where he became involved in Cuban politics.

The former military commander considered the government led by Fidel and Raul Castro a "dictatorship".