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Cuban vice-president dies

Cuban vice-president dies
Article By:
Sun, 13 Sep 2009 08:46

Cuban Vice President Juan Almeida Bosque, a revolutionary commander who
fought alongside Fidel Castro to bring down a pro-American dictatorship,
has died. He was 82.

An official communique issued through state media said Almeida, the
number three official in the Americas' only communist regime, died late
Friday from cardiac arrest.

Almeida was one of just three top Cuban leaders to hold the title of
revolutionary commander.

His death served as a reminder that Cuba's old guard is not getting any
younger. President Raul Castro is now 78, and Fidel Castro is five years
his senior, Vice President Jose Ramon Machado, the regime's number two,
is also 78.

As a black man in racially diverse Cuba, Almeida was an important visual
symbol of a break with the past, particularly in 1950s Cuba, where
racism and discrimination were common. His close relationship with
Castro for decades has been a sign of Afro-Cubans' access to power and
influence in communist Cuba.

Born on 17 February 1927 in Havana, Almeida took part in the 1953
assault on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba that historians cite
as the starting point of the Cuban Revolution.

He participated in the Granma guerilla expedition and fought the rebel
war in the Sierra Maestra Mountains against the government of Fulgencio
Batista, a US-backed Cuban dictator.

A fine marksman, he was famous in official revolutionary history for
shouting — when outnumbered in the first battle against Batista's forces
— "Nobody here is going to surrender!"

When revolutionary leaders came to power in 1959, he was promoted to
general of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces and later became a member
of the central committee and political bureau of the Cuban Communist Party.

He was also the third-ranking member of the Cuban Council of State.

Bricklayer by trade

Almeida, a bricklayer by trade who also was an accomplished music
composer, was close to Fidel Castro, who led Cuba for almost five
decades before stepping aside during a health crisis. Castro still leads
the communist party.

"The name of Revolutionary Commander Juan Almeida Bosque will always
remain in the hearts and minds of his countrymen as the finest example
of revolutionary firmness, solid convictions, bravery, patriotism and
commitment to the people," the official statement said.

The government declared 12 hours of official mourning for Sunday.

"Well, this is the first of the high-ranking leadership to go; we have
to get ready. The others will follow — time marches on," said Maria Cruz
(54) a Havana housewife.

The "historic" leaders' main political objective has been to sustain the
regime and project it into the future.

Financial help from Venezuela has been critical on that front.

But politically, it is unclear who the party's "new generation" pick
will be to lead the majority of Cubans whose entire lives have been
spent under revolutionary communist rule.

Efforts by other governments, including the neighboring United States,
to press Cuba on political and economic opening have not borne much fruit.

Economically, the Raul Castro government has yet to launch substantive
reforms. This week, it reversed a decade-long freeze on granting private
taxi licenses, while oxen are widely used to drive plows in the crippled
farm sector.

The US government has been encouraging Cuba to make progress on human
rights issues.

It could well be a moot argument. The Cuban government denies that it
has political prisoners and claims it is home to a democracy less
corrupt than most.

Cubans earn an average of less than 20 dollars a month.

iafrica.com | news | world news Cuban vice-president dies (13 September
2009)
http://news.iafrica.com/worldnews/1921233.htm

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