THE BLOG

Comandante of the Revolution Who Changed His Mind Dies in Havana / Yoani Sanchez

During the early hours of last Friday in Havana, Comandante Eloy Gutierrez Monoyo passed away at age 77. His wife Flor Ester Torres Sanabria reported his death to several new agencies, family and friends. So far the news has not been reported by Cuba's official media, a common practice when a dissident on the island dies.

Gutierrez Menoyo was born in Madrid on 8 December 1934, and participated in the struggle that brought Fidel Castro to power. He moved to Cuba with his family in 1945 after losing one of his brothers in the Spanish Civil War's Battle of Majadohonda, while fighting with the Republican forces. His other brother, Carlos, died in the largest of the Antilles, falling in the 1957 attack on the Presidential Palace. In that action, intended to execute Fulgencio Batista at the seat of the government, Eloy Gutierrez Monoyo also participated.

A member of the Revolutionary Directorate, at age 22 he became the chief of action for that organization in the City of Havana. During the guerrilla struggle he founded and directed the Second Front located in the Escambrey Mountains in central Cuba. When the Revolution triumphed in January 1959, he joined the Revolutionary Armed Forces but quickly sharpened his disagreements with the government of Fidel Castro. In 1961 he left the island, to return in 1964 leading an armed attempt to overthrow the regime in Havana. He was taken prisoner and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

He spent 22 years in prison under harsh conditions and during that time his health deteriorated, he lost his sight in one eye and part of his hearing. He was released in 1983, after intense lobbying from the Spanish government of Felipe Gonzalez. Gutierrez Menoyo then lived in Spain for short time, before finally settling into exile in Miami. There he founded the organization "Cambio Cubana" - Cuban Change - which was harshly criticized by several sectors of exiles for promoting a dialog with the Cuban authorities.

In this new stage of his life he was able to make several visits to the Island, even meeting with Fidel Castro himself. In 2003, during a visit to Cuba, he announced he would stay to reside permanently in Cuban territory. Although his decision was contrary to emigration laws, the authorities allowed him to stay although they never regularized his legal situation.

In his first statements after deciding to stay on the island, Gutierrez Menoyo opposition confirmed that he wanted to be in the opposition. However the deterioration of his physical condition sharply limited his actions as a dissident. In his will, published by El País newspaper, he confirmed that he had not been "given an identity card," nor had be been "awarded the political space that had been discussed at the time."
"It's true that my presence has been tolerated, but this has happened under the eye of the Orwellian State that has been worried by observing our militance."

Patricia Gutierrez Menoyo, daughter of the comandante, told several media outlets on Friday that he "had died where he wanted." "My father was one of the bravest people, the sweetest warrior I have known (...)" emphasized the publisher based in Puerto Rico.

Gutierrez Menoyo's farewell letter opens the door to optimism, assuring that the future of Cuba "is based in the telluric force of this Island; in the infinite tenderness of the Cuban woman; in the power of innovation of its most simple people. The legacy of durability of the Cuban nation will resist all the cyclones of History and all dictators."

In his political testament he repeatedly refers to the current situation in Cuba and declares that he didn't believe he had been "one of those who allowed the reversal of the dream that ended up becoming the worst nightmare." "The year 1959 saw an even that seemed marked by poetry: The Cuban Revolution. Of that Revolution, scattered around the island and the world, lie the remains of a painful shipwreck," he says in words he left in writing to his daughter Patricia. In these he also launches harsh critiques of Fidel Castro, for his "will to perpetuate himself in power (...) has been in this case greater than the faith in the possible renewal of the best Cuban projects from time immemorial."

During the afternoon of this Friday there will be a wake for the body of Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo at the central mortuary in the capital and Saturday he will be cremated. For new generations of Cubans his name is lost in the mists of time and history, because for those who knew him there is the feeling of having lost a good man, concerned for this adoptive country that was his.