Andrés Nazario Sargén

Diehard opponent of Fidel Castro

Andrés Nazario was one of the founders of Alpha 66, a Miami-based paramilitary organisation dedicated to the overthrow of President Fidel Castro of Cuba, which recruited many of its members from among veterans of the disastrous CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. Despite innumerable setbacks, Nazario never gave up hope of removing Castro, even when many of his erstwhile allies deserted him and the world moved on.

Andrés Nazario Sargén, politician: born Zaza del Medio, Cuba 1916; married (one son, one daughter); died Miami, Florida 6 October 2004.

Andrés Nazario was one of the founders of Alpha 66, a Miami-based paramilitary organisation dedicated to the overthrow of President Fidel Castro of Cuba, which recruited many of its members from among veterans of the disastrous CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. Despite innumerable setbacks, Nazario never gave up hope of removing Castro, even when many of his erstwhile allies deserted him and the world moved on.

Nazario, who was born in 1916, was active in the violent, chaotic party politics of pre- revolutionary Cuba, and took up arms against the dictator Fulgencio Batista after he seized power in 1952. As a member of Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo's Second Front, Nazario fought in the Escambray mountains, in central Cuba, while Fidel Castro's 26th July Movement operated in the Sierra Maestra, further to the east.

After Castro's victorious entry into Havana on New Year's Day 1959, Gutiérrez Menoyo's band gave grudging support to the new government, but they soon parted company with Castro as his politics moved steadily to the left. In 1961 Gutiérrez Menoyo and Nazario joined the growing exodus of middle-class Cubans, known derisively to the government as gusanos (worms), who left the island to settle in south Florida.

In Miami, the two men joined up with like-minded fellow exiles to form Alpha 66, which took its name from the original number of members. The group was one of several mutually antagonistic fringe organisations that advocated the violent overthrow of the Castro government, and organised both sabotage operations inside Cuba and commando raids on the island's north coast.

Gutiérrez Menoyo was captured during one of these operations in 1964, and spent the next 22 years in one of Castro's prisons. It was during this time that Nazario emerged as the leader of Alpha 66. He claimed that more than 100 of its members were killed in action over the years, or were executed after being captured. But they were never more than a minor nuisance to Castro, who quickly consolidated his grip on power.

Nazario's reputation took a severe knock in 1992, when it emerged that one of his most trusted lieutenants in Alpha 66, Francisco Avila, had been a triple agent for the past 12 years, feeding information on his boss's activities to both Havana and Washington. A number of senior members of Alpha 66 resigned in the ensuing row, but Nazario hung on.

In recent years, the complexion of the huge Cuban community in Miami has changed markedly, with many younger Cuban-Americans favouring some sort of accommodation with Castro's government, and calling for an easing of the US embargo on trade with the island. They came to regard diehards such as Nazario, who were still training in the Everglades for the day when they would be called upon to join a mass uprising in Cuba, as old-fashioned and increasingly irrelevant.

Among those who abandoned Nazario was his old commander in the Escambray, Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo, who now advocates dialogue with the Castro government as the only way forward for Cuba.

Colin Harding

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