Eloy Gutiérrez-Menoyo: Fidel Castro's dissident Spanish comandante

He told Castro that he would follow the family tradition and die for his beliefs

The Spanish-born Eloy Gutiérrez-Menoyo was one of three foreign comandantes of Fidel Castro's 1950s Cuban revolution – the others were the Argentinian Ernesto Ché Guevara and American William Morgan – but like Morgan he was quickly disillusioned by Castro's embrace of communism and sought to overthrow el Jefe Maximo. Unlike Morgan, shot by a firing squad on Castro's orders, Gutiérrez-Menoyo's death sentence was commuted, although he endured 22 years of harsh treatment in jail, losing the sight of an eye and hearing in one ear.

After years in exile, mostly in Miami, he was allowed back to Cuba on holiday in 2003 and, citing his Cuban citizenship, refused to leave. He was tolerated by the regime as a leading but powerless dissident, denied an identity card or office space. Castro ignored him, yet he was criticised by hardline exiles in Miami as a dialoguero, one who sought democratic change through dialogue with the regime.

Eloy Gutiérrez-Menoyo came from a family of freedom fighters, the youngest of six children of a doctor in Madrid. His father and teenage brother Jose Antonio fought in the streets as Republicans against Franco's nationalists during the Spanish Civil War. Jose Antonio was killed.

The family went into exile in France and then at the end of the Second World War emigrated to Cuba, only to find another dictator there, the US-backed General Fulgencio Batista. They became involved in anti-Batista politics and Gutiérrez-Menoyo, by then 22, joined another brother, Carlos, in a 1957 attack on the presidential palace in Havana. Carlos was killed but Gutiérrez-Menoyo escaped, fleeing to the Escambray mountains where he became commander of the Second National Front of Escambray; "Second" because Fidel Castro, with Ché Guevara, had landed in a small boat from Mexico and established a front in the south-east, near Guantanamo.

After Batista fled the country on New Year's Day 1959, Gutiérrez-Menoyo and his 3,000 men made it to Havana several days before Castro, who arrived on 8 January after crossing the island slowly by road, among cheering crowds. Gutiérrez-Menoyo's Front had always acted independently of Castro, who made sure Gutiérrez-Menoyo and his lieutenants had no significant roles in the regime.

The antagonism was obvious but the Spaniard toed the line until Castro showed his communist bent. In 1961, Gutiérrez-Menoyo fled by boat to join other exiles in Miami, and learned there that Castro had ordered a firing squad to execute the critical American comandante Morgan, who had fought beside Gutiérrez-Menoyo in the Escambray. Castro declared Cuba a socialist nation and began his long relationship with the communist Soviet Union.

Determined to see democracy in Cuba, Gutiérrez-Menoyo returned clandestinely to its mountains with men from Alpha 66, hoping to topple Castro as Batista had been ousted. But they were soon caught by Castro's forces. He was blindfolded, and taken on a 90-minute plane ride. When the blindfold was removed, he was in an office facing a cigar-puffing Fidel Castro. "Eloy, I knew you would come, but I also knew that I would catch you," said Castro. "You realise that we are going to shoot you and all of your men." Gutiérrez-Menoyo replied that, in the family tradition, he was prepared to die for his beliefs. Castro promised to spare the group if Gutiérrez-Menoyo went on television to say Cubans supported Castro. For the sake of his men, he did so and, after a half-hour trial, was sentenced to 30 years. He said his prison years were "brutal, violent and savage". The Spanish socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez negotiated his release.

He settled in Miami, where, in 1992, he set up Cambio Cubano (Cuban Change), a moderate group to promote reconciliation among Cubans, on the island and in exile. It was scorned by hardline exiles. Having retained his madrileño accent, he was nicknamed el Gallego, the Galician, often used by Cubans as a nickname for people of Spanish origin. Cambio Cubano had little effect and, during that 2003 holiday, he decided to stay in Cuba.

He wanted to die here," his daughter Patricia said. "No one loved this island more than he did." He died there of a heart attack.

Eloy Gutiérrez-Menoyo, revolutionary and dissident: born Madrid 8 December 1934; married firstly Gladys Teresa Martinez (three sons), secondly Flor Ester Torres Sanabria (one daughter); died Havana 26 October 2012.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"