Huber Matos

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This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Matos and the second or maternal family name is Benítez.
Huber Matos Benítez
Comandante Huber Matos Benítez
Matos at a political event in Miami, October 2009
Born (1918-11-26)26 November 1918
Yara, Cuba
Died 27 February 2014(2014-02-27) (aged 95)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Occupation Political leader, writer

Huber Matos Benítez (26 November 1918 – 27 February 2014) was a Cuban dissident activist and writer. Previously, he had been a revolutionary who assisted Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and other members of the 26th of July Movement (M-26-7) in successfully overthrowing the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista as part of the Cuban Revolution.

Matos had opposed Batista since the general's effective coup in 1952, which he regarded as unconstitutional, but became increasingly critical of the movement's shift towards Marxist principles, and closening ties with leaders of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). Convicted of "treason and sedition" by the new Castro regime, he would spend 20 years in prison (1959–1979) before being released in 1979.

He divided his time between Miami, Florida and Costa Rica where he was politically active in speaking out against the Cuban government.

Early life[edit]

Matos was born in Yara, in Oriente Province.

He became a school teacher in Manzanillo, while also owning a small rice plantation. Matos joined the Cuban nationalist party Partido Ortodoxo, which the young lawyer Fidel Castro was already a prominent member of.

Revolutionary activity[edit]

A Partido Ortodoxo member at the time of Batista's coup of 10 March 1952, Matos became involved with the resistance movement to Batista that began gathering steam throughout the country. He soon moved to Costa Rica where he spent the next several years while at the same time back home in Cuba, the struggle against Batista moved to its armed stage, eventually evolving into Cuban Revolution. From Costa Rica, Matos kept in contact with the M-26-7 revolutionaries stationed in Sierra Maestra hills while helping their aims logistically and organizationally. He was also able to get in touch with the president of Costa Rica José Figueres who supported Cuban rebel aims and helped Matos obtain weapons and supplies.

On 31 March 1958, 39-year-old Matos flew a 5-ton air cargo with ammunition and weapons to Castro's rebels, thus actively joining the resistance in the mountains. On 8 August 1958 Castro awarded Matos the rank of combat commander, giving him the lead of the rebel army's ninth column that carried the honorary name of Antonio Guiteras, a Cuban leftist politician who had been assassinated more than a decade earlier. Within six months, the revolutionary movement successfully overthrew Batista and seized control of the country. During the final assault on Santiago de Cuba, Matos led his column. In January 1959 he victoriously rode into Havana atop a tank, alongside Castro and other revolutionaries.

Days later, on 11 January 1959, Matos was appointed as Commander of the Army in the province of Camagüey.

Split with Castro[edit]

In July 1959, Matos made public denunciations of the direction the revolution was taking, with openly anti-communist speeches in Camagüey. This led to a series of disputes between Castro, at that time Prime Minister of Cuba, and President Manuel Urrutia Lleó. Shortly thereafter, Castro replaced Urrutia with the Minister of Revolutionary Laws, Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado. Given his past concerns, Matos found the move troubling and decided to tender his resignation in a letter to Castro. On 26 July, Castro and Matos met at the Hilton Hotel in Havana. The revolutionary leader was in a rather upbeat mood, as over a million people, including several thousand peasants, had flocked to the capital to celebrate the passage of the Agrarian Reform Law.

According to Matos, Castro told him, "'Your resignation is not acceptable at this point. We still have too much work to do,' he said. 'I admit that Raúl and Che are flirting with Marxism... but you have the situation under control... Forget about resigning... But if in a while you believe the situation is not changing, you have the right to resign.'"

In September 1959, Matos wrote, "Communist influence in the government has continued to grow. I have to leave power as soon as possible. I have to alert the Cuban people as to what is happening." On 19 October, he sent a second letter of resignation to Castro. Two days later, Castro sent fellow revolutionary Camilo Cienfuegos to arrest Matos. During the subsequent meeting between Cienfuegos and Matos, who had grown close during the revolution, Matos says he warned his young colleague that he believed he had been sent to make the arrest so that forces allied with Matos might kill Camilo Cienfuegos. The young revolutionary had become quite popular in the months following the march on Havana, as such, Matos says it was Castro's intent to eliminate any perceived competition.[1] Cienfuegos, however, is recorded as having supported the arrest of Matos, which is why he had been sent. Cienfuegos mysteriously disappeared en route back to Havana after the securing of Matos and his military adjutants in late October 1959. Some people hint at foul play by either Castro or Matos, but most historians agree it was probably an accident.[2] Communists would later claim Matos was working in conjunction with persons such as Tony Varona, Carlos Prío and Manuel Artime with the plans for a counter-revolution organized by the American Central Intelligence Agency under Frank Sturgis. After the capture of Matos, the operation eventually evolved into the Bay of Pigs Invasion.[3]

Sentencing and imprisonment[edit]

The same day Matos was arrested, Miami Cuban exile Pedro Luis Díaz Lanz, former air force chief of staff under Castro, dropped leaflets into Havana that called for the removal of all Communists from the government. In response, Castro called for a show of hands at a political rally in favor of executing the two dissidents. The crowd responded with "Paredón" ("To the wall.")

Following the rally, Castro called a government meeting to determine Matos's fate. Che and Raúl favored execution, and three ministers who questioned Castro's version of events were immediately replaced by government loyalists. In the end, however, Castro decided against execution, explaining that "I don't want to turn him into a martyr."

A trial that began on 11 December 1959, found Matos guilty of "treason and sedition" and sentenced him to twenty years imprisonment, most of which were spent at the Isla de la Juventud, where Castro had been imprisoned in 1953. According to Matos, "prison was a long agony from which I emerged alive because of God's will. I had to go on hunger strikes, mount other types of protests. Terrible. On and off, I spent a total of sixteen years in solitary confinement, constantly being told that I was never going to get out alive, that I had been sentenced to die in prison. They were very cruel, to the fullest extent of the word... I was tortured on several occasions, I was subjected to all kinds of horrors, all kinds, including the puncturing of my genitals. Once during a hunger strike a prison guard tried to crush my stomach with his boot... Terrible things."

Matos was released from prison on 21 October 1979, having served out his full term.

Life after prison[edit]

Matos was reunited with his wife and children, who had left Cuba during the 1960s, in Costa Rica. They then moved to Miami where he resided until his death in February of 2014. Matos, and his son Huber Rogelio Matos Araluce (Huber Matos Jr.), became active participants in the U.S.-based opposition to the Castro regime.[4] He wrote a book about his experiences, Cómo llegó la noche (How the Night Came), which is available in Spanish and in French (Et la nuit est tombée).

Matos performed the secretary general duties at Cuba Independiente y Democrática (CID), a Miami-based organization founded in October 1980 in Venezuela.

In October 1993 Huber Matos' son Huber Matos Jr. got indicted along with 11 other individuals in the $3.3 million medicare fraud case involving a Miami clinic called Florida Medical & Diagnostic Center Inc. that was co-owned by Matos Jr. and Juana Mayda Perez Batista.[5] Unlike the other 11 defendants, Matos Jr. wasn't available to U.S. authorities since he had been living in Costa Rica since January 1993 where he owned a radio station and directed that country's arm of CID. In February 1994, U.S. authorities formally submitted an extradition request for Matos Jr. to Costa Rica, which Matos Sr. denounced as a "lie to discredit me, my son and CID".[6] However, in June 1994, the Costa Rica supreme court blocked Matos Jr.'s extradition, ruling he could not be turned over to U.S. authorities because he had obtained Costa Rican citizenship. In 1995, Juana Mayda Perez Batista along with 10 co-defendants plead guilty to the variety of fraud charges.[7]

Matos furthermore founded the Huber Matos Foundation for Democracy, a Jacksonville, Florida-based organization whose proclaimed goal is to "foster democratic rule, human rights, social justice and education in Latin America". Most of the organization's efforts and resources are invested in "promoting democracy in Cuba".[8]

Matos died at the age of 95 in Miami, Florida. [9]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Cómo llegó la noche: Matos, Huber: ISBN 84-8310-791-0 Tusquets-2004
  2. ^ Thomas (1971), p.469-470
  3. ^ Fabián Escalante, The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-62 (1995)
  4. ^ "Huber Matos, a Moderate in the Cuban Revolution". PBS.org. Retrieved 23 March 2008. 
  5. ^ 12 Face Fraud Charges Medicare Scheme Involved $5 MillionSun Sentinel, 13 October 1993
  6. ^ U.S. Requests Fugitive's Return For Trial;The Miami Herald, 20 February 1994
  7. ^ 11 Admit Defrauding Medicare;The Miami Herald, 7 January 1995
  8. ^ Huber Matos Foundation for Democracy
  9. ^ [1]

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