Bernardo Benes

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Dr. Bernardo Benes Baikowitz (born 27 December 1934 in Matanzas, Cuba) is a prominent Jewish Cuban lawyer, banker, journalist and civic leader, who was responsible for freeing 3,600 Cuban political prisoners in 1978.

Dr. Benes graduated as an attorney and CPA from the University of Havana and was member of the law firm “Bufete Zaydin”. While in Cuba, he was the pro-bono attorney of the “Patronato de la Casa de la Comunidad de Cuba” (the largest synagogue and community center) in Cuba and was the legal consultant to the Cuban Treasury Department.

In 1960, Dr. Benes went into exile to Miami where he became a banker. He co-founded the Cuban Hebrew Congregation on Miami Beach in 1961. In 1974, he co-founded the first Cuban-American bank in the United States, Continental National Bank of Miami. In 1977, he founded United Way International (he was Vice-President of United Way in Miami-Dade County from 1965–1977). From 1962 to 1974 he was Vice-President of Washington Federal Savings and Loan Association, housing consultant to USAID, IDB (Interamerican Development Bank) and the United Nations.

In 1978, he became the first prominent Cuban exile to meet with Fidel Castro and was able to get the release of 3,600 political prisoners out of Cuba. He was given an Honorary Doctoral Degree in Human Relations in 1968 from Biscayne College (now St. Thomas University). In 1969, the Republic of Panama awarded him The Vasco Nunez the Balboa condecoration for his humanitarian contributions and in 1979, the order of the Vatican Condecoration for Human Rights. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Miami. His papers from 1956-1987 are held by the Cuban Heritage Collection of the University of Miami Libraries.

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References[edit]

  • Hearings; United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary, 1967
  • De la Torre, Miguel A.; La Lucha for Cuba: religion and politics on the streets of Miami; University of California Press, 2003; ISBN 978-0-520-23852-7.
  • Levine, Robert M.; Secret Missions to Cuba: Fidel Castro, Bernardo Benes, and Cuban Miami; Palgrave Macmillan, 2002; ISBN 978-1-4039-6046-7