Eloy Gutiérrez- Menoyo was as critical of Fidel Castro’s rule over Cuba at the end of his life as he had been when he was jailed a half century earlier. “The legal system is a joke. The division of powers is not even an illusion,” he wrote in a newspaper column last week. “Civil society is, like progress, a dream postponed for half a century.”
Gutiérrez-Menoyo was born in Madrid into a family “dedicated to fighting for freedom,” said The New York Times. His older brother died fighting fascists in the Spanish Civil War, and the family moved to Cuba in 1945. He joined the movement against dictator Fulgencio Batista and was soon “assembling an army in Cuba’s mountains” while Castro formed his own force. After Batista fled, in 1959, Gutiérrez-Menoyo’s army was “absorbed into Castro’s,” but he was not asked to join Castro’s government.
Within months, said The Miami Herald, Gutiérrez-Menoyo was “criticizing Castro’s slide toward communism.” He went into exile in the U.S. in 1961, and led armed attacks on Cuba as part of Alpha 66, a rebel group dedicated to overthrowing Castro. Arrested during a raid in Cuba in 1964, he was led blindfolded to Castro’s office. “I knew you would come,” the dictator told him, “but I also knew that I would catch you.” Gutiérrez-Menoyo received a 30-year sentence. Repeatedly assaulted by prison guards, he lost his sight and hearing on one side.
Gutiérrez-Menoyo was finally freed in 1986, said the Los Angeles Times. He returned to Miami, where he founded the movement Cambio Cubano (Cuban Change) to promote “reconciliation among Cubans of all political stripes,” a goal some exiles found “soft and politically accommodating.” After moving back to Cuba in 2003 to “promote democracy,” he continued to criticize Castro’s government, “but in measured tones that kept him out of jail.” Gutiérrez- Menoyo faced Castro again only once, in 1995. Greeting the foe he had jailed for 22 years, the dictator said, “You’ve let your hair grow long.”