Cuban Vice President Juan Almeida Bosque, a revolutionary commander who fought alongside Fidel Castro to bring down a pro-American dictatorship, has died, the Associated Press reports. He was 82. An official communique issued through state media said Almeida, the number three official in the Americas’ only communist regime, died late Friday from cardiac arrest. Almeida was one of just three top Cuban leaders to hold the title of revolutionary commander.
As a black man in racially diverse Cuba, Almeida was an important visual symbol of a break with the past, particularly in 1950s Cuba, where racism and discrimination were common. His close relationship with Castro for decades has been a sign of Afro-Cubans’ access to power and influence in communist Cuba. Born on February 17, 1927 in Havana, Almeida took part in the 1953 assault on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba that historians cite as the starting point of the Cuban Revolution. He participated in the Granma guerilla expedition and fought the rebel war in the Sierra Maestra Mountains against the government of Fulgencio Batista, a US-backed Cuban dictator. A fine marksman, he was famous in official revolutionary history for shouting — when outnumbered in the first battle against Batista’s forces — “Nobody here is going to surrender!” When revolutionary leaders came to power in 1959, he was promoted to general of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces and later became a member of the central committee and political bureau of the Cuban Communist Party.
Almeida, a bricklayer by trade who also was an accomplished music composer, was close to Fidel Castro, who led Cuba for almost five decades before stepping aside during a health crisis. Castro still leads the communist party. “The name of Revolutionary Commander Juan Almeida Bosque will always remain in the hearts and minds of his countrymen as the finest example of revolutionary firmness, solid convictions, bravery, patriotism and commitment to the people,” the official statement said.
The government declared 12 hours of official mourning for Sunday.