"El Gallego" Fernandez Dies, a Man of Proven Loyalty

José Ramón Fernández was born in Santiago de Cuba on November 4, 1923. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 January 2019 — In the early hours of this Sunday, José Ramón El Gallego (The Galician)  Fernández passed away in Havana at the age of 95, Granma newspaper reported in its digital version, after long months of the public absence of the official, including from the session of the National Assembly last December in which the text of the new Constitution was approved.

Fernández was born in Santiago de Cuba on 4 November 1923 and was the son of Asturians — despite the nickname that later defined him — his natural father was from Morcín and his mother from Oviedo. In 1940 he enlisted in the Constitutional Army of the Island where he came to hold the rank of Second Lieutenant.

Closely linked to sports, he ventured into horse riding, shooting, basketball, baseball and softball. He studied and graduated from the Artillery School of Cuba and also from the United States Army Academy in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

In 1952, after Fulgencio Batista’s coup d’etat, he led a group of official professors, lieutenants and captains in the Cadet School, who joined in the “Conspiracy of the Pure.” In 1956 he was tried for rebellion and sentenced to 4 years, 2 months and 21 days in prison.

In the Isle of Pines prison he had contact with members of the 26th of July Movement, the Popular Socialist Party, the Revolutionary Directorate and the Triple A. In January 1959 he was released after the victory of the rebels led by Fidel Castro and joined the new group of leaders of the country.

From that moment he held different responsibilities in the Armed Forces and the Government — he was Minister of Education — as well as serving on the Cuban Olympic Committee. He was a member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and a Deputy to the National Assembly of People’s Power. When he died he was Adviser to the President of the Councils of State and of Ministers.

Many consider him “the architect” of the victory of Playa Girón — the Bay of Pigs — in which he participated and for which he used the military knowledge he had accumulated in his years in the army and academies in Cuba and the United States.

In all the responsibilities he carried out during the last 60 years, he was characterized by an extreme loyalty towards Fidel and Raúl Castro.  A man of few words, he was seen as a “hard” by his subordinates and when he died he was part of a very small group of octogenarians and nonagenarians who make up the waning “historical generation.”

According to his wishes, his remains will be cremated and “later there will be information regarding the organization of funeral honors,” says the brief note published in the Granma newspaper.


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