Rolando Cubela, the Cuban Commander who Conspired to Kill Fidel Castro, Dies in Miami

Faure Chomón, Fidel Castro and Rolando Cubela after the triumph of the 1959 Revolution. (El rastro del invasor)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 August 2022 — Commander, former political prisoner and doctor Rolando Cubela died at the age of 90 on Tuesday morning in the Miami hospital where he had been admitted for several weeks, according to family sources. A member of the Rebel Army, the guerrilla leader was part of a conspiracy to kill Fidel Castro in the 1960s.

Born in 1932 in the city of Cienfuegos, Cubela studied medicine and was a leader of the University Student Federation (FEU). After Fulgencio Batista’s military coup, on March 10, 1952, he joined the Revolutionary Directorate, a group founded by José Antonio Echeverría and Fructuoso Rodríguez.

Cubela was part of the clandestine cell that murdered Colonel Antonio Blanco Rico, head of the Military Intelligence Service, in Havana on October 27, 1956. After that action, he went into exile in Miami, where he was when his colleagues from the Directorate raided the Presidential Palace, on March 13, 1957, and failed to kill Batista.

Upon his return to Cuba, he established himself with other members of the Revolutionary Directorate in the guerrilla struggle in the Escambray mountains, where in 1958 he signed the Pact of El Pedrero with Ernesto Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, an alliance with the July 26 Movement that allowed the capture of the city of Santa Clara, in which Cubela was injured.

After Fidel Castro came to power, he was promoted to the rank of commander of the Armed Forces, and in 1959 he was elected president of the FEU over the other candidate, Pedro Luis Boitel, who in 1972 died on a hunger strike in prison. From the first years, Cubela began to have profound differences with the communist course of the revolutionary process.

In November 1963, a CIA agent met Cubela in Paris, who then held the position of military attaché of the Cuban embassy in Madrid. There he was given a feather, with poison in the quill, to puncture Castro when he was near him. But Cubela never used the device, since he preferred to use a rifle with a telescopic sight and silencer so as not to be so close to the target.

The delivery of the rifle was delayed, and the Cuban intelligence services ended up encircling Cubela, who was arrested in February 1966 and sentenced to death, although, due to Castro’s direct intervention, his sentence was commuted to 25 years, of which he served 12. In 1979, he went into exile in Madrid, where he worked as a doctor, and in 1988 he obtained Spanish nationality.

His profile in Madrid was very discreet due to the danger of being killed by Castro. In 2007, he participated in two public events organized by the Democracia Ya Platform, one of them in front of the Cuban Embassy in Madrid. Unlike other exiled commanders, such as Huber Matos and Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo, Cubela did not found an anti-Castro organization during his time off the island.

After retiring from his job as a doctor, he settled in Miami, where he also maintained a low profile. The man who could have killed Fidel Castro survived him by at least six years.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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