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Juan Almeida Bosque (February 17, 1927 – September 11, 2009) was a Cubanmarker politician and one of the original commanders of the Cuban Revolution. After the Revolution, he was a prominent figure in the Communist Party of Cuba; at the time of his death in 2009, he was a Vice-President of the Cuban Council of State and was its third ranking member. Because of his many and important merits, he received several decorations, and both national and international awards, including the title of "Hero of the Republic of Cuba" and the Order of Maximo Gomez.

Early life and revolution

Almeida was born in a poor area of Havanamarker. He left school at the age of eleven and became a bricklayer. Whilst studying law at the University of Havanamarker in 1952, he became close friends with the revolutionary Fidel Castro and in March of that year joined the Cuban Revolution. In 1953 he joined Fidel and his brother Raúl Castro in the assault on the Moncada Barracksmarker in Santiagomarker and was arrested and imprisoned with the Castro brothers in the Isle of Pinesmarker Prison. During the amnesty of May 15, 1955, he was released and transferred to Mexicomarker. Almeida returned to Cuba with the Castros and Che Guevara on the Granmamarker expedition and was one of just 16 who survived the initial landing during which Cuban government forces killed most of the rebels. During the battle Almeida shouted "No one here gives up!" (alternatively "here, nobody surrenders") to Guevara, which would become a long-lived slogan of the Cuban revolution. Almeida was also reputed to be a good marksman. During the revolution, as a black man in a prominent position, he served as a symbol to Afro-Cubans of change from Cuba's discriminatory past.

Following the landing Almeida continued to fight Fulgencio Batista's government forces in the guerilla war in the Sierra Maestramarker mountain range. In 1958 was promoted to Commander and head of the Santiago Column of the Revolutionary Army. After the Cuban revolution ended in 1959 he was established a General of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba and was chosen as a member of the central committee and political bureau, and has held a number of government positions. He was honoured with the title of Commander of the Revolution and at the time of his death was one of just three living holders of that title (the others being Guillermo García and Ramiro Valdés).

Post-revolution

Almeida was named a "Hero of the Cuban Republic" by Fidel Castro in 1998. Almeida also headed the National Association of Veterans and Combatants of the Revolution. His interests included writing and music, of which several books and recordings have been made, including the popular trilogy Military prison, Exile and Disembarkation. He was also a songwriter and one of his songs, "Dame un traguito" (English:"Give me a Sip") was popular in Cuba for several years.

Death

Juan Almeida Bosque died of a heart attack at age 82 on September 11, 2009. A memorial ceremony was held on September 13 in Havana's Plaza de la Revoluciónmarker, with several other memorials occurring across Cuba. A national day of mourning was also declared, with flags flown at half mast. The memorial service was attended by tens of thousands of his countrymen who queued across the Plaza to view a large photograph of Almeida. The service was initiated by President Raul Castro who placed a pink rose in front of the photograph, but did not make a statement. Fidel Castro, who has not been seen in public since he resigned as president in 2008, did not attend the ceremony but did release a statement praising Almeida's "exemplary conduct during more than half a century of heroic and victorious resistance". Fidel Castro also sent a wreath to the memorial which was placed alongside his brother, Raul's. Other senior government and Communist Party members also attended the ceremony.

Internationally there were several tributes to honor his life with an array of figures expressing their condolences. President of Vietnammarker, Nguyen Minh Triet, sent a message to Raúl Casto, in which he expressed his sadness and underlined that Almeida was a great friend of the Vietnamese people who contributed to the ties of solidarity between the two nations. In Boliviamarker, the Coco and Inti Peredo Foundation (named for the two brothers of that country who fought and died alongside Che Guevara) paid tribute as well. Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Communist Party in Colombia, Jaime Caicebo also expressed their condolence. Additionally, a musical homage was held in Moscowmarker where the collection of Almeida's songs entitled "El Bolero Cubano" (Cuban Ballads) were to be released for the first time with Russian translation.

Almeida did not wish for his body to lie in state and the Cuban government has stated that it will honour his wish. In accordance with his wishes his body will be given a military funeral at a mausoleum in mountains near to Santiago de Cubamarker, an area which he fought in during the revolution.

References

  1. Revolution Commander Juan Almeida Bosque Passes Away on Friday by the Cuban News Agency, September 12 2009
  2. Ramonet, Ignacio, Fidel Castro: My Life. Penguin Books: 2007, p. 681
  3. Ramonet, Ignacio, ibid, p. 681
  4. Sorrow for Almeida´s Decease Continue by the Cuban News Agency
  5. Juan Almeida, Forever Alive. Homage in Moscow by Marta O. Carreras Rivery, September 16 2009


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