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Former Cuban political prisoner Chanes de Armas

Published February 26, 2007


MIAMI - Mario Chanes de Armas, who was at Fidel Castro's side in the Cuban revolution only later to spend three decades as a political prisoner in the leader's jails, has died. He was 80.

Mr. Chanes de Armas had been in a nursing home but fell ill Saturday (Feb. 24, 2007) and died at Hialeah Hospital, said his friend Eleno Oviedo.

Mr. Chanes de Armas joined Castro during the 1953 attack that began the Cuban revolution. He was sentenced with Castro and others to 15 years by the Batista dictatorship, though they were granted amnesty and released 20 months later.

Soon after, they organized the insurrection which brought them to power in 1959. But Mr. Chanes de Armas joined the opposition to the new regime when he became convinced Castro was betraying the democratic promises he had made.

On July 17, 1962, Mr. Chanes de Armas was sentenced to 30 years by Castro. Often kept in horrible conditions, Mr. Chanes de Armas and other prisoners challenged the regime from within prison by starting hunger strikes.

Eventually, he and four other prisoners, including Oviedo, were released with the efforts of several human rights organizations and his family, who had met with former President George Bush.

Mr. Chanes de Armas served as one of the directors of Grupo Plantados, meaning those who refuse to budge. He later traveled to Washington in 1993, where he was received by then President Bill Clinton.

[Last modified February 26, 2007, 05:43:54]

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